McLaren MP4-12C Spider: we know it will go sideways by now [video]
But what, exactly, is the point?
McLaren released a video of its new MP4-12C Spider yesterday, and pardon me for saying so but you can almost smell the desperation. Having built a car – the original 12C coupé – that almost everyone has accused of being too clinical, is McLaren now trying too hard to prove its products are exciting?
You can watch the video below – it’s only two minutes long – and in it you’ll find some slightly jarring CGI of a McLaren F1 car turning into a 12C Spider and quite a bit of smoky sideways drifting action. Trouble is I’m beginning to wonder if actually this is the ultimate mistake.
Speaking as someone who is reasonably ok at driving a car quickly and safely, but has never had the time, space or opportunity to really learn how to hold an oversteer slide, I’m beginning to find this kind of thing increasingly off-putting. Ken Block’s Gymkhana 5 is fine and dandy – that’s a gratuitous exhibition of extreme tyre-killing skills I can appreciate as a slack-jawed fan – but for McLaren to be demonstrating its new supercar in this fashion strikes me as a little bit crass.
We all know that rear-wheel drive cars can go sideways – just look at every other front cover of Autocar. And obviously it can be fun to watch in the right circumstances; after all, it’s an essential element of the enduring popularity of Top Gear. But part of the reason it’s fun is that it’s also a little bit naughty. TG – and others – can get away with this as an extension of the presenters’ mischievous personalities.
I just can’t help thinking that the carmaker, the brand itself would do better to remain above all this. The MP4-12C is a classy product, born of technological innovation not shouty outrageousness, and its problem has never been the ability to oversteer (with a 600hp sledgehammer in the back that’s a given). Its problem is one of emotion and involvement, the thrill you get whatever speed you’re driving the car. This is the not-so-secret vital element of the Ferrari 458’s success. The solution is a question of fine tuning, not showing the car going sideways round a track.
Going sideways is a skill – but largely a pointless one. I would be happy to bet that the majority of supercar owners don’t know how to do it, and certainly wouldn’t risk hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of automobile having a try (the driver of this Enzo being an outstanding exception; there’s always one…). Yet they might enjoy giving their car a good thrashing from time to time. For McLaren to be emphasising the oversteer in this manner I fear risks rubbing potential buyers’ noses in it, reminding them of an ability they don’t have. At best it could be seen as immature, at worst positively emasculating.
But hey, I don’t have supercar-buying money, so what could I possibly know? And if I did I do know I'd spend some of it on a whole world of spacious tarmac...
Just to prove I’m not all McLaren hatey and bitter – really I’m not, I so want the road cars to succeed – here’s a very different kind of official McLaren video. It’s brilliantly irreverent, and really rather special. Enjoy!
- Gymkhana 5: Ken Block sliding in San Francisco [video]
- Official: 625hp McLaren MP4-12C Spider
- First Drive Review: Ferrari 458 Spider (2012 onwards)
MSN Cars' Steve Walker takes the UK's cheapest new car for a test drive to see if it's worth parting only £5,995 for.
Date 23/05/13, Duration 4:17, Views 935
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