The Maserati MC20 gives Android Automotive OS its fastest ride yet

Chris Davies - Sep 11, 2020, 2:35 pm CDT
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The Maserati MC20 gives Android Automotive OS its fastest ride yet

The dashboard of Maserati’s MC20 supercar may be minimalistic, but it’s not lacking tech, giving Android Automotive OS its fastest ride so far. Announced this week, the new MC20 is the automaker’s opportunity to hit reboot on its range, with a focus on being more distinct from other vehicles from its FCA owners.

It’s also a chance to get to grips with some cutting-edge technology. While the exterior of the MC20 has unsurprisingly garnered the most attention so far, along with the 202+ mph performance promised from its new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, some of the biggest improvements are in the cabin.

Current Maserati models, it’s fair to say, have leaned pretty heavily on the Fiat Chrysler parts bins. Whether it’s switchgear familiar from the 300 or Pacifica, or the lightly-reskinned infotainment system of the Dodge Challenger, though the outside may be distinguished the interior tech can often feel underwhelming. It’s a criticism Maserati simply won’t face for the MC20.

The dashboard is pared back and focused. A wide-aspect digital display for the driver’s gauges; a touchscreen suspended in the center for infotainment. Key controls are mounted on the steering wheel, minimizing the movements involved in accessing things like Launch Mode. The rest are in the center tunnel, simple rotary knobs and big buttons that won’t distract from the road ahead.

It’s a clean look that masks a lot of complexity. The MC20 runs Android Automotive OS, Google’s version of Android intended to run natively on vehicles rather than be simply projected from a connected smartphone. The new Maserati won’t be the first car to launch with the platform – that’ll be the Polestar 2 EV, with Volvo, Audi, and GM also signed up to use Android Automotive themselves – but the MC20 will undoubtedly be the fastest to offer it.

Importantly, it doesn’t look like what we’ve already experienced in the Polestar 2. The MIA, or Maserati Intelligent Assistant, is fully personalized to match the automaker’s own aesthetic, with both of the 10.25-inch screens having consistent interfaces.

Hooking up with Google, though, opens the door to functionality that many supercars miss out on. It’s a cruel truth of the auto industry that, while performance vehicles might have the speed and handling to drop jaws, their infotainment and tech setups often just lead to rolling eyes. Building a cohesive and powerful software experience – along with all the apps and services that go along with that – is no small undertaking, especially when you’re a near-boutique producer of six-figure coupes.

Behind the MIA, though, is Google’s programming heft. However, unlike the Polestar 2, the MC20 won’t get one of Android Automotive OS’ biggest advantages: the Google software. Google tells us that Maserati isn’t going to have the Google apps and services, so you won’t get Google Maps for navigation, the Google Assistant for voice control, or – and most importantly – the Google Play store for third-party software.

In time, there’s the potential for the MC20 driver to benefit from their more humdrum distant cousins, too. One of the strengths of Google’s platform is its ability to gather anonymized data from each vehicle, feeding back live updates on things like traffic conditions, weather, and even the state of the road surface. That data can potentially be pooled and served up to all Android Automotive OS-based cars. In short, you might not know another MC20 owner, but you could still benefit from iced-up road warnings from the Polestar or Volvo around you.

Beyond all that, there’s the promise of high-end audio from an optional 12-speaker Sonus Faber system, along with native TIDAL streaming support to make sure you have the tracks to take advantage of that. A digital rear-view mirror bypasses the usual mid-engined supercar criticism of mediocre rear visibility, beaming a live camera’s feed to a display slung above the windshield.

Few will get to experience the MC20, much less own one. A $210k+ price tag will see to that. Still, with Maserati promising a whole range reinvention – including the fully-electric new GranTurismo and GranCabrio coming soon, alongside an all-electric MC20 too – there’s a good chance that the big improvements this supercar cabin showcases will trickle down to more attainable cars too.

[Updated to reflect the absence of Google software/services in the MC20’s version of Android Automotive OS]


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