Well, it was until it got shipped down the road to McLaren Special Operations, gained a coat of 'Papaya Spark' paint, over £100K's worth of carbon and titanium fripperies and was sent out into the world to prove McLaren can do lairy as well as it can clinical.
Look at me
Maybe it's the increased familiarity of the 12C since we last had one in. Or maybe it's just the searing hue of said special paintwork. But if previous reaction to the McLaren was intrigue, curiosity and 'nice ... what is it?' the 12C is now a bona fide and recognised local hero.
If the classy Volcano Red of the last 12C in PH's custody was as close to subtle as you can get in a £200K supercar this one is a proper event car. Drive along a busy high street and a Mexican wave of points, stares and fumbled smartphone snapping follows in your wake. On the motorway seemingly every adjacent car contains a grinning occupant giving a hearty thumbs up and those dihedral doors draw gasps of amazement whenever you pull up.
Which is the least you'd hope for, given the price of some of the additions. There's a full breakdown below, some seemingly deliberately provocative and the very definition of 'silly money'. Over two grand for carbon extensions to the shifter paddles? £495 for a titanium oil filler cap? Daft, yes. And you could say the same of many of the bits on the list too. But these are the kind of fetishised detail supercars do so well and the point of McLaren Special Operations is to offer everything from contrast stitching to a custom-bodied one-off like the X1.
"It's not necessarily to our tastes," admits our MSO contact of the additions to this car while saying it does demonstrate just a small part of what can be done. One client, owner of two F1s and with a P1 on the way, has had five 12C 'High Sports' built to his own specification with additional aero including extended diffusers and other mods. His mates liked them so much he's having another five, with similar bits for his P1 too. Others, like the X1 owner, insist on their cars being true one-offs.
Now, the changes to this car don't change the driving experience as such, though it does make driving it more of an experience. If that makes sense.
The 12C remains an eminently usable supercar with great visibility and an accessible demeanour at everyday speeds. There's a Lotusness to the feel at the wheel that, hopefully, comes as a compliment to both parties - like a very well appointed and very (very) fast Exige it has the immediacy of a traditional lightweight British sports car with the punch and pedigree to mix it with the supercar elite.
Trickle along without hitting the Active button and the 12C amazes with its relative comfort, the slurred auto shifts and undemanding nature. Only the constant attention distracts from what is a pretty relaxing drive.
This is a modern-age supercar with digitally enhanced controls but McLaren has done a good job of creating a sense of weight in the steering - more effective than the 458's fast-geared and overly light wheel - and with the new and improved Intake Sound Generator introduced on the MY13 car there's more aural drama too. It can't match the 458's naturally aspirated wail. But the whooshes and gurgles mean the turbocharged power delivery is now a feature, not support act and makes sense of the way the power builds from tractable through a building sense of anticipation to truly explosive top end. The kind that will have your passengers screaming expletives. 625hp is not shy and nor would you want the experience of deploying it to be anything but thrilling.
Moving swiftly on, Chris Harris proved, conclusively, that the McLaren can do flamboyant in the right circumstances. But the company mindset pervades and the car encourages you to be neat, tidy and precise with hooligans probably better catered for by the 458's more simplistic approach. Also demonstrated by Mr H.
But it'd be boring if they were the same, right? Anyway, McLaren is on a rather different agenda to Ferrari and the 12C is the beginning and core of a whole new family of supercars, not the continuation of a long line complying to a well-tested formula.
Whether that includes spending close to £10K on colour coded interior fittings or having your £11K roll hoop trimmed in orange Alcantara for another three grand is up to you.
MCLAREN 12C MCLAREN SPECIAL OPERATIONS
Engine: 3,799cc V8 twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch (SSG), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 625@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 442@3,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.1 sec
Top speed: 207mph
Weight: 1,336kg (dry), 1,434kg (DIN)
MPG: 24.2mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: £176,000 (£288,168 as tested, see below for details)
MSO additions in detail:
MSO Papaya Spark paint - £5,999
MSO carbon front bumper - £13,507
Louvred front wings - £6,615
MSO carbon bonnet - £7,732
Carbon engine cover vents - £5,455
Carbon vented rear deck - £3,130
MSO Track Pack (seats, harnesses, roll hoop) - £11,686
Contrast stitching - £1,091
Alcantara trim for roll hoop - £2,894
Carbon wiper system cover - £4,818
'Contrast colour theme' - £8,324
MSO branded door sills - £1,223
MSO painted wheels - £3,194
Extended carbon shift paddles - £2,137
Interior switch packs/wheel trim in body colour - £6,878
Vent bezels and cluster in body colour - £2,820
Titanium oil and water filler caps - £495 each
Carbon air brake - £4,309
Carbon rear bumper vents - £4,645
Carbon sill tops - £6,713
Total options - £112,168