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McLaren's baby F1 breaks cover

2009-09-09 10:24
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer McLaren
Model MP4-12C
Engine 3.8l, twin-turbo V8
Power 448kW
Torque 600Nm
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch
Zero To Hundred sub 4 sec
Top Speed 350km/h
McLaren. They race F1. Oh, and they built the greatest supercar in history too.

Not bad for a brand founded by a New Zealander who only wanted to go racing.

The company’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz road cars is drawing to an end though, and Ron Dennis, being an astute businessman, has plans in place to keep the revenue stream strong.

Say hello to the future of McLaren road car performance - the MC4-12C.

Today the company officially released images and technical details of its second in-house supercar, the MP4-12C.

Decode the name and the MP4 bit denotes McLaren’s F1 racing heritage and C represents coding for the road car’s carbon chassis.

The numeral 12, interestingly, represents how well the new supercar scores on McLaren’s secret internal register which rates all performance cars – taking into account power, weight, emissions and dynamics. We hope it's not scored out of 20...

Aft view is the best angle. Aerobrake not a gimmick...Unlike Noble's forthcoming M600 the MC4-12C features all manner of dynamic driving aids.

American Frank Stephenson styled the rather generic looking MP4-12C.

His portfolio includes the original BMW X5, first new Mini and a couple of noteworthy Italian exotics, including Ferrari’s F430 and Maserati’s MC12.

Although the styling is hardly cutting-edge stuff, the dynamic driving technologies are amazing.

McLaren claims the MP4-12C is a sum of brand new parts, with no carry-over manufacturing heritage from either the F1 supercar or SLR models previously produced by Woking.

McLaren, like Lotus, believes in light, strong, chassis design. Carbon monocell tub is claimed to be a world first.

Carbon Monocell?

MP4-12C’s structure is a carbon monocell, technology migrated from the company’s F1 racing cars.

Carbon monocoque in construction, it’s both strong and light (it weighs only 80kg), and allows McLaren to fashion a rather narrow car without sacrificing torsional rigidity.

Weight distribution is 43/57 rear biased, which should render perfectly symmetrical 50/50 displacement when dynamically loaded on the move.

McLaren is currently not at liberty to release kerb weight specification, only intimating the MC4-12C will undercut the Ferrari 458’s 1400kg kerb weight.

The new car 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.

Configured into a 90-degree V-formation, McLaren's eight-cylinder engine displaces 3.8l and revs to a 8 500r/min limiter. Tractability is keen too, with 480Nm on tap from only 2 000r/min. Intakes and camshaft covers are carbon-fibre.

Twin-turbo V8

Powering the MP4-12C is a 3.8l twin-turbocharged V8 McLaren claims is entirely of its own doing, although industry insiders are mumbling Cosworth had a hand in its development...

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.

Similar to BMW’s steering wheel mounted shift controls, MP4-12C drivers can either pull or push paddles to change a gear up or down.

The transmission features a number of modes - auto, sport, winter and the obligatory launch control setting. It has hill-start assist too, obviously due to its twin-pedal configuration, which also saves space, allowing McLaren to position the the pedals right up near the front wheel.

Its paddle-shift function has a dual haptic actuation (similar to half-push autofocus on a camera shutter button), enabling pre-loading of the gearbox in anticipation of an up- or downshift.

Deceleration is actuated by composite brakes, which could be augmented by optional ceramics if the owner wishes.

The MP4-12C also features brake steer technology, which brakes the inside rear wheel to quell understeer during high-speed cornering. How this differs from most contemporary high-performance ESP systems is beyond us at the moment...

Featuring an aft diffuser and meticulously set-up front splitter (obviously fettled to perfection by the F1 racing team's aerodynamic specialists), MC4-12C is expected to run a 350km/h true top speed, and hit 100km/h from standstill comfortably under four seconds.

Interior architecture is simple and uncluttered. Steering wheel satellite controls? This is a supercar, the steering wheel is for directional changes only, not scrolling through your iPod playlist…Active dynamics control switches visible in the bottom right corner.

Cabin appointments were meticulously planned from an ergonomic perspective.

The MC4-12C's steering wheel has been specifically fashioned for optimal grip and feedback and is devoid of any satellite controls.

Instead, telematics and climate controls on each door console, transmission and mirror controls below on the tunnel and trip computer and cruise control on the steering column.

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.

The McLaren MP4-12C will be on sale from 2011, costing around £150,000. There are plans to make around 1 000 a year.

Think of it as a sophisticated Lotus Exige with Manettino dials, and an impeccable bloodline of course…


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