McLaren's first production vehicle since the demise of the legendary F1 in 1998, the MP4-12C is an advanced supercar designed to do battle with Ferrari's 458 and Lamborghini's Gallardo. It offers impressively precise handling and blistering acceleration along with surprisingly high levels of everyday usability and comfort.
For the latest model year, McLaren updated the MP4-12C with more power and a number of other minor tweaks. Notably, the automaker has pledged to retrofit the upgrades free of charge to each and every MP4-12C already sold.
The big news is 25 additional horsepower for the MP4-12C's twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8, bringing total output up to a monstrous 616 horsepower. The motor continues to feature 443 lb-ft of torque and a lofty 8500 rpm redline. However, 80 percent of peak twist is available at 2,000 revs, so flirting with the redline isn't necessary for strong acceleration.
McLaren says the zero-to-60 mph sprint takes a scant 3.1 seconds, while the quarter-mile is dispatched in 10.6 seconds.
To let drivers better hear the potent engine, McLaren has modified the MP4-12C's valved sound tube system that pipes intake noise into the cabin. Whereas the outgoing system varied the sound output based on which transmission mode was selected, the new version is totally manually adjustable to allow for maximum volume at all times.
Sending the prodigious power to the rear wheels is a novel seven-speed dual-clutch dubbed the Seamless Shift Gearbox. It features an a Pre-Cog (short for pre-cognition) The system enables the driver to half-press one of the shift paddles in order to preselect the next gear ahead of a downshift or upshift, which cuts down on shift times.
The MP4-12C's main structure is composed of carbon fiber, a step that helps hold overall weight to roughly 3,200 pounds. Amazingly, the floor structure of the passenger compartment an integral part of the chassis is crafted as a single unit and weighs just 176 pounds. The body panels are also lightweight due to aluminum and SMC plastic construction.
The suspension is composed of lightweight forged aluminum control arms at both the front and rear. A unique feature is a hydraulic system that replaces conventional anti-roll bars and provides a cushy ride in a straight line along with excellent cornering performance. Another model year update is an optional suspension lift mode that raises the front and rear of the car at low speeds to accommodate imperfect roads and steep driveways.
Looking the Part?
Criticized by some commentators for what they perceive to be a somewhat generic look, the MP4-12C features traditional short hood, long rear-deck mid-engine supercar proportions. Defining cues include oversized side air intakes, and exhaust outlets integrated into the upper rear fascia.
Pull open the dihedral doors, which move forward and up, and you'll find a highly driver-focused environment with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, a thin "floating" center stack with a seven-inch touchscreen and excellent sightlines.
What's up with the name?
Despite what you might think, it's not an attempt to upstage Japanese cell phone makers. Rather, the numbers and letters do have a pretty understandable meaning. MP4 has been the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars since 1981, while the "12" is a reference to the top echelon of McLaren's internal rating system. Finally, the C relates to the car's carbon fiber construction.
The MP4-12C competes against prestigious and exotic - not to mention seriously fast - rivals including the Ferrari 458 Italia, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP540-4 and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage.