There is no more exotic car manufacturer than McLaren, at least among those of models homologated for sale all over the world and with annual sales measurable in the thousands. McLaren doesn’t do SUVs, it doesn’t even do 2+2s. All it makes, all it has ever made, are mid-engined supercars with carbonfibre monocoques. And for almost all of us, the prospect of owning one is an impossible dream.
Or is it? Journalists have been writing ‘my first Ferrari’ stories for decades, so is the McLaren ownership ladder now descending through the clouds to within tantalisingly close proximity of touching distance? And, more importantly, should you now be stretching every sinew to reach up and grab that bottom rung?
Until recently I’d have said no. The most affordable McLarens are the first, and that means an MP4-12C, a car whose introduction was hardly smooth and which McLaren felt the need to restyle, re-engineer, rename and relaunch after just three years on sale. It came to market in 2011 without functioning navigation, with doors that many owners were unable to open and with handling that placed it well over halfway down the order during our annual quest to find Britain’s best driver’s car.
But times change and prices fall. And the truth is that a car that once cost £168,500 can be bought for half that amount today. And what’s more, it’s a hell of a lot better now than it was then. Alastair Bols, the UK’s leading independent McLaren specialist, says: “The car had a huge upgrade in 2012 which not only raised power from 592bhp to 616bhp and got the sat-nav and Bluetooth working, but it was also fitted free of charge for customers with earlier cars. So unless a car has been hiding in a shed ever since, it will have had the upgrade.”
So what we’re talking about now is owning an upgraded, carbonfibre McLaren for prices starting around £85,000, the price of a mid-range Lotus Evora. Sounds tempting of course, but should you yield to it?