When the car’s various wheel and motion sensors detect cornering, they increase cross-car damper rates to keep it nearly flat. But when it is travelling in a straight line they adopt more supple rates to provide something close to an executive saloon’s ride quality.
There are three different suspension modes (normal, sport, high performance) that adjust throttle curve, steering effort, ESP settings and ride parameters according to driver preference.
McLaren won’t say much about the MP4-12C’s engine, but the few details it is providing carry quite a punch.
It’s a British-built 90-degree V8 of 3.8 litres, rigid and compact in design, with double variable valve timing, and is force fed by twin turbochargers. This is no AMG cast-off, insists McLaren, but a compact design whose flat-plane crank and dry sump allow it to be mounted low down in the car.
Power is a class-beating 600bhp and the rev limit is 8500rpm, yet the motor also produces around 440lb ft of torque – and around 80 per cent of it is available below 2000rpm.
The gearbox is a seven-speed Graziano twin-clutch, twin-paddle affair, and there will be no classic stick-shift version. For one thing, McLaren is convinced the DSG is better; for another, providing a third pedal in its footwell would crowd its allotted shoe space. There’s enough room for drivers of all statures, engineers say.
McLaren calls the seven-speeder its SSG (for Seamless Shift Gearbox) and provides a variety of shift modes: normal and sport, plus a launch control, a winter mode and an ‘automatic’. The gearchange paddle pivots on the steering wheel boss like a racing car, so that as you pull one paddle, the other moves out.
There’s a ‘first pressure’ setting that McLaren calls Pre-Cog, which prepares the gearbox for an imminent change by showing which way it will go.
The cabin feels snug, a little like a tailored suit, but McLaren’s designers have tried hard to keep things simple and conservative.
Still, there is a surprising amount of space for small objects (there’s a big tray behind the seats and a Volvo-like space behind the centre console).
Surprisingly for a car whose creators talk a lot about racing connections, there are no wheel-mounted switches – they’re all grouped on stalks, or logically on the centre console – and the instrument pod consists of a solitary round tacho dial with a digital readout for speed and wings on either side that provide lesser information.
Serious drivers will like it. The seats are firm and comfortable, and the dihedral doors slope up and away from the kerb as they open.
McLaren’s aim is to build a 4000-units-a-year road car business, with up to five models, but it plans to limit the MP4-12C to 1000 cars a year, barely 3.5 per cent of a sector that grew from 8000 to 28,000 units around the world between 2000 and 2007, the last year of orderly trading.
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