The McLaren F1 is powered by a 6.1-litre, four-cam, 48-valve 60deg V12 engine, designed and built by BMW Motorsport. It produces 627bhp at 7400rpm and more than 479lb ft of torque all the way from 4000 to 7000rpm. This combines with the F1’s 1138kg kerb weight to give a power-to-weight ratio of 550bhp per tonne.
Unlike any other production road car (save Gordon Murray’s other baby, the Light Car Company’s Rocket), the F1 has a central driving position. You sit far forward in the car with a passenger seat on either side and some distance behind. Luggage is carried in two carpeted compartments, one on either side of the car, behind the passenger seats.
The dihedral doors flip upwards rather than outwards and as you take your position behind the wheel you see that you are sitting in a carbonfibre channel to remind you that the car’s composite construction is unique among road cars.
As you will see from the performance statistics, it has no real rival.
A £238,000 Bugatti EB110 GT is a fine car and less than half the price of the McLaren, but it will not even allow you a glimpse at the world of the F1. Spending £403,000 on a Jaguar XJ220 buys performance that is monstrous. But you could drive one for a year and never know what it is like to visit the places the £540,000 McLaren will take you on the slightest piece of straight open road.