In 1992 the McLaren F1 set the world alight, and its Autocar road test showed precisely why. Two decades later, we recall the verdict
1 June 2012

This week marks 20 years since the launch of the McLaren F1. The three-seat hypercar refined what was possible that the time, certainly as far as price and performance was concerned.

It remains one of the all-time automotive icons, and one of Autocar’s greatest road tests. The test was a landmark – not only for the staggering figures we recorded, but also because it was the only full performance test sanctioned by McLaren. Here’s what we said at the time:

The McLaren F1 is the finest driving machine yet built for the public road. It possesses more performance than most of the cars racing at Le Mans this year, but that is almost a side issue compared to its real achievement: that of containing such performance within a car that is without guile. A car that always inspires, never intimidates.

Yes, it has too much performance for most public road situations but, paradoxically, it is this excess that provides the F1 with its justification. 

The F1 is a car which, no matter how often you drive it, no matter how skilled you are, will always be capable of showing you something undiscovered, something you didn’t believe a road car could manage. We can see F1 drivers, after 20 years of ownership, still having their jaws felled by its abilities. And, in that time, there will be occasions when it can safely be exploited to the full and many, many more where merely nibbling at the surface of its abilities will still provide more driving inspiration than any production car driven at maximum effort. 

We are also convinced that the F1 will be remembered as one of the great events in the history of the car. What you are looking at here is very possibly the fastest production road car the world will ever see, a walking, talking piece of history. But £540,000? If we had the money, we’d form a queue. 

Today, we still would and the F1 remains a landmark car, even if our qualified prediction didn’t hold true – the F1’s straight-line pace was finally beaten by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

Autocar world exclusive: Andy Wallace flat out in the McLaren F1

McLaren F1 driven flat-out video

Join the debate


1 June 2012

Bloody hell I feel old. The car still looks fresh though. Only one I've seen in the flesh was at the Scottish motorshow, and thought it looked amazing. Gold engine bay heat shield, love it!

1 June 2012

Paul Dalgarno wrote:

Only one I've seen in the flesh was at the Scottish motorshow,

Me too!   Along with the Jaguar XJ220 that was on show at the same time.   I'll be the first to admit that I didn't appreciate at the time how good the F1 was.   It was only later reading how Gordon Murray designed the car that I really got it.   I sorely wish I spent more time looking at the F1 that day.

1 June 2012

May be 20 years old, but it is still the first car I would get if money were no object!  Today's hyper cars may be technically better, but none has the raw excitement of the F1.


(And shouldn't the subhead read <em>redefined</em> what was possible?

1 June 2012

After all these years, it's still my dream car. 

And why no one else managed to fit 3 people into a sports car still astounds me. 

1 June 2012

mx5xm wrote:

And why no one else managed to fit 3 people into a sports car still astounds me. 

They did, 20 years before MacLaren did it. Matra Bagheera.



1 June 2012

If it "set the world alight" in 1994, doesn't that make it 18 years old? I think it was 1992... Wink Whatever the case, it's still a magnificent car and still looks quite good, too.


- Follow your own star -

1 June 2012

No 1 on the EuroMillions list.

I still have the cover and article from that edition of Autocar and still get it out to read it now and again.

Todays hypercars don't really seem to have that singularity of design and vision that the F1 had.  The Veyron is a tech tour-de-force as are the GT-R, Ferraris, Lambo's and MP4-12C but they don't seem to stir the soul in the same way (maybe an AtomV8 might).  Given I drive an old V8 Land Rover my experience with these is non-existent but I can still dream!

1 June 2012

…in case anybody was wondering. 

1 June 2012

I agree, the car still looks great, lets hope the next McLaren can build in some more individuality and not be as Generic as the MP4-12C

1 June 2012

For F40 read 458 Italia; For F1 read MP4-12C

Ferrari vs McLaren

Passion vs Soulless



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