Making a car that can sprint to 60mph in less than 3.5sec and forge on to 200mph is quite a feat, even for McLaren. Making it capable of lapping a circuit almost as quickly as a BTCC racing car is even more impressive. But the most surprising aspect of the 12C is undoubtedly that it can also be made to ride with a quality that at times equals that of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The 12C’s suspension is remarkable for its ability to absorb bumps and maintain an eerie freedom from pitch and roll, regardless of whether you’re on a motorway or a mountain pass.
Where it is less than impeccable is when there are quick, sharp chassis hits taken at speed, such as cats-eyes or drain covers, and then only because the noise they make is amplified within the chassis.
Only if the suspension takes another thump when already fully loaded – under braking, for example – do you feel it through the seat or steering wheel. All in all, the ride is arguably this car’s most impressive facet.
The 12C’s steering is also first rate. It’s smooth, slick, linear and capable of filtering out the worst of the feedback while allowing the good bits of feel to filter through. Our only criticism is that it might benefit from higher gearing near the straight-ahead.
The excellent steering and ride make the 12C a supremely unflustered car in which to travel cross-country, and one that allows you to tackle crests, corners and bumps with confidence. To reach the outer limits of the 12C’s ability you’ll need a circuit, and to turn up your commitment.
Ultimately, the 12C is communicative and adjustable, but unlike its more approachable rivals – the 458 Italia, for example – the 12C wants a specific driving style before it reveals all of its secrets. At its limit the 12C begins to understeer.
In a car with a limited-slip differential, power would enable you to counter it, but the McLaren has an open differential and relies on electronics to do this work, so you need a very heavy right foot to drive through the understeer because there are turbos to spool up too.
Once you get the knack, though, the McLaren is fabulously adjustable. It's just that you have to do things its way, not yours.