Behind the impeccably clean glass of the McLaren Technology Centre, Ron Dennis and his band of obsessive men today unveiled a new supercar, a whole new supercar company and a very compelling reason not to buy a Ferrari 458 Italia or Mercedes SLS AMG. Not bad for a day’s work. The first of three models they will eventually put into production, the sparklingly orange MP4-12C was the centre of attention, being shown off in the flesh for the first time. The stats are stunning.
Price – £175k target
Power – 592bhp @ 7,000rpm
Maximum Engine Speed – 8,500rpm
Torque – 443lb ft @ 3,000rpm. 80% peak from 2,000rpm to 6,500rpm
Weight – 1300kg dry. Estimate less than 1400kg kerb
CO2 – less than 300g/km
Top Speed – more than 200mph
0-62mph – around 3.4 secs
0-124mph – less than 10 secs
1/4 mile – around 11 secs
100mph – 0mph – 30 metres. Honestly. You’ll be sick out your eye holes.
Other highlights are the 7 speed ‘Seamless Shift’ double clutch transmission, one-piece carbon fibre ‘Monocell’ chassis, a 7” portrait touch screen that controls the 1.6Ghz on board computer with sat nav, wi-fi, Bluetooth and Meridien stereo, and a beautifully ergonomic interior.
As amazing as all the headline facts are, the really impressive nuggets of information on the MP4-12C come from deeper beneath the surface. The little insights that demonstrate how and why the McLaren really is lighter, faster, greener and more powerful than normal humans would think possible to achieve.
Lightweight Wiring and Lithium-ion Battery
Instead of using plain old round copper, the McLaren uses hexagonal shaped wiring that’s part aluminium, saving almost 4kg. Being hexagonal, the wires can also nestle more closely together, saving space in the interior. The battery’s no standard lead-acid brick either – it’s a lithium-ion unit, saving another 10kg.
Crash Test Repetition
Usually, manufacturers build prototypes for the sole purpose of being crashed. Once the smash has taken place, telemetry been read and results recorded the prototype is done with. But the McLaren MP4-12C has proved to be a bit different. A prototype was subjected to a standard 56kph smash, but no damage was inflicted on the carbon fibre chassis – just the deformable aluminium structure at the front. So they put it into another test. Still no damage to the chassis; not even a cracked windscreen. The same chassis was eventually subjected to three identical crash tests… it’s clearly pretty strong.
Four Hour Chassis Build
The chassis isn’t just rigid and light – it’s also incredibly quick to put together, taking just four hours. For comparison, the McLaren F1’s carbon tub took 3,000 hours. The one-piece, 80kg mould is also 25% stronger and 25% lighter than an equivalent aluminium chassis. Cripes.
Embossed Magnesium Dashboard Badge
While it’s clearly a very nice tale to brag about at a press conference, the dashboard badge story is a good one. Obviously, McLaren wanted their logo on the dashboard – but didn’t want to go to the effort and weight of putting on a badge. So instead of sticking on a little McLaren decal, they decided to emboss their emblem into the one-piece magnesium structure that makes up the dash. Which saved them a handy 2.4g… and you can’t even see it.
Perfect Driving Position & Skinny Steering Wheel
From the offset, the car has been built around the driver. It might not have an F1-style centre seat, but the pedals, steering wheel and driving chair have all been plumbed in to be perfectly aligned. Even sitting in a prototype that can’t move feels spot on – right down to the thin rimmed, perfectly sized steering wheel that tingles your hands without even a wheel being turned.
Two Handy Test Drivers
Both Lewis and Jenson have driven the car around Goodwood, and while you wouldn’t expect them to say it felt like a bag of bolts, both of them sounded genuinely enthusiastic. Lewis was very pleased, for example, that the gearchange paddles were very similar to his F1 car – they pivot at the wheel, so you can change by either pulling left and right to change down or up, or by pushing or pulling either to do the same thing.
Yeah yeah, so all this sounds a bit sycophantic – but the glee comes from facts. Hearing Chairman Ron Dennis and MD Anthony Sheriff explain the details, talk about the ruthless perfectionism, bespoke design of absolutely everything and the plain and simple statistics, it’s hard not to get carried away. And having sat in it, looked at it, seen it being made and spoken to some of the people that craft it, the MP4-12C is much more than just statistical boasting. It’s a car in which you can feel passion and perfection running through the core. A machine to respect and get all sweatily lusty for. Haven’t wanted a car this badly since turning 17.