RE: Driven: McLaren MP4-12C

RE: Driven: McLaren MP4-12C

Friday 19th August 2011

Driven: McLaren MP4-12C

A Volcano Orange guided-missile lights our fire...



It's time for a new e-petition on the Directgov website: "This country needs a National Fast Car Day."


The premise is simple. The population will be induced to stay at home by means of a specially recorded 8hr celebrity edition of the Jeremy Kyle show, while individuals with access to a bone-fide fast car (there'll be a debate, but let's say 280+bhp/tonne for now) get to play unimpeded on their favourite roads. Citizens who sign an alternative petition ("Keep cretinous garbage off the TV") will be allowed to watch the action from specified viewing areas such as overpasses, embankments, etc. Speed restrictions will be lifted, and traffic police will be temporarily re-assigned to marshalling duties, plus offering soothing cups of tea and/or commiserations after any unfortunate incidents.

We've needed a day like this for years but, having just spent the best part of a weekend with the McLaren MP4-12C, the situation has clearly escalated. The only alternative is for car makers to start engineering compromise back into their vehicles, so we can start to enjoy (and/or be afraid of...) 'the edge' of a car's performance envelope again - at speeds that traffic on our roads, or sanity, will allow.


Seriously, thanks to a combination of dawdlers, congestion and the desire to keep some wriggle room on my licence, I couldn't find anywhere to properly unleash the beast that lurks within McLaren's (initially mild-mannered) new supercar.

I know a beast does lurk within, because it showed itself from time to time through little flashes of ferocious brilliance - a deftly gobbled-up trio of B-road bends, mad-cap acceleration past a line of Lincolnshire potato lorries, that 'fastest-ever' motorway slip-road sweeper, etc. But you won't be surprised to hear it's impossible to properly enjoy the 12C's performance on public roads.

Some think the law may even be interpreted to preclude it, which I guess is why buyers (and reviewers) consider 'emotion' to be such an important part of the supercar experience. If all that latent potential can't be expressed in other ways, why bother with it at all?


Well, perhaps being on the 'under-stated' side of emotional myself, the McLaren delivers that subjective quality in exactly the right amount. For starters it looks gorgeous. Not in a flashy fashion, but then if you need bling or silicon tits to look a million dollars you've got an underlying problem to start with. 'Our' 12C, finished in ravishing Volcano Orange, looked as though it had been drip-formed from molten metal when the sun shone. The rest of the time it just looked powerful, lithe and sexy. I wasn't the only one to think so - at every stop the car attracted admirers like the Emperor Calippo drew the vespula vulgaris.

To get inside, you have to slide your fingers under the upper portion of the door panel in the manner of a poacher tickling a trout. I'd prefer a button. The doors 'scissor' upwards, but unfortunately also swing outwards to a degree that can make public parking a challenge. With traditional doors you can usually open them a little and squeeze in or out even if somebody else parks too close. With this set-up you've either got sufficient room - or you're trapped in or out of your car. Fortunately the solution is obvious. Don't park, just drive...


Have a look around the cockpit first though, because it's beautifully set-out and crisply finished. Our car had the benefit of a lavish spec that included leather sport interior, carbon fibre trim and contrast orange stitching on the dashboard.

The electric memory seats and steering wheel adjust to give even tall and fat blokes like me a comfortable set-up - with head- and elbow-room to spare - yet the car still feels beautifully compact around the driver. That's one trade-off from McLaren's novel 'space-saver' centre console, the other being a 90-degree rotated nav/infotainment centre that still hasn't been finished leaving early cars to be delivered without full functionality. (They'll be upgraded later - blame the Japanese tsunami, etc.) The sense of compactness extends to the view through the windscreen, with wheel arches framing the view either side of an elegantly dipping bonnet. It's workmanlike, unflashy, yet totally 'pukka'. And you could sit comfortably for hours.


The instrument layout is clear and elegant in its simple binnacle, and there's nothing to distract on the grippy steering wheel apart from that red 'extra' bit from the end of the McLaren logo which sits in the middle of the boss. Apparently it's a graphic that's evolved from Bruce McLaren's original Kiwi logo, but on its own it looks like something you'd peel off the side of a trainer in J. D. Sports. (Careful - you can get four years for that. Ed.) I'd replace it with a PH Smiley sticker, pronto.

Beneath the nav-station in the centre console sit two rotary switches for Normal, Sport and Track configurations - the one on the left adjusts the chassis settings, the one on the right is for the powertrain. The switches only come into play when you push the 'Active' button beneath them, so you can leave them set to Sport/Sport and still loaf around in the default comfort setting until there's a gap in the traffic.


So let's hit the starter, and loaf... which surprisingly is something the McLaren does effortlessly well. The engine, in spite of the newly modded induction system, barely intrudes at all below 2500-3000rpm so in 'general usage' progress is peaceful and refined. Which means you can chat easily to your passenger at 100mph all the way to Le Mans or Monaco, and you won't get out with a headache. The suspension is terrific too - in both comfort and sport modes the unique McLaren set-up soaks up potholes and even those evil kerbside drain covers with unerring aplomb. The sort of stuff that would send shuddering crashes through the structure of many exotics.

Put your foot down and start using some revs, and the noise gets louder - moving from a gruff throaty roar to a definitely pleasing howl in the top half of the rev-range, but even at the 8500rpm redline it's never overly intrusive. It's not one of those highly-pitched shrieks the Italians favour, designed to make your engine sound as though it's been tuned to within an inch of its life, but it's a lot more mellifluous than a 911 turbo, for instance. Again, it works for me, but others may find it underwhelming - particularly as a couple of motorway 'fly-bys' had fellow PHers reporting the sound as being relatively muted from the external third party perspective.


