In the quiet town of Woking, England, just outside London, the new McLaren roars.
McLaren Automotive — on the same campus as McLaren Racing and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team — is finalizing the shipping list for the all-new 2012 McLaren MP4-12C, scheduled for delivery to North America in October.
The 12C is revolutionary in design, construction and performance, says Tony Joseph, the company’s North American director. “Developed around the driver, the 12C was designed by McLaren from a clean sheet of paper with everything for a reason. Completely bespoke, there are no shared parts with any other vehicle.”
Influenced by the iconic McLaren F1 — which set the world land speed record for a production car soon after its 1992 debut — and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, the 12C has developed from the skills and experience of a McLaren Automotive team led by Jim Chisman, a technician on Niki Lauda’s race team and the 1981 MP4/1 Formula 1 car; Metin Afiya, an engineer on the Le Mans-winning F1 GTR; and Dick Glover, who designed the Formula 1 simulator used in the development of the 12C.
For the track, McLaren has produced a GT3 version of the 12C which is being raced in Europe this year.
Based on 30 years of testing and driving experience, the 12C is a one-piece carbon fiber MonoCell, weighing just 165 pounds. The hood, front wings and roof are aluminum alloy; the other panels are low-density Sheet Molded Composite. The overall mid-engined car is also light, with a curb weight of 3,279 pounds. Weight distribution is very good at 43/57 front to rear.
Revealed in March 2010, the new two-seat supercoupe is powered by a 3.8 liter, 9:01-compression all-aluminum, twin-turbo V-8 generating 592 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 443 foot/pounds of torque from 3000–7000 rpm through a catalyzed stainless steel exhaust system and active bypass.
At just 439 pounds, the M838T engine incorporates dry sump lubrication system and a flat-plane crankshaft, which has allowed the McLaren team to place the engine low; this lowers the 12C’s center of gravity and tightens handling.
A 7-Speed Seamless Shift Gearbox, McLaren designed and built by Graziano, offers near-instant shift times for the rear-wheel drive car, Joseph says.
A Formula 1-style diecast aluminum rocker shift pivots in the center of the steering wheel, modeled on McLaren’s Formula 1 style with drivers’ hand grips. Steering itself is power-assisted rack and pinion. An open differential uses brake steer to reduce under steer and improve cornering speed.
Acceleration to 60 mph is world class — in 3.2 seconds — and McLaren reports quarter-mile times of 10.9 seconds at 135 mph. Maximum speed is 205 mph. “On our optional Corsa Tires, we are able to achieve a 0–60 mph times of 3.0 seconds,” Joseph says.
The MP4-12C suspension comprises front and rear fully independent double wishbones. Teneco multi-mode shocks are adaptive with roll control and hydraulic interconnections. A rear “Z Bar” provides heave control.
“Our ProActive Chassis Control is a hydraulic suspension system that delivers the benefits of anti-roll bars with none of the compromises,” Joseph explains. “You select Normal, Sport or Track modes to suit different driving styles and road conditions.”
Front wheels are 19-by-8.5 inches and in the rear, slightly larger at 20×11 inches. These ride in Pirelli P Zero’s 235/35 R19 front and 305/30 R20 rear. The Corsa tires are optional.
The hydraulic airbrake system, with four-piston calipers, was first used in the McLaren F1 and incorporates Bosch ABS. The two-piece ventilated discs, 370mm front, 350mm rear, feature aluminum hubs and iron rotors.
Braking is superlative, according to company testing: 124–0 mph at 403 feet, and 62–0 mph, at 100 ft. To better that, carbon ceramic discs and rotors are also available as an option.
A Powerful Interior, Too
Getting inside is easy with the touch-entry door system. The interior optimizes driver control and comfort, visibility and pedal placement. The portrait screen infotainment system features Meridian sound, and the HVAC provides dual-zone functionality.
For safety and security, you see the road better with bi-xenon headlamps and front and rear LED running lights. The doors, engine cover and luggage compartment are alarmed, and a tilt sensor can immobilize the car as well. If you experience significant danger, you can shut off the fuel supply, too. Six airbags protect you and your passengers.
Other amenities include a trip computer, lithium-ion battery, one-touch electric windows, 40 GB hard drive with media player, am/fm radio and Bluetooth, USB, PDMI and audio jack ports for media player connectivity, an electronic-integrated vehicle owners’ guide and wireless local area network connectivity. An IRIS System and 80 GB hard drive with satellite navigation system are optional.
There are 17 exterior paint finishes, including “McLaren Orange,” exemplified by the McLaren racing cars of the 1960s and 1970s. A choice of 14 interior trims is available.
Performance upgrades include a sports exhaust system made from Inconel, a heat-resistant nickel-chromium-based alloy, reducing weight and enhancing exhaust note; polished- finish calipers; two lightweight forged-wheel options; and carbon fiber options such as mirror casings, engine bay panels and engine cover.
For the launch in October 2011, 10 dealerships in North America are expecting delivery, including the two closest to Arizona, McLaren Beverly Hills — The Auto Gallery and McLaren Newport Beach. The others are McLaren Chicago, McLaren Dallas, McLaren Greenwich, McLaren Philadelphia, McLaren Tampa Bay, McLaren San Francisco, McLaren Toronto and The Collection McLaren (Miami).
In time, McLaren anticipates having as many as 20 dealers in the United States and three in Canada. The company expects to produce about 1,000 globally in its first year of production, with one-third of that volume for North America, Joseph says.
“Our appointed dealers started collecting interested client information last year, and there is very strong demand for the first two years of production,” he explains, noting that clients will have the first opportunity to drive the 12C later this summer/early fall. “We fully expect our wait lists to increase further upon the first prospect test drives.”
The MSRP is $229,000 plus a $2,400 destination/port processing fee. This does not include options, tax, license or registration fees. “We are still in the process of our EPA Certification and have not determined fuel economy,” Joseph says. “Upon completion of this process, we will be able to announce what the gas guzzler tax will be, if any.”
Everything about the new McLaren is designed for the highest-level comfort, practicality and drivability, he adds. “Our goal was to create the ‘and’ car: lightweight ‘and’ strong, powerful ‘and’ efficient, comfortable ‘and’ exhilarating, compact ‘and’ spacious. We are looking forward to seeing our