However small your car knowledge may be you ought to have heard of the McLaren F1 which even today, nearly 20 years after production began, is the world’s fastest naturally aspirated car and stands out in my mind as the greatest supercar to have ever been built. McLaren intended to make such an impression with the F1, designing without fear of cost, only with fear of weight.
The F1 was the first road car to be built with a carbon fibre chassis in 1993, a substance 5 times stronger than aluminium and significantly lighter. McLaren pioneered Formula 1′s first ever carbon fibre monocoque in 1981 with the MP4-1, and since chief engineer Gordon Murray’s concerns were with weight and performance rather than keeping to any kind of budget, other expensive and high-tech materials such as titanium, magnesium, kevlar and gold (which lines the engine bay to effectively deflect heat) were used to build the 108 McLaren F1′s that were released into the world.
Following a car like the F1 is no easy task, but the MP4-12C seems destined to outshine its competitors, once again making performance, speed and technical engineering the focus of the design, just as in McLaren’s Formula One cars.
Like Formula One cars and unlike almost every other road car, the 12C’s chassis was designed without a specific body in mind, allowing McLaren to innovate and play freely. The engine is comprised of parts manufactured and designed by McLaren themselves, unlike almost every other supercar on the market.
McLaren were so proud of what was under the shell of the 12C that they gave their carbon monocell chassis and engine its own display area at the launch for those who could appreciate to perve over.
The light weight carbon fibre chassis houses a specially designed twin-turbo V8 3.8 litre M838T engine. It produces 600hp and 600nm, delivering relentless acceleration throughout the rev range, yet has less CO2/KM emissions per horsepower than a hybrid city car. It has a longitudinal mid-engine installation which drives the rear wheels, and has a weight distribution of 42.9 / 57.1 front / rear. McLaren claim that “eighty percent of maximum torque is available below 2,000rpm all the way up to the redline at 8,5000rpm guarenteeing pure driving pleasure at all speeds – and total exhilaration on the track.“
What does this all mean? Gobsmacking performance with a total weight of under 1300kg, or less than a typical Golf, leading to claimed acceleration of 0-200km/h in less than 10 seconds.
Tragically, I cannot vouch for this as McLaren did not allow any of us to take the MP4-12C for a test drive.
They did, however, show us this video of two very fortunate people playing with 12C’s right before the unveiling :
Once we were done drooling over the video (though personally I would have shown off the 12C in any colour other than black – it does her curves no justice) the MP4-12C was unveiled:
Once unveiled, we were further educated on the features of the 12C. The following features particularly please Lady Kaye:
*The 12C features IRIS, a fully integrated PC that has bluetooth, a media player, voice controlled advanced satellite navigation and WLAN connectivity allowing you to wirelessly connect and transfer files to the car.
*To avoid the weight and discomfort associated with anti-roll bars McLaren have introduced the 12C’s Proactive Chassis Control which offers a hydraulic suspension system with four handling modes.
*The dihedral doors look amazing, but also serve a practical purpose, creating a larger foot-swing area that makes entering and exiting the car easier, particularly for women in skirts.
*The 12C features a seven-speed, dual-clutch Seamless Shift Gearbox (SSG). Claiming that “almost instantaneous” shifts were not good enough, McLaren have partnered this with “Pre-Cog” which, acting in a similar fashion to a pre-focus button on a camera, primes the transmission to shift when initial pressure is applied to the rockershift allowing the gear change to be completed instantaneously as further pressure is applied.
* The Mp4-12C can brake 100-0 km/h in less than three seconds covering less than 30m. Its prototypes boast stats of 200-0km/h in less than 5 seconds. When braking at high speeds Airbrake is extended into the airstream, shifting the center of aerodynamic pressure rearwards, allowing the rear wheels to keep contact with the road and preventing them from locking up. They have also engineered steel brakes that weigh the same as their carbon ceramic counterparts, giving the car the best of both options.
* McLaren have designed the highest visible point of the front wings from the drivers seat to line up are directly over the centre of the wheel arches, allowing the driver to see precisely where the front wheels are at all times, making it easy to steer.
*Obsessed with weight, McLaren did everything in their power to save weight where they could. Their vents are located behind the driver door, allowing for less weighty piping to deliver cool air to the engine and they went to the microscopic detail of debossing rather than embossing the McLaren logo onto the MP4-12C which saved them 2.1 grams. Ladies, weight is possibly more important to McLaren than it is to you as it affects every aspect of the car’s performance; acceleration, handling, speed, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.
*Each MP4 is hand built and hand painted to ensure the finest level of McLaren quality. It takes 30 days to build a 12C with a day at each station on the assembly line.
After learning more about the car, we were given the opportunity to experience it and I m proud to tell you I had the honour of being the first member of the South African general public to experience the interior after its unveiling.
It was here I was given the opportunity to appreciate the simple yet spacious interior.
And investigate the sound system…
Personally the McLaren MP4-12C would be my current supercar of choice. Her lines are elegant and sophisticated, she is extremely fast and she is kind to the environment. Her only flaw is that she has only 6 cubic feet of luggage space under her bonnet – but in dire situations one could always use the passenger seat for an additional suitcase. She will be available for purchase in the latter part of 2011 and her price will fluctuate daily with the exchange rate, though is estimated to range between 3 and 3.5 million Rand.
McLaren intend to build two initial dealerships in South Africa, the first one being in Johannesburg, followed by a Cape Town branch. These dealerships/workshops promise to carry one of every part required to build a McLaren MP4-12C so that the level of service can match the level of brilliance employed in the development of the car. Every dealer is required to have a McLaren-certified body mechanic.
I end with a gallery of images, some from my own camera and some borrowed from the McLaren press pack.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the car.