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McLaren back in the car business

2010-03-19 12:44
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer MCLAREN
Model MP4-12C
Engine 3.8l V8
Power 448kW
Torque 600Nm
Transmission Seven-speed
McLaren’s unveiled its first post Mercedes-Benz era supercar this week - the distressingly accomplished MP4-12C.

The first road car to be free of Mercedes-Benz design directives since the original F1 (which remains the seminal supercar) this new offering from McLaren is a fitting tribute to the engineering innovation championed by the racing team’s founder Bruce McLaren.

Having comfortably settled into his new role as boss of the car company (instead of the racing team), Ron Dennis has promises the MP4 will be the quickest car money can buy, boasting unparalleled levels of build quality and after sales support.

A target price of £175 000 has been set and volumes are expected to be quite a bit lower than key rivals SLS and Ferrari’s Italia. In fact, with only 35 global dealers and around 1 600 firm orders McLaren is quite content with the MP4’s order book pre-production.

Test mules have racked up 1m test miles thus far, with final testing and development nearly wrapped up. The first MP4-12Cs will be assembled at the McLaren Technology Centre later this year.

Carbon 'monocell' tub weighs only 80kg...

Faultless engineering

In terms of specification the car is stunning. Its carbon composite monocoque construction has kept trimmed the MP4’s mass to an undisclosed number which McLaren has admitted is below 1 300kg. This must be quite upsetting to Ferrari and AMG engineers who’s Italia (1 485kg) and SLS (1 620kg) creations seems quite plump in comparison.

Boasting a mid-engined configuration the MP4’s managed to keep its dimensions pretty tidy – at 4.5m in length, 1.9m flank-to-flank and 1.19m from roofline to tarmac it’s smaller than both the Italia and SLS.

Static weight distribution is set at 43:57, which of course stabilises to a perfect 50:50 equation during heavy braking, quelling understeer and ensuring peerless turn-in behaviour.

Ron Dennis has promised customers an unequalled driving experience without having to resort to traction secure all-wheel drive. The MP4’s handling finesse was tweaked courtesy of McLaren’s F1 racing team experts. Consequently you’ll find an electronic rear differential, brake steer (torque vectoring) system and even a neat aviation inspired air brake to increase downforce.

The MP4 is independently suspended at each corner by a double-wishbone wheel attachment featuring coil springs.

Dampers are interconnected hydraulically and provide adaptive responses depending on both road conditions and driver preference – with three settings able to be dialled in from the cabin.

Electronic convergence of all four adjustable dampers has allowed engineers the liberty of deleting conventional mechanical anti-roll bars from the specification sheet.

Flatplane crankshaft V8 revs to 8 500r/min - should have amazing signature acoustics...

Pure power

Developed by racing specialists Ricardo, the MP4’s 3.8l V8 bests both AMG’s SLS 6.2l V8 and the Ferrari Italia’s 4.5l V8 in terms of power, and surprisingly, emission too.

MP4’s CO2 emission footprint will be sub-300g/km making it more environmentally friendly (as if that matters) than either the Italia (307g/km) or SLS (314g/km).

Featuring a flat-plane crankshaft and dry sump lubrication, the V8 is able to attain engine speeds as high as 8 500r/min.

Peak power output is 448kW, with peak rotational force factoring in at 600Nm, easily besting Ferrari’s new 458’s numbers of 425kW and 540Nm.

A seven-speed twin-clutch transmission (by Graziano) delivers drive to the rear wheels via a rocker switch paddle shift system. There is no mechanical limited-slip differential.

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button took to the track in MP4s this week. They were suitably impressed. McLaren's hoping of a 350km/h certified top speed...

Provisionally - the fastest

In terms of performance the McLaren car will dip under 10 second for the 0-200km/h benchmark, making it fractionally quicker than either the Italia or SLS.

Deceleration is equally impressive – the MP4’s brakes able to stop the 1.3t supercar dead from 100km/h in only seven car lengths.

A seven-speed twin-clutch transmission (by Graziano) delivers drive to the rear wheels via a rocker switch paddle shift system. There is no mechanical limited-slip differential, the MP4 instead relying on brake-steer technology to ensure optimal cornering poise under power.

Styled by American Frank Stephenson (X5, F430, MC12) the MP4-12C looks rather generic. Ferrari 458 infinitely prettier.

The future - is now

An active dynamics control panel features twin rotary switches which control either drivetrain or handling functions.

The drivetrain function can individually tailor throttle response, gearbox strategy and shift feel, whilst the handling switch can fine-tune stability control, steering weight, suspension firmness and roll stiffness.

Normal, sport and track driving modes are selectable. H (Handling) alters the steering weight, stability control and suspension/roll stiffness while P (Powertrain) alters throttle response, engine acoustics and transmission shift swiftness times and feel.

The MP4 heralds a new beginning for McLaren’s road car division – ironically under the direction of former F1 team boss, Ron Dennis. Tooling and production of the MP4 will create 300 jobs at McLaren’s Woking headquarters.

We can only assume it will also cause no small amount of misery in Maranello and Affalterbach…Even more so as Ron Dennis has promised the MP4 will be the first of a new line of McLaren road cars.

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