From £168,500
McLaren's taken the game so far forward with ride and handling - and it's quick with a capital F

Our Verdict

McLaren 12C
Choosing a supercar may have just got harder

The McLaren 12C has extraordinary pace and handling, but is a touch clinical

  • First Drive

    McLaren MP4-12C Spider

    No wonder McLaren expects 80 per cent of customers to choose the MP4-12C Spider. If you're in the market for a 12C, you’d be mad not to go for the Spider
  • First Drive

    McLaren MP4-12C

    McLaren's taken the game so far forward with ride and handling - and it's quick with a capital F
8 February 2011

What is it?

The MP4-12C is no less than McLaren Automotive’s brand new answer to the Ferrari 458 Italia, and quite some car it is too.

Priced to rival the 458 head on (it costs £168,500 whereas the 458 comes in at £169,545), yet toting more power, more performance and even greater technical sophistication than its nemesis from Maranello, the 12C is without question Britain’s most exciting new supercar.

It’s also one of the fastest cars ever to be offered for use on the public road, with a claimed 0-60mph time of 3.1sec, 0-100mph in 6.1sec and a top speed of 205mph.

See all the test pics of the McLaren MP2-12C

Now watch the video of the MP2-12C featuring Jenson Button

At the centre of the 12C sits a full carbonfibre tub, and that alone makes it different from, and theoretically superior to, any other rival at similar money. But it’s the car’s suspension that’s perhaps the most ground breaking. It features double wishbones and coil springs but no traditional anti-roll bars as such, and instead uses hydraulics and active dampers to provide its control. This system, claims McLaren, provides the 12C with as much as 25 per cent more grip than conventionally suspended rivals.

The 12C’s 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 engine was developed jointly by McLaren and Worthing-based Riccardo Engineering, and it develops a thumping 592bhp at 7000rpm and an arguably even more impressive 442lb ft right the way from 3000-7000rpm. To this is mated a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (made by Graziano), which features a 'Pre-Cog' selection mechanism that shifts gear faster and more smoothly than in rival systems.

All up the 12C weighs just 1301kg when dry and when specified with the lighter of the two alloy wheel designs. That gives it a kerb weight with a full tank of fuel and all its fluids of a whisker over 1400kg, which is at least 50kg lighter than the 458 (although in reality it’s nearer 100kg if you specify the two cars like for like). Braking is provided by huge steel ventilated discs front and rear, and also by an Air Brake system that deploys only when the car’s sensors detect that a really big stop is required. Carbon ceramic discs can be specified as an option.

What’s it like?

In a word, incredible. And very, very fast indeed. There are all sorts of elements that define the 12C dynamically and elevate it above its already esteemed competition, but the ride, handling and above all else the performance are probably the stand-out features.

The first time I put my foot down and held it there properly, the level of thrust that was unleashed through the rear tyres came genuinely and sincerely as a shock. It starts from the moment you nail the throttle at anything beyond 1500rpm, even in fourth gear, and by 3000rpm you can already feel your organs being squeezed hard into the seat.

From there until the cut out at 8500rpm there is then just a vast, constant wave of energy that catapults the 12C forwards – with more conviction than any road car you can ever remember this side of a Bugatti Veyron. Including the legendary F1. And the numbers would appear to support this impression, too; in all three acceleration disciplines – 0-60mph, 0-100mph and standing quarter mile – the 12C is faster than the McLaren F1. Only on top speed does the legendary old timer have the measure of the new car.

And then there’s the noise it makes, which, at a steady 3000rpm/seventh gear cruise is virtually non-existent, but which at 8000rpm in third gear is brain-bendingly loud. Not quite in 458 Italia territory for sheer volume or quality of sound, perhaps, but not far off.

On the road you don’t need to go berserk in the 12C to realise how quick it really is, and it’s the torque that makes it feel so effortless. Even at half throttle it provides enough acceleration to leave most other cars reeling in its wake. And at full throttle it feels quite magical in the way it picks up and hurls itself down the road.

And that’s before you so much as mention the 12C’s handling, ride, steering and braking capabilities, all of which are perhaps more extraordinary still than the straight-line speed. There’s so much grip and such a high level of dynamic composure to the car that you really need to drive it on a circuit to get anywhere near its towering limits. Which is precisely what McLaren allowed us to do at Portimao in Portugal, albeit for a few brief laps.

What’s most spooky about the 12C’s chassis is the lack of inertia it suffers from. The nose snaps to attention and glues itself on to the apex of whichever kind of corner you aim it at (and at seemingly any speed). And the rest of the car then just seems to follow.

Yet despite the urgency of its responses there’s nothing remotely neurotic in the way the 12C behaves. There are no spikes in its behaviour, no sharp edges to its handling. So while it feels nailed to the ground through any given corner, it doesn’t feel nervous or scary to go with it.

And that, apparently, was one of the key remits when designing not just the chassis but the car’s whole dynamic personality; it had to be quick with a capital F in terms of response, but at the same time approachable and friendly near the limit, and supremely comfortable as well. It’s a job more than well done on this evidence.

Should I buy one?

If you’re in the fortunate position of being in the market for this kind of car then the choice has just become a whole lot broader, and the decision process has become harder to make at the same time. Yet there can be no doubt that what McLaren has produced in the 12C has taken the game so far forwards – dynamically if not aesthetically – that you’d be either foolish or very stubborn in your ways indeed not to at least give it a try.

And if you are seriously in the market, and you do then go for a proper drive in the 12C, you will be hooked. Instantly. And you’ll never look at the Ferrari 458 or Lamborghini Gallardo in the same light ever again. So don’t say you haven’t been warned…

McLaren MP4-12C

Price: £168,500; 0-60mph: 3.1sec (claimed); Top speed: 205mph (claimed); Economy: 24.1mpg (combined); CO2: 279g/km; Kerb weight: 1434kg; Engine: V8, 3799cc, twin turbo, petrol; Power: 592bhp at 7000rpm; Torque: 442lb ft at 3000-7000rpm; Gearbox: 7-speed dual clutch auto

Now watch the video of the MP2-12C featuring Jenson Button

Join the debate

Comments
84

14 February 2011

Mmmmm....I had the chance to put down a deposit and get one of the first cars delivered in Switzerland......reading this I wonder whether I made a mistake by not doing so. On the other hand, Switzerland possibly one of the worst places in the world to own such a car - great roads but we also have income-related speeding fines and lengthy bans for quiet minor infractions. Not sure what would be quicker: the McLaren's sprint to 100 or the loss of my licence.

14 February 2011

Such a shame it looks so bland as it sounds amazing to drive. I wonder if you can bolt a Gallardo body onto it...

14 February 2011

That's a very positive review. What surprised me the most, is that it goes faster around the bends than the F1. This is a good indication of technology moving forward.

I'd still have the F1, tho.

14 February 2011

This is one of those cars that looks better in 'the flesh' rather than pictures. It's also one of the best sounding engines I've ever heard. I'd have one over the Lamborghini.

The comments section needs a makeover... how about a forum??

14 February 2011

Wow!

Every now and again, there is a glimmer of something that makes you proud to be British..... and the 12C is it!

Excellent review.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

14 February 2011

[quote TegTypeR]Every now and again, there is a glimmer of something that makes you proud to be British..... [/quote]

What baffles me is why it's few and far between - clearly we have the right talent in this country and not just for automotive projects such as this. But it seems we are intent in flushing most of it away so we can market ourselves as financial services Britain; and what a good job we're doing (<--sarcasm).

14 February 2011

[quote TegTypeR]

Wow!

Every now and again, there is a glimmer of something that makes you proud to be British..... and the 12C is it!

Excellent review.

[/quote]

+1. I can't wait to see the shoot out between this and the 458. I have read the other reviews out this morning from Car and EVO and it seems its going to be a tight one. The 458 still looks more dramatic and its more of an emotive machine though and arguably straight line and track performance is not everything at this level, so its going to come down to what aspect of the cars the individual considers most important.

If I had the funds? hmmmm, would have to drive both but I'd be proud to take the British alternative.

14 February 2011

[quote FR3000]What baffles me is why it's few and far between - clearly we have the right talent in this country and not just for automotive projects such as this. But it seems we are intent in flushing most of it away so we can market ourselves as financial services Britain; and what a good job we're doing (<--sarcasm).[/quote]

This is so true. If only every manufacturer in the UK shared the same mentality as McLaren - Engineering excellence-high performance products and worldwide exposure. It used to be the case that Made in Great Britain was what is now Made in Germany.

I think it would be in the interests of the UK to not put all its eggs in to the financial services basket and develop its economy without the short-termist mentality that has been dominant over the last 30-40 years.

14 February 2011

If I had the money, I'd still go for a Ferrari 458, in yellow, mainly because I'm young and like being loud and brash.

However, it sounds like the perfect car for my dad, so I'd buy him one, in silver.

Agree with other comments though that this country has great engineering talent that is just wasted. People go on about the engineering marvel of the Bugatti Veyron, yet I believe a huge amount of british engineering went into that. I know Ricardo make the gearbox thaat is much applauded, and can deal with more torque than a volcano! In construction too, we lose too many talented people abroad to much higher paid jobs on some spectacular buildings.

Anyway, rant over, bring on the twin test (make that tri test if Lamborghini bring out the Sesto Elemento!).

14 February 2011

Scrap that! I've just seen the pictures. I'll have mine in Orange please!

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