When it happens, when these three leviathans of the hypercar world meet, finally, on neutral ground and at a venue that’s commensurate with their capabilities – at the Nurburgring, say – it will be the greatest group test of all time. For the time being, though, we can merely dote upon them, speculate about how they might square up to one another technically, and try to establish what the differences in their real world performance envelopes might be.

And in a way that’s what hypercars like this are all about for the rest of us; theoretical, sometimes even philosophical comparison. Think of it as the most grown up game of Supertrumps you’ve ever played, in which the level of detail on display is unprecedented, and the amount of performance they can generate unique.

So here, then, is what we already know about this extraordinary triumvirate of hypercars. Maybe you’d like to sit back and feast on the various numbers we’ve unearthed, then make your own decision about which one might be the best, and why.

Engines

All three feature petrol engines that are aided in their quest to reach the stratosphere by electric motors that boost both power and torque. The Porsche has an atmospheric 4.6-litre V8 that’s dry-sumped and revs to 8500rpm. On its own, this produces 580bhp, but when combined with the two hybrid modules that power both the front and rear axles, the 918 Spyder generates 795bhp and 575lb ft of torque.

Which sounds unbeatable until you realise what’s on offer in the Ferrari and McLaren. The P1 uses the same basic design of 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 from the 12C (although McLaren claims it is an entirely different engine, with a different block, much bigger turbos and twice as much boost pressure at 2.4 bar). Either way, the P1’s petrol engine develops 727bhp and 531lb ft of torque, to which the hybrid KERS system then boosts the outputs to a whopping 903bhp and 664lb ft.

But Ferrari’s deliciously named “The Ferrari” trumps them both on the powertrain front, for two key reasons. One, it produces more power and torque than the others – its 6.3-litre V12 developing 790bhp at 9000rpm and 516lb ft of torque, with the Hy-KERS system boosting the overall outputs to 950bhp and 715lb ft.

Two, like the Porsche it uses no form of turbocharging. Instead its V12 engine has a suitably high 13.5:1 compression ratio, which, you’d have to speculate, will enable it to produce noises and response times that the twin-turbo P1 can only dream about.

Gearboxes

As is de rigeur nowadays, all three feature a seven-speed twin-clutch paddle-shift gearbox that can swap cogs faster than you can think. The McLaren’s is a development of the Graziano gearbox used in the 12C, featuring 40 per cent more clutch cooling and 30 per cent faster shift times. This is due mainly to the integration of the electric motors from the Hy-KERS system which, by all accounts, allow gears to effectively be pre-selected up or down, according to a senior engineer.

In the 918 there’s a Porsche-built PDK with seven forward ratios and five pre-selectable operating modes to suit your mood and location (as in normal, sport, track etc). In normal mode, the 918 is rear wheel-drive but there’s also a smaller, separate gearbox that drives the front wheels through an electric motor if required, although this decouples above 146mph, making the 918 fully rear wheel-drive above this speed.

The Ferrari uses a Getrag double-clutch transmission, also with an electric motor attached to it, with a dedicated gear-set that transmits drive directly to the final drive. Maranello claims it’s the fastest shifting gearbox that’s ever been fitted to one of its cars, and that the shift style/times can be tailored to your needs – as they can in the others, to be fair – in this instance via the familiar five-stage manettino dial on the steering wheel.

In LaFerrari, however, the manettino also allows the driver to change certain settings for the Hy-KERS system as well, which, says Maranello, allows even greater fine tuning of the car while on the move.

KERS and kerbweights

Lithium-ion phosphate batteries are used to power various electric motors in all three cars, and in each instance these are mounted behind the driver but in front of the engine and gearbox, as low down within the mid-engined, carbon fibre tub as it is possible to mount them.

The batteries of the P1 weigh 96kg while those of The Ferrari weigh just 62kg. Porsche doesn’t say how much the 918’s batteries weigh, nor the rest of its hybrid powertrain, but because it’s four wheel-drive the 918 is heavy beside the others.

Even with the weight saving “Weissach Package” installed, the 918 murders the scales at 1665kg. Beside the P1 – which weighs 1490kg all up or 1395kg “dry” without fluids – that looks cumbersome. And beside The Ferrari – a mere 1255kg dry so call it around 1345kg all up – it seems downright bloated.

In the P1, energy is harvested via engine braking or by charging the car via a charge point, which takes approximately two hours. McLaren decided not to use the brakes to regenerate energy because, in testing, it wasn’t happy with the effects this had on brake pedal feel. In The Ferrari, though, “we use everything to regenerate energy” says the car’s technical director, Roberto Fideli.

“From the brakes to the traction control system to the car’s electronic differential, we reuse it all to make energy. We had some problems with brake pedal feel to begin with” admits Fideli. “But we got through that and now we’re 100 per cent happy with the car’s feel.”

In its entirety, the Hy-KERS system adds 170kg to the weight of the P1 while in The Ferrari it adds just 140kg. That means the P1 would weigh a mere 1225kg “dry” without its KERS, while The Ferrari would weigh an incredible 1115kg. The 918 would seemingly be close to 1500kg, even without its hybrid, four-wheel drive-systems.

