Monday 14th February 2011


So how does Britain's best fare against Italy's finest? Steve Sutcliffe has driven both...

A tale of two supercars
A tale of two supercars
Considering how similar the new McLaren MP4-12C and Ferrari 458 Italia are to one another in design template, and on price - the McLaren costs £168,500, the 458 £169,545 - it's intriguing to discover just how different they are to drive.

To begin with the McLaren seems far less edgy, and far less obviously exciting in its responses and is certainly less dramatic to listen to than the Ferrari, which feels more extrovert than the 12C in its personality, period. Yet the more time you spend with the 12C, the more impressive its monstrous dynamic capabilities become. In many ways it's quite a subtle car to begin with, because its ride is so well resolved, its gearchange less 'thumping' in its delivery (than a 458's), its engine more refined at low revs.

Once you've summoned the courage and found the right road on which to let rip in the 12C, though, a rather more fearsome side of its character becomes apparent. Truth is, the 12C can do things that the 458 driver cannot (or should not) even contemplate. It's that much faster in a straight line, that much more planted through corners taken at speed.

Sutters living it large in the McLaren 12C
Sutters living it large in the McLaren 12C
And on paper the 458 would appear to be comfortably outgunned by the 12C. It has less power (562bhp to the 12C's 592bhp), less torque (442lb ft v 398lb ft) and weighs 50kg more. Its 4.5-litre atmospheric V8 also produces more g/km (307 v 279) and burns more fuel than the 12C's 3.8-litre twin turbo V8.

Whether all that makes the 12C a better car than the 458 overall is, of course, entirely up to the individual. The McLaren is a more capable car, no question, but whether it's as desirable is another matter entirely. Visually you could argue that it's not. But again the decision, as with all matters of style, is subjective.

Personally I prefer the look of the Ferrari but would go for the McLaren in just about every other department. The only certain conclusion is that if you have £170k to spend on a supercar right now, the choice just got a whole lot better.

(Read the full McLaren MP4-12C drive report on PH here)


  McLaren MP4-12C Ferrari 458 Italia
Price £168,500 £169,545
0-60mph 3.1sec (claimed) 3.4sec (claimed)
Top speed 205mph (claimed) 202mph (claimed)
Economy 24.1mpg (combined) 21.2mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions 279g/km 307g/km
Kerb weight 1434kg 1485kg
Engine layout V8, 3799cc
Twin turbo
V8, 4499cc
Installation Mid
Rear wheel-drive
Rear wheel-drive
Power 592bhp at
562bhp at
Torque 442lb ft at
398lb ft at
Power to weight 455bhp/tonne 413bhp/tonne
Specific output 155bhp/litre 125bhp/litre
8.7:1 12.5:1
Gearbox 7-speed
Dual clutch auto
Dual clutch auto
Length 4507mm 4527mm
Width 1909mm (ex mirrors) 1937mm (ex mirrors)
Height 1199mm 1213mm
Wheelbase 2670mm 2650mm
Fuel tank 72 litres 86 litres
Range 382 miles 401 miles
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Hydraulic anti-roll
Active dampers
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Anti-roll bar
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Hydraulic anti-roll
Active dampers
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Anti-roll bar
Brakes 370mm front
350mm rear
Steel ventilated
398mm front
360mm rear
Carbon ceramic
ventilated discs
Wheels 8.5Jx19in (front)
11.0J x20in (rear)
8.5Jx20in (front)
10.5J x20in (rear)
Tyres 235/35 ZR19 front
305/30 ZR 20 rear
235/35 ZR20 front
295/35 ZR 20 rear

Author: sutters
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