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 LP560-4, and as such it will be priced accordingly.
These are the first official shots of McLaren’s latest creation, which has been dubbed the MP4-12C (12C for short) and is the first of a trio of new high-performance machines from the legendary British motorsports company.
The 12C is also the first car from the newly established McLaren Automotive (the road car division of the McLaren Group) and is described as a high performance two-seat mid-engine model in the 'core' sports car market segment for cars costing between £125,000 and £175,000--458 Italia and Gallardo LP560-4 territory. Production of the car will start next year before sales kick off worldwide in early 2011.
Its name comes from three sources: ‘MP4’ because every McLaren grand prix car has used that designation since 1981, ‘12’ because that’s its efficiency coefficient according to a secret McLaren performance scale, and ‘C’ because of its carbon-fiber construction.
At its heart, the 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 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). It is targeting not only new standards for power and performance in its sector, but also class-leading fuel economy and CO2 emissions; supported by active aerodynamics to aid cooling, grip, handling and road holding.
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 also revs to 8,500rpm, has quick transient throttle response and delivers its torque throughout the rev range. A staggering 80% of torque is available at below 2,000rpm, 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 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.
Another feature that helps the 12C to handle at a new level is a development of an electronic system used by McLaren's 1997 MP4/12 Formula 1 car--Brake Steer. In essence, it is a system that brakes the inside rear wheel when the car is entering a corner too quickly to make the desired radius. Under normal circumstances the front would wash away wide of the apex the driver wants to touch: in other words, the car is in a state of understeer.
Brake Steer manages the tendency of a car to wash out and brings its nose back on line. It assesses the steering angle to determine the driver's intended course and applies the inside rear brake to increase yaw rate and resume the desired course.
The system also works on acceleration out of a corner when the inside rear has a tendency to spin, allowing the driver to put power down more quickly. It controls what a limited slip differential would do and obviates the need for such a complex and heavy unit, thus saving more valuable kilos.
Inside, the 12C comes with plenty of luxury including the world’s first Meridian car stereo, an advanced steering wheel, plus a full quota of airbags, fully automatic dual zone climate control, sophisticated telematics and audio systems, parking sensors, trip computer, cruise control and electric memory seats.