Anyway, you'll be forgiven for not caring too much about the sound as the performance kicks in. McLaren quotes 0-Vmax in fewer than 1000 metres, but we didn't attain anything like 205mph even with the empty M1 stretched out before us at 3am on a Sunday morning. Sometimes it's hard living up to 'older and wiser'...

Naturally we tried the acceleration 'a bit', and the car really does feel mind-blowingly quick. There's a sort of exponential/time-warp factor as the turbos gather themselves up, but my over-riding sense was that going this fast has no right to be this easy. Other cars I've driven with anything approaching similar performance have delivered it with more dramatic side-effects, be it noise, ride or a sense of barely concealed rising panic that the McLaren just doesn't prescribe to. It's as easy as 1-2-3, roughly translated as Pedal, Turbos, F***ing Hell That's Fast, or more scientifically as 0-100mph in 6.1secs...


Fortunately the brakes are mighty too, especially as we had the carbon jobs fitted, and although McLaren recommends iron discs for road use we didn't mind the sporty option at all. (Apart from a tendency to creep when holding the car on the footbrake at traffic lights, etc, if we weren't paying attention.) They dragged the car back to sane speeds smoothly and efficiently, with a decently firm pedal pressure required.

Off the motorway, light and direct steering combined with the car's compact feel make it easy to place accurately around corners, and only the manual gearchange disappointed slightly. Not for speed or smoothness, but it would be nice if the race-style column yoke gave the paddles a bit more of a crisp, mechanical action. Grip, agility and body composure through corners at speed is pretty much peerless, and the roll-free Sport setting retains amazing comfort too thanks to the 'active' nature of the hydraulics.


When you factor in the useful luggage capacity - there's a decent 'boot' at the front, and a big shelf behind the seats - and the 12C's everyday comfort and 'driveability', it's hard to see what stands between it and the epithet of 'perfect every day supercar'. (Apart from possible problems parking at the supermarket.)

But that would be a lousy sign-off for a piece about such an epic machine. If McLaren will let us have it back for National Fast Car Day, we'll gladly correct the oversight!







Author
Discussion

BoostMonkey

Original Poster:

567 posts

143 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
National Fast Car Day sounds amazing, got to love a bit of hooning. cloud9

Ow and the car's nice too. biggrin

Flat2theMat

27 posts

191 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
What's that car in front of the Viper?

Bill Carr

2,234 posts

192 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
I have one criticism - the vent above the nav screen looks a bit weird and protruding. I think I could live with it though.

Euromillions this Friday...

Slinky

15,704 posts

207 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
The geek in me still needs to see the IRIS functioning, but yet I don't seem to be able to find anything online (perhaps my googlefu is weak today).. Can anyone tell me more?

AV12

5,213 posts

166 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
I can't fault it. For me, perfect.


Moog72

1,586 posts

135 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
What an amazing colour!

Guvernator

11,228 posts

123 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
As a supercar, the 12C really does nothing for me. I can fully appreciate the engineering expertise that has gone into it but it just doesn't get my juices flowing at all like a 600bhp supercar should. Strange considering I rate Mclaren's other supercar, the F1 as one of the most exciting cars ever made.

anniesdad

14,572 posts

196 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Twin turbo that revs to 8 and a half grand. You've got to love that! smile

Great piece of writing Chris, thanks, you really do have to suffer for your art huh?!

smile

edit: 9.5avg so far on the PH o'meter - not bad!!

Edited by anniesdad on Friday 19th August 13:49

identti

2,352 posts

183 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Slinky said:
The geek in me still needs to see the IRIS functioning, but yet I don't seem to be able to find anything online (perhaps my googlefu is weak today).. Can anyone tell me more?
They do now function, although Nav is not yet released but will be in due course.

Sivraj

256 posts

149 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Its not fare, I want to come and play!..
Can they lend me one?

That door thing could be an issue in the real world,
Espesially if you come back to the car and somebodys parked a little close!...
Can you climb in through the back?

ZeeTacoe

3,332 posts

180 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Where's the review (and needed video) of the Boss?

soad

30,673 posts

134 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Moog72 said:
What an amazing colour!
Yes, works well smile

johnpeat

5,326 posts

223 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Flat2theMat said:
What's that car in front of the Viper?
Agera?

Lets Torque

10,974 posts

115 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Very Nice!

ZeeTacoe

3,332 posts

180 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
johnpeat said:
Flat2theMat said:
What's that car in front of the Viper?
Agera?
K1 attack

GFWilliams

4,859 posts

165 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
ZeeTacoe said:
Where's the review (and needed video) of the Boss?
There's a video on the autocar website smile

http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-video/muscle-car-drag...

Snoggledog

6,320 posts

175 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
I'm confused.

Bruce McLaren logo



McLaren Automotive logo.



And the similarities are???

alexpa

644 posts

130 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Love the colour!

Stuart

11,621 posts

209 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
Snoggledog said:
I'm confused.

Bruce McLaren logo



McLaren Automotive logo.



And the similarities are???
The orange device on the current logo is meant to be an evolution of the Kiwi bird from the original. It's pretty much evolved into something which looks completely different, granted, but that is where the orange thing comes from.

FUNKSTER UK

765 posts

160 months

Friday 19th August 2011
quotequote all
I'm sorry but it just doesn't do it for me.

I saw it at the Autosport show and visually its pretty but just lacks something and needs a little aggressive touch for my liking.

A supercar should stand the hairs up on the back of your neck, It should scare you and excite you at the same time.
From just about every report I've read about this car it gets criticised for being too clinical... I don't want a warp factor focus but need the feeling of the road and the mechanics through the car.

I don't have that sort of money to spend on a car but It wouldn't be my choice....Big shame As it's British though and I hope it does very well.

Just My Opinion.