Getting in and out of the McLaren will be a broadly familiar experience to owners of cars with similar cockpit tubs, whatever their construction material.
A Lotus Elise, Mercedes SLS or Ford GT each requires occupants to hurdle a wide sill, which in the MP4-12C is coupled to a door that could be awkward to open (due to its electric release) and reluctant to close without slamming. Early cars had a 'touch' exterior catch, actuated by stroking, but it was never sufficiently reliable and has been replaced by a button.
Drop yourself into the McLaren’s two-seat cabin and you’ll find it’s a more businesslike cockpit than rivals’. The driving position is straight and comfortable, the steering wheel small and relatively thin-rimmed – the same thickness as on a McLaren Formula 1 car, we’re told.
Likewise the 12C’s metal gearshift paddles resemble those regularly used by grand prix drivers and require a stiffer pull than those fitted to most road machinery.
Happily, the wheel is reserved for steering purposes only. Expensive column stalks, similar in feel and operation to Porsche units, are attached to the column, the only important fault being an elementary problem on the left-hand lever that allows it to be pushed into high beam while you’re trying to turn left or right.
We’d have liked more lateral support from the seats (electrically adjustable as an option) but otherwise the environment is hard to fault, though a few critics find it “too quiet”. Materials and switches are generally of high quality though there is an unconvincing finish on the chassis and powertrain mode switches, which look plastic even though they’re metal.
Worse still, they’re poorly labelled and not very intuitive. Whether you prefer the design of the 12C or Ferrari 458’s cockpit is largely subjective, but most who have driven the 12C believe the McLaren cabin slightly lacks the 'specialness' of the Ferrari.