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Published on Thu, Sep 23, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

McLaren rekindles the magic with the MP4-12C

Words and pictures by John Grafman It’s good to be king, or so we hear. Money, power, and opportunities come with success. Scrambling and working endlessly to be number one isn’t easy. Staying at number one is tougher still. After all of that, can one just hang it up and walk away, retire, quit, or change course? Why don’t we ask the countless professional athletes who just have to be in front of the crowds just one more time? The urge to recapture what once was is undeniable. Sadly, like most movie sequels, it’s hard to find the magic the second time around. But McLaren is one of those the rare exceptions. McLaren’s dominating F1 road car, launched in 1992, managed to retain the title of 'fastest street car on the planet' for roughly ten years (240 mph). In this business that’s eons. It still retains the title as fastest naturally aspirated production car in the world. Not too shabby by anyone’s judgment. But then, it was all over, and that was the end of McLaren’s foray into the world of limited production cars.


McLaren went back to focusing on its ongoing and profitable racing business. This is where we supposed to say that the executives and company lived happily ever after. But then something happened, something wonderful. The race car company decided to once again build cars for those that don’t make the racetrack their home. Knowing the voracious appetite Americans have for supercars, it made good sense to have a US headquarters for the UK based manufacturer. While New York is the home, Beverly Hills is the where the West Coast dealer is residing. The Wilshire Boulevard facility is in close quarters with such established brands as Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari and Lamborghini.


The plans are quickly coming together for this new car company. McLaren was fortunate to pick up some talented executives from some of its competitors. The dealership itself was awarded to Tony Schwartz, co-president of the Auto Gallery dealerships. These seasoned individuals know what it takes to cater to VIP clients. All this is an insurance policy to guaranty a smooth launch when the vehicle hits these shores in the summer of 2011, or thereabouts. But all of this is window dressing, the proof is in the pudding. Like its predecessor, the MP4-12C is borne of race technology and design. Under the skin the cabin structure is a stiff carbon fiber MonoCell chassis. At either end is aluminum structure, which although lightweight, will offer an element of reparability that the carbon doesn’t feature.


The mid-engine layout is typical of this class, with the engine sitting unbelievably low, aiding the handling. Every last detail has been refined from the standpoint of weight. From the McLaren name being cut into the metal to the exhaust plumbing ducting out over the bumper rather than under to save on weight and allowing for improved underbody airflow. Even the doors splay outward in a graceful fashion, but that too is the result of good engineering to cut down on excessive pounds. The door mounted forward on a single point takes advantage of the already solid structure, without having to reinforce other parts. The power comes from the 3.8-liter, twin turbo, V8 engine designed and engineered specifically for the 12C. While compact in size, this generates a staggering 592 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque.


Other trick aspects are the aerodynamic efficiency and bespoke technologies including Proactive Chassis Control, 7-speed Seamless Shift dual-clutch Gearbox (SSG), Brake Steer, and the 12C’s unique Airbrake feature in a car, which has been developed using Formula 1 simulator technology. This also incorporates a fully enclosed, under-panel design incorporating front splitter and rear diffuser Open rear grill and deck venting with side-mounted air intakes. If model name, MP4-12C, doesn’t really conjure up excitement, the performance figures more than make up for that. As suspected, all of this technology yields max speeds in excess of 200 MPH, and 0-60 under 4 seconds. This is a supercar, so anything less wouldn’t be right.

McLaren's F1

The slippery styling does seem to recall a certain Italian brand. Could this be because McLaren has lured away designer Frank Stephenson of Ferrari fame? In any event, the two-seater has a greenhouse that does hint at the McLaren F1. The rest comes from a fresh sheet of paper. The interior is not overdone, allowing for the focus to remain on the driving. The trim is again in step with the competition. The color palette of paint and interior materials will certainly bring out the best the shape has to offer. The price tag estimated to be somewhere in the area of $225-250K. Although it isn’t a king’s ransom, I'm betting a lot of us will be shelling out for the 1/8 scale model instead. However, considering one of the original F1 road cars sold recently at auction for over $3 million, an MP4-12C might just be the bargain of the decade.


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