Interestingly, the P1 and 918 both feature so-called “E-modes” in which they can run for short periods without petrol power. The P1 can do 0-62mph in 9.4sec and tops 100mph with a range of 20km in its E-mode. Porsche claims a 150kmh (93mph) top speed and a range of 25km for the 918 when purely electric.

The Ferrari doesn’t have an E-mode as such, Maranello instead claiming that the KERS system is there purely to generate extra performance, hence the reason why the 330g/km figure looks way out of kilter with the incredible 70g/km of the 918 and the “under 200g/km” claim by McLaren.

Brakes

Carbon ceramic discs are used in all three cars, but those of the P1 seem especially trick, even in this context. Supplied by Aakebono – who do the braking systems for Formula One – they were developed for McLaren bespoke and can, says Woking, sustain much higher operating temperatures than conventional carbon ceramic discs.

They also develop a smooth, almost mirrored finish the harder they are used, apparently, which means “cool points” can be earned by owners/drivers at track days for the most mirrored discs.

The P1 can generate 2g under brakes, according to McLaren. Neither Ferrari nor Porsche make a claim for what their cars can achieve braking wise. Yet.

Dimensions

The Ferrari isn’t just the longest (at 4702mm) and widest (at 1992mm), it’s also the lowest (at 1116mm), which gives it a natural edge when it comes to fundamental visual appeal. But at the same time it also has the shortest wheelbase at 2650mm, which means it has the longest overhangs. Again, this lends it a more dart-like elegance, before you even begin to appreciate its smoother detailing.

Beside it, the P1 looks busy though undeniably purposeful from most angles, while the 918 – which has the longest wheelbase of the three by far – sits somewhere between the two.

Aerodynamics

According to McLaren the P1 generates a vaguely astonishing 600kg of downforce at 161mph, beyond which the car’s active aerodynamics automatically trim back the wings to reduce drag – McLaren’s thinking being that above 161mph you don’t need as much downforce because you won’t ever be cornering at such a speed.

But although neither Ferrari nor Porsche make any specific claims (yet) for maximum downforce figures, in both cases there are computer controlled active aerodynamic systems in place that deploy wings front and rear – and in The Ferrari’s case move guiding vanes on the underbody and use “active flaps” on the front and rear diffusers as well – to keep them glued to the road in corners.

In the P1’s case, the rear wing has three different heights depending which of its various drive modes have been selected (normal, sports, track and race). In race mode the wing rises by 300mm, and in track mode by 120mm. But it also alters in pitch through 29 degrees depending what speed you’re doing and which mode is selected.

And for the ultimate “F1 for the road” experience there’s also a DRS button in the P1 that, when pressed, instantly reduces the pitch and height of the rear wing, thereby reducing drag, a la F1, to provide a hit of extra straight line acceleration. As soon as cornering loads are detected, however, the P1’s rear wing redeploys and stability is maintained, says McLaren, the whole lot being computer controlled to “provide maximum grip but also maximum driver entertainment at all times, and at all speeds” according to McLaren’s engineers.

Suspension

The P1 is unique here in that the ride height of its all round, double wishbone, aluminium suspension varies when on the move, again depending on how fast it’s travelling and which mode is selected. In race mode, the ride height drops by as much as 50mm while the hydraulic spring rates increase by a factor of three and the roll stiffness goes up three and a half times (compared with normal mode).

McLaren describes race mode as “a Nurburgring button” which provides the P1 with close to GT3 racing car levels of roll stiffness and downforce, but which can be switched back to a far more comfortable “normal” setting at the press of a button.

But The Ferrari’s manettino system can also be switched between numerous modes to transform the responses of the all round, aluminium, double wishbone suspension to suit different circumstances on the move, as can the 918’s double wishbone front, multi-link rear suspension.

All three have highly sophisticated traction control systems (five modes in the P1 and Ferrari and, we believe, just three in the 918). And in each instance it’s possible to switch the TC completely off if you are feeling brave enough.

Performance

This is the big one, of course. It’s what sells cars like these to the people who are lucky enough to be able to afford them, and it’s what keeps the rest of us in subject matter during our bar room banter.

And for the time being, at least, The Ferrari would appear to have the edge – simply because it has more power and torque than its rivals but less weight to carry into the bargain. Its power to weight ratio is over 700bhp per tonne (which is way more even than a Bugatti Veyron can muster) while the P1 generates 606bhp/tonne, the 918 around 477bhp/tonne.

Thus, the official claims for the zero to 100kmh (62mph) sprint are; Porsche 3.0sec, McLaren “under 3.0sec”, Ferrari “sub 3.0sec.” So not much to separate them there.

To reach 200kmh (124mph), however, the claims are; Porsche 9.0sec, McLaren “under 7.0sec” Ferrari “sub 7.0sec.” Which means the 918 Spyder’s weight is already beginning to tell, it seems, while the two big hitters remain resolutely locked together.

But to hit 300kmh from rest (186mph) there’s a massive difference between how quick the Porsche is (27.0sec) besides the rocket-propelled McLaren (“under 17sec”). Having said that, Maranello’s claim for The Ferrari of just 15.5sec would appear to place it in a league of one for pure, rabid acceleration. And the good people of Woking won’t like that one bit.

Ferrari doesn’t even make a claim for LaFerrari’s top speed yet “because we simply don’t care about top speed.” Even so, it’s safe to say that it’ll be somewhere near or perhaps beyond the P1’s 218mph limited top speed, and well in excess of the 918’s claimed 202mph.

Both McLaren and Ferrari claim their cars will lap the Nurburgring in under seven minutes. Neither has yet verified this claim, however, the numbers instead having been generated by factory simulators. Porsche, on the other hand, claims a genuine “we’ve timed it” lap time of 7min 14sec, which was set in testing on September 18 last year (ninth month, 18th day, natch).

Prices/exclusivity

The most exclusive of the three, in theory, will be the P1, McLaren choosing to limit the numbers of cars it will produce over the next two years to just 375 – at £866,000 apiece.

Ferrari, by contrast, will make 499 LaFerraris over the next 24 months, with a list price of 1.2m euros each, including taxes. At today’s exchange rate that’s approximately £1.05m. Deliveries of both will begin sometime “this summer.”

But it’s the 918’s price, and it’s proposed build numbers, that would appear to pose the biggest question mark. Deliveries of the car begin on September 18 this year (ninth month, 18th day) and Porsche says it will build 918 Spyders in total, charging $845,000 (£682,000) for the basic version and $949,000 (£745,000) for the Weissach Package.

Considering how much less potent and exclusive the 918 will be compared with its nemeses from Ferrari and McLaren, only time will tell whether Porsche has got it right or not with the 918’s pricing. And in the meantime all we can do is dote – on three of the most extraordinary motorcars the world has ever seen, all about to hit our streets at exactly the same time.

Factfiles

LaFerrari

Price: 1.2m euros; 0-62mph: sub-3.0sec (claimed); Top speed: na; Economy: na; CO2 emissions: 333g/km; Kerb weight: 1255kg (dry), approx 1345kg with fluids; Engine layout: V12, 6262cc, petrol, plus electric motors; Installation: Mid, longitudinal, RWD; Power: 950bhp at 9000rpm; Torque: 715lb ft at 6750rpm; Power to weight: 707bhp per tonne (with fluids); Specific output: 152bhp per litre; Compression ratio: 13.5:1; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Length: 4702mm; Width: 1992mm; Height: 1116mm; Wheelbase: 2650mm; Fuel tank: na; Range: na; Boot: na; Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Rear suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Brakes: Ventilated carbon-ceramic discs; Wheels: 19in (f), 20in (r); Tyres: 265/30 ZR19 (f), 345/30 ZR20 (r) Pirelli P Zero Rosso Corsa;

McLaren P1

Price: £866,000; 0-62mph: sub-3.0sec (claimed); Top speed: 218mph (limited); Economy: na; CO2 emissions: “Under 200g/km”; Kerb weight: 1395kg (dry), 1490kg with fluids;Engine layout: V8, 3799cc, twin-turbo, petrol, plus electric motor; Installation: Mid, longitudinal, RWD; Power: 903bhp at 7500rpm; Torque: 664lb ft at 4000rpm; Power to weight: 606bhp per tonne; Specific output: 237bhp per litre; Compression ratio: na; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Length: 4590mm Width: 1946mm; Height 1170mm; Wheelbase: 2670mm; Fuel tank: na; Range: na; Boot: 120 litres; Front suspension: Double wishbones, hydraulic springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Rear suspension: Double wishbones, hydraulic springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs; Wheels: 19in (f), 20in (r); Tyres: 245/35 ZR19 (f), 315/30 ZR20 (r), Pirelli P Zero Rosso Corsa;

Porsche 918 Spyder

Price: £682,000; 0-62mph: sub-3.0sec (claimed); Top speed: 202mph (limited); Economy: 94.1mpg (NEDC combined); CO2 emissions: 70g/km; Kerb weight: 1665kg with fluids and Weissach Package; Engine layout: V8, 4600cc, petrol, plus electric motors; Installation: Mid, longitudinal, 4WD; Power: 795bhp at 8500rpm; Torque: 575lb ft at 4000rpm; Power to weight: 477bhp per tonne; Specific output: 173bhp per litre; Compression ratio: na; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Length: 4643mm; Width: 1940mm; Height: 1167mm; Wheelbase: 2730mm; Fuel tank: 70 litres; Range: na; Boot: 110 litres; Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Rear suspension: Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs; Wheels: 20in (f), 21in (r); Tyres: 265/35 ZR20 (f), 325/30 ZR21 (r), Michelin Pilot Cup;

Autocar has produced digital books on the McLaren P1 hypercar as well as the F1 and 12C supercars.

Download the McLaren F1 digital edition.

Download the McLaren P1 digital edition.

Download the McLaren 12C digital edition.