However, if the reaction of onlookers is anything to go by, the 12C’s looks are ageing well, helped by the fact that, as far as the punter is concerned, this is currently 'the McLaren', whereas Ferrari’s 458 is merely part of a four-tier range. Late in its gestation, the shape is in danger of looking a little dowdy, but some attention to its grille and lights at both ends have made the difference.
Unlike the Ferrari 458, the McLaren has a carbonfibre tub produced in one piece by a revolutionary McLaren-developed process. Its twin virtues are extreme lightness and rigidity, and the fact that the same structure can be used as the basis of the 12C coupé and Spider.
It is also closely related to the P1 structure (with further structural components). Aluminium subframes are mounted at each end to carry the engine, front and rear suspension and ancillaries, and to provide a crash structure. Body panels are made from a mixture of aluminium or composite materials, but to keep repair costs under control none of the outer skin is made from carbonfibre.
For the first time, McLaren has specified a unique engine, developed and built in the UK by Ricardo. Forced induction will soon become essential for supercar efficiency (AMG’s latest engines rely on turbos, as will Ferrari’s upcoming V8s) but McLaren has taken a leap into the future by using 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged, flat-crank V8 that generates a spectacular 616bhp at 7500rpm plus 442lb ft between 3000rpm and 7000rpm.