Currently reading: McLaren F1 - 20 years on
In 1992 the McLaren F1 set the world alight, and its Autocar road test showed precisely why. Two decades later, we recall the verdict

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.

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Beastie_Boy 2 June 2012

That's all well and good but...

...didn't the Porsche 959 manage to get 4 people over road, track or desert at around 200mph ten years previous?

Undeniably, the F1 is a great car, but it wouldn't feature on my lottery list.

Peter Cavellini 2 June 2012

20 years!

Yep, took that long,and in my opinion , better looking than Mclaren's MP-4C.

Ravon 2 June 2012

The F1 driving experience.

I've been lucky enough to drive one on many occasions and in many different road and track situations, it's certainly not an easy car to master. The best bits are for sure the driving position and the engine, which are truly wonderful, the engine totally dominates the car, pulling with train-like torque in every gear in a totally relentless fashion, the driving position is very surprising, it's what makes the car so special, although it's best appreciated as a solo occucpant, ( the car, although very capable of seating three bodies is in my experience very unpleasent thus loaded ), but the view of the road is magnificent. For me the worst bits are the brakes, which are after all twenty years old, and to be honest don't inspire confidence, and the heat and noise in the cabin, on a summers day it's a sauna, particularly for the passengers in the tiny cabin, even all that gold leaf doesn''t stop the heat from that big BMW soaking into the rear fire wall . I've been very lucky to drive the car enough to get over the      " I'm driving a McLaren F1 thing ", and to be able to see it as a, car,  every time you drive the F1 it's a special experience. I'm not particularly keen on it on track, it rolls quite a bit and has that Elise feel ( but more so ) of a big engine high up in the chassis, that sort of, "we're cornering, so I'm going to roll, oh, and by the way there's a big engine behind and thats going to re set the amount of roll after I've finished rolling", and of coarse the brakes are not like a modern high performance car. My favorite time in the car is early summers evening, just starting to cool down, on your own in the car with nice open roads, and in this situation it's pretty much the best driving machine on the planet.

I'd like to once again thank the cars owner who has trusted me this most special machine on so many occasions .

( sorry for spelling errors, but I can't get my Mac's spell checker to work on the new forum format, would be very grateful for some guidance ? )