PH Blog: give McLaren a break


I was chatting with Mr Harris last week about whether or not I was fair in my criticism of the McLaren MP4-12C’s gear shift mannerisms. He admitted he’d never encountered the ‘will it shift one gear or maybe three?’ thing I’d got myself muddled over but in our chat he opined that we should all get behind the McLaren a bit more.

Should we be nicer to the MP4-12C?
Should we be nicer to the MP4-12C?
And I can see his point. It’s a peculiarly British habit this. We’re a lot harsher on our own and very quick to knock down to size any in our midst who looks like they might be getting a bit big for their boots.

Warts and all the MP4-12C is a car we should be more proud of as a nation. Pretty much all of the significant elements of that car are from scratch, engine, transmission, body and more included. As Chris said in his piece accompanying his video on it, to run Ferrari at the top of its game a very close second with your first roll of the dice is pretty damned impressive for anyone, let alone the very first (relatively) mass-produced car you’ve ever built off your own back.

And you can’t fault McLaren for its ambition. Sure, it could have made a ‘simple’ one-up, one-down paddle shifter gearbox, but it looked at what was out there and sought a way of stamping its own identity and tech-obsessed character on it. Personally I didn’t get on with it but, as I was corrected by an owner in the thread that followed, as you live with the car and adapt to it things improve. It may sound like a strange comparison but I’ve always railed against those who entirely dismiss the Smart Coupe/Roadster (stop sniggering at the back) on account of its gearbox being crap – I’ve spent loads of time in them and if you learn your way around it you can get it to work just fine. Maybe I should have been a little more tolerant of the 12C.

McLaren to Smart in one move - interesting!
McLaren to Smart in one move - interesting!
There’s a lot to love about the car for sure. Not least the fact that reactions to it are overwhelmingly positive, even if there seems some confusion as to what it is. “Awesome mate, just awesome … what is it? Lotus, right? Nah, Noble, wait…” Spend any time in a Ferrari and you’ll get as much hate as you do love. But, much like the Morgan Plus 8 we ran, Joe Public seems much more generously disposed and willing to get behind a British car than many of us jaded hacks.

The Lotus one is an interesting one too. Never mind the political picture; I wonder where the MP4-12C leaves the Esprit. To my mind the McLaren occupies exactly the territory Lotus was probably aiming for. Where to go from there then? Make the Esprit super hardcore? Noble’s already there. Cheaper and more rounded? R8 or the inevitable 911 instead maybe. No, the McLaren is right there and even feels a bit Lotusy. Or should that just be feels British?

Whatever, it’s a car to be proud of, niggles or not. And if this is the opening gambit we’ve got a lot to look forward to.

Dan

Comments (59) Join the discussion on the forum

  • CraigyMc 02 Jul 2012

    Rich_W said:
    Mx5guy said:
    In regards to the SLR it was not building a car from scratch etc. So although it will have helped a little it is still a huge ask to make this car from nothing.
    Erm? Not sure what you mean?

    Designed by the genius that is Murray and his team. (Albeit to a spec agreed with Mercedes) Built by McLaren at Woking and Portsmouth. Engine and box obviously come in a box from Germany.
    Interesting people talk about the SLR on here like he had a lot to do with it.

    Murray wanted to do a mid engined car:
    Car and driver said:
    And after the F1 came the SLR, built for Mercedes. Would it have been different if you’d had a freer rein with it?
    Gordon Murray said:
     Absolutely. It would have been mid-engined for a start. The original weight target was 1400 kilograms [3086 pounds], and we genuinely believed we’d have hit that if we’d had a normally aspirated engine. Then it would have been dynamite, the ultimate GT car ever, probably. It turned out to be 1630 kilograms [3594 pounds] with a supercharged engine—still light for a big car but nothing special. And, of course, it was 300 grand [$460,000] instead of 180 grand [$275,000], which was the original target.
    The whole "gin palace" part of the SLR was certainly from Merc. Murray doesn't do heavy cars, if he has any choice in it.

    C

  • Rich_W 01 Jul 2012

    Mx5guy said:
    In regards to the SLR it was not building a car from scratch etc. So although it will have helped a little it is still a huge ask to make this car from nothing.
    Erm? Not sure what you mean?

    Designed by the genius that is Murray and his team. (Albeit to a spec agreed with Mercedes) Built by McLaren at Woking and Portsmouth. Engine and box obviously come in a box from Germany.


  • Mx5guy 01 Jul 2012

    Rich_W said:
    FWIW McLaren shot themselves in the foot in 2 ways. Firstly they designed and built the F1 (and the SLR) before so they are not some new start up company like Ron wants us to believe. And secondly they hyped the bloody thing to the rafters for MONTHS saying it would be the best ever. Which is pretty stupid. Better to actually build the best ever then sit quietly back, in the British way, and see how it's received. Like with the aformentioned F1. Bear in mind before that cars launch, no one had a CLUE what it was like.
    I don't see how it is not impressive in regards to what they have done in building the car. You mentioned the SLR and F1. However the F1 was built in a very different style (few cars, focus on details) rather than a "mass produced" car. Also that was a long time ago, so it is likely a lot of the experienced people have moved on/ involved in different stuff/ simply forgotten a lot of the stuff they learned back then. In regards to the SLR it was not building a car from scratch etc. So although it will have helped a little it is still a huge ask to make this car from nothing.

    I'm not a fanboy, but was very impressed when out in a friend's one. Not sure if I would get one myself compared to other cars (but would probably have it over the 458).

  • Rich_W 01 Jul 2012

    toppstuff said:
    What are you wittering on about?

    Whatever you seem to think, McLaren are not trying to "claw back" sales from anyone. They have already sold more than a 1,000 MP4 12's in their first year.
    Only the dedicated McLaren Fan boys see my comment as an attack! laugh I'm not a fan if THIS car. But I'm glad it's doing well. Bottom line is that they want to take sales from their competitors. So launching a spyder (surely as a Brit company it should be a Convertible?) will help boost sales figures. Though I question whether an owner can do 200mph with the roof down and not get buffetted to hell!

    Oh, and FYI Audi sold 4000 R8s in the first full year of production wink - Wikipedia
    And in the first 3 months of 2012 (3 years after launch) Ferrari shifted 1733 F458's wink - topspeed.com

    toppstuff said:
    And straight out of the box, its doing well in racing too.
    So is the 458Italia and the current iteration of the GT3R. Didn't see any Maccas at Le Mans either. Bit of a shame that given they won on their debut in 95.

    toppstuff said:
    Bloody impressive to launch a company like this in the teeth of a recession and actually get more than 1,000 cars made at £200k a pop in your first year.
    You do understand that recessions don't really affect those with money don't you...


    Hers's 26mins of shiny stuff for you
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVGlqjCufMY&lis...

  • toppstuff 01 Jul 2012

    Rich_W said:
    Anyway. They've announced a Spyder version now to try and claw back some sales from Audi and Porsche and Ferrari and Lamborghini.

    http://www.mclarenautomotive.com/uk/insider/archiv...
    What are you wittering on about?

    Whatever you seem to think, McLaren are not trying to "claw back" sales from anyone. They have already sold more than a 1,000 MP4 12's in their first year.

    In spite of the teething troubles with IRIS ( there was always going to be something that didnt go quite to plan ) the car has been a great success. And straight out of the box, its doing well in racing too.

    WIth the Spyder now, the company seems to be doing very well.

    Bloody impressive to launch a company like this in the teeth of a recession and actually get more than 1,000 cars made at £200k a pop in your first year.



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