2012 McLaren MP4-12C Preview

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When the McLaren F1 first hit the streets it almost immediately catapulted to the top of the performance car scene, taking home the title of world’s fastest production car in 1998 and holding it up until 2005. Building a car better than the original F1 was always going to be a difficult challenge, and perhaps that is why for McLaren’s next supercar the company isn’t setting its sights too high.

While the original F1 competed with the best supercars of its time--cars like the Ferrari F40, Jaguar XK220, and Porsche 959--McLaren’s newest model will be competing with more ‘entry-level’ models. Rather than chasing Enzos and Veyrons, the new model will go up against cars like the Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Gallardo, and as such it will be priced accordingly.

But the MP4-12C is not just a new car from McLaren. It is the embodiment of a brand new car company, complete with a new factory, a new distribution chain and a new level of customer service. At least that’s what the company, McLaren Automotive (the road car division of the McLaren Group), is claiming.

Starting with the MP4-12C, McLaren plans to design and develop a range of high-performance sports cars with such attributes from components that are bespoke, innovative and unique. And of course, all of McLaren’s models will benefit directly from the company’s F1 efforts.

Accordingly, the new McLaren MP4-12C features a raft of technologies never before seen in the sports car or automotive world. From the engine to the transmission, the suspension to the braking system, the use of aerodynamics to electronics, the MP4-12C genuinely is packed with unique features that should give it an edge in what’s shaping up to be a very tough segment to compete in.

At its heart, the MP4-12C features a revolutionary carbon-fiber chassis structure called the Carbon MonoCell: the first time a car in this market segment is based around such a strong and lightweight racing car engineering solution and the first time any car has ever featured a one-piece carbon-fiber structure.

Not only is the MP4-12C unique in its class by offering carbon technology, it also has the highest specific power output as well as impressive power- and torque-to-weight ratios. Power comes from a new 'M838T' 3.8-liter V-8 twin-turbo engine producing around 600 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque, driving through a McLaren 7-speed Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox (SSG). According to McLaren, the engine also delivers its power at greater efficiency than any other car on the market with an internal combustion engine--including hybrids. The engine revs to 8,500 rpm, has quick transient throttle response and delivers its torque throughout the rev range. A staggering 80% of torque is available from below 2,000 rpm, ensuring great driveability and no need to floor the throttle to deliver performance.

As mentioned, drive is sent to the rear wheels through two wet clutches and a McLaren-developed 7-speed Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox (SSG). The gearbox has a trio of performance settings, as well as launch control, while gears are selected by an F1-car style rocker shifter that pivots in the center of the wheel--pull right for upshifts, left for downshifts--with a 'first pressure' function that prepares the gearbox for the next shift.

The MP4-12C also sports an advanced suspension management system called Proactive Chassis Control, which is said to offer the comfort of an executive sedan but with unseen levels of roll control and grip.

The suspension is based on double wishbones with coil springs. The dampers are interconnected hydraulically and provide adaptive responses depending on both road conditions and driver preference. The Proactive system features adjustable roll control which replaces the standard mechanical anti-roll bars. There are three suspension modes that are selected on the Active Dynamics Panel. There is a 'normal', a 'sport' mode and a high performance mode which adjusts numerous parameters in the system.

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