Aston Martin is celebrating its 100th anniversary with the CC100 – but it’s not the first to do this…
McLaren MP4-12C review (2011 onwards)
What - McLaren MP4-12C
Where - Southern England
Date - June 2011
Price - £168,500
Available - Summer 2011
Key rivals - Aston Martin DBS, Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes SLS
Summary - Much anticipated McLaren supercar arrives with a devastating specification - and a devastating driving experience.
We like - Fabulous levels of high technology, stunning performance, superb ride quality
We don't like - Purposeful interior lacks impact, brakes can be snatchy, engine note has little charisma
After enormous speculation, and a carefully cranked up media launch, the McLaren supercar is finally a production reality. The first of these £200k cars (forget the list price, you'll want the extras) will reach customers with weeks. It will blow their minds.
The simple story is that this McLaren has more F1 technology poured into it than any other. Even Ferrari. The carbon chassis tub is built by Austrian racecar specialists. The steering, suspension and engine are, while deviating from F1 specs, developed using the same expertise.
The MP4-12C takes a different approach to any of the three rivals mentioned above. Its dimensions are tighter, weight lower, the engine smaller but more powerful.
It's what you'd expect from the company that built the superlight McLaren F1 of 1992. Yet this is a venture with an enormous amount riding on it. McLaren has not only designed and developed the car from scratch, it has built a completely new factory in Woking. It simply has to work on every level.
Right away the McLaren takes a radical route with the powertrain. No high capacity V8 or V12 here, but a purpose built 3.8-litre V8 with twin turbochargers. A risky decision?
Maybe, but look at what's happening elsewhere in the world of motoring. Turbochargers on petrol engines are the thing, blending performance with much improved economy and CO2, all with lower engine sizes.
It's the way of the world and McLaren intends to be one step ahead of its rivals. The engine sits extremely low down in the chassis, with exhaust exiting high up in the rear panel.
It's coupled to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission that gives full auto shifts or manual control via steering wheel paddles. There is no manual, three-pedal version.
At low speeds there a slight jerk and clunk as the transmission engages and you delicately ease the car away. Generally the MP4-12C is pretty benign around town, the brakes too fierce initially but the good visibility and auto box means you can concentrate on getting acquainted with the systems.
It takes some time behind the wheel get to know the McLaren enough to start exploring its boundaries. At lower speeds the sound of the flat crank V8 lacks charisma, though by tweaking the throttle response button there's more noise as well as a livelier accelerator pedal.
Which brings us to the performance. You really have to prepare your passenger for what happens next. Mash the throttle to the floor at 20mph and the McLaren simply destroys the road ahead, forcing driver and passenger back into the seats with a violence associated with race tracks rather than the road.
It never tails off either, this enormous acceleration. There's little time to look at the rev counter to get the paddle shifts right before hitting the red line, so it's quicker and more dependable to keep the transmission in auto for instant changes at 8,500rpm.
Quicker than a Ferrari 458 Italia? The McLaren feels it, certainly, and though there's never that musical quality of the Italian engine, the British car develops a much more determined note as the revs rise.
The MP4-12C reaches 62mph in 3.3 seconds, which says it all, except you can lower that to 3.1 seconds by opting for the Corsa tyres. Top speed is 205mph.
Ride and handling
Yet again McLaren takes another approach to its rivals. The advanced active suspension dispenses with the usual lateral bars that cut down roll in corners and instead pumps up the shock absorbers at the outside wheels to keep the car flat.
This Pro Active Chassis Control has three selectable settings on the centre console, Normal, Sport and Track, the lower two being road friendly options according to your mood.
There's more. Brake Steer grabs an inside rear brake momentarily to correct wheel spin and help balance the MP4-12C as it exits a corner. There's an airbrake that flips up at the rear to add drag and downforce under braking.
The net result of all this technology is a car that feels wieldy at low speeds but drives through high speed bends with the degree of grip and well planted assurance that flatters the driver.
There is little sense of body roll, while the steering is deliciously precise. We've seen earlier reports that the steering response is a just a touch slow before it bites. If it is, it's a theoretical issue rather than a real-life one.
The brakes, which were fierce when driving slowly, come into their own at high speed. The discs are cast iron, not ceramic as on Ferraris, but the stopping power is eye popping.
OK, the McLaren is different to the Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes SLS, and rightly so, but the interior is an area we suspect some potential owners might find a difficult transition.
The establishment majors on classy interiors, luxurious if you like, glitzy if you want to be more cynical. The MP4-12C is the opposite of glitzy. Instead you have the aura of a car where the dynamics are the overriding attribute.
So there's a simplicity and purposefulness that says this car is for driving, not to impress your latest squeeze. The controls are small and discreet, the centre console narrow to place the seats close together, with only the beautiful air vents, like the exits to a jet engine, standing out as noteworthy.
The passenger is excluded from most of the driving information by the instrument pinnacle firmly directed at the driver. It's beautifully clear, with superb legibility of the graphics.
The cluster is dominated by the massive rev counter, with road speed a much smaller digital display to the right, with lesser information to either side.
Access through the outrageous cantilevered doors is, well, a bit of an art form but this goes with the territory. The bucket seats provide superb levels of support and comfort. Up front the luggage compartment is bigger than a Porsche 911's.
There is an unexpected ace up the McLaren's sleeve. Keep the suspension set in Normal and the ride is simply astonishing. By dispensing with the roll bars, this McLaren rides like a luxury saloon. Honestly!
Economy and safety
McLaren has engineered the MP4-12C as a supercar of the future, one that faces up to the issues of economy and the environment. So a combined figure of 24.2mpg and CO2 of 279g/km are standout in the world of the £200k supercar.
It's all relative though and if you were really worried about this, a measly Porsche 911 will do much better still.
It gets a full set of front and side head airbags. If you've seen drivers walking out of alarming crashes in F1, well, the construction of the passenger compartment of the McLaren is similar.
The MSN Cars verdict
This is a deeply impressive car on so many counts. The technology is simply awesome, but that wouldn't matter if the McLaren didn't deliver.
It does on nearly every count. We'd like it to sound a bit sweeter and have a more seductive interior, but otherwise this is a sensational start to a new direction for McLaren.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||3.8 V8 twin turbo|
|Torque, lb ft||443|
|0-62 mph, secs||3.3|
|Top speed, mph||205|
|CO2, tax||279g/km, 35%|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
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 4 hrs ago, Duration 4:17, Views 75