Ferrari 458 Vs McLaren 12C - The Verdict

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
Longitudinal
Rear wheel-drive
Mid
Longitudinal
Rear wheel-drive
Power 592bhp at
7000rpm
562bhp at
9000rpm
Torque 442lb ft at
3000-7000rpm
398lb ft at
6000rpm
Power to weight 455bhp/tonne 413bhp/tonne
Specific output 155bhp/litre 125bhp/litre
Compression
ratio
8.7:1 12.5:1
Gearbox 7-speed
Dual clutch auto
7-speed
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
Front
Suspension
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Hydraulic anti-roll
Active dampers
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Anti-roll bar
Rear
Suspension
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Hydraulic anti-roll
Active dampers
Double wishbones
Coil springs
Anti-roll bar
Brakes 370mm front
350mm rear
Steel ventilated
discs
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
 


     

Comments (309) Join the discussion on the forum

  • marcosgt 12 Apr 2014

    Holy Thread Ressurection! (There, got it out of the way before someone wastes a post saying it).

    I had a very brief go in a 458 and an MP4 12C this morning, but, probably unlike many, it was within minutes of each other.

    It was one of these Supercar Driving days, so hardly pushing to the limits or an extensive test, but I probably drove them harder than I would ever do on the road to be honest, although I'm sure even another 5-10 laps would have given me a better insight into the cars.

    I drove the 458 first and, wow, what an experience. It feels so immediate and responsive to throttle, steering, brakes and gearchange. I've driven a few fast cars over the years, but this was another level. I always thought I'd not really get the point of something like this, but if I could afford one, I'd have a 458 in a shot, it's such a wonderful driving experience.

    Next, the McLaren. Getting in and starting up are more theatrical than the 458, with more buttons to press and those doors to navigate and I think I preferred the cabin, although I think the Ferrari felt a better driving position for me, but maybe that was just luck.

    Pulling away, the McLaren felt more muted and, dare I say it, mundane. The gearchange is noticeably slower than the Ferraris and the levers moving with the wheel seemed awkward to me, although I can see it should be easier if you are changing gear in the middle of a turn and I guess you'd get used to it.

    I commented to the instructor with me that it seemed slower and less aggresive than the 458 and he reminded me it was turbocharged and needs to be kept more 'on the boil', so gave it a bit more welly and it's certainly impressively quick with impressive direction change. However, the slight turbo lag, slower gearchange and a more detached feeling as the driver, all left me feeling it lagged the Ferrari.

    Honestly, I wouldn't be disappointed to own either, but I came away utterly smitten with the Ferrari 458. I suspect the McLaren would be a more usable day to day car, I probably like the way it looks better (in Black in this case) and it's hard to find fault with it, but the Ferrari, to me, just felt a more exciting, involving, enjoyable drive from the second I pulled away.

    I can't pretend to have got enough time in either car to compare with the experiences of people who own them, but I thought it was an interesting opportunity to drive two of the hottest supercar properties around. Driving them a day apart, I'm sure they'd both seem utterly brilliant.

    I'd never imagined I'd really ever want a supercar, but that changed today and the one I want is a 458...

    M


    Edited by marcosgt on Saturday 12th April 21:47

  • D15 09 Oct 2012

    I've recently had a go in both. The 458 is 'shoutier' - which seems to translate into 'more exciting' in many reviews; however, far less capable. The McLaren is absolutely superb - I'd choose it over the 458 in a second.

  • otolith 21 Feb 2011

    CraigyMc said:
    I think you mean the M111, which was the Mk.1 Elise.
    Nope, I meant the Elan and typed Elise.

  • CraigyMc 21 Feb 2011

    otolith said:
    Personally, I always liked the M100 Elise - however, the styling and dynamics did receive very much the same kind of criticism you are levelling at these new cars; I brought it up only to illustrate that these things are subjective.
    I think you mean the M111, which was the Mk.1 Elise.

    The M100 was the late 1980's front wheel drive Elan.

  • otolith 21 Feb 2011

    Personally, I always liked the M100 Elan - however, the styling and dynamics did receive very much the same kind of criticism you are levelling at these new cars; I brought it up only to illustrate that these things are subjective.

    (edited for spacktardery)

    Edited by otolith on Monday 21st February 15:29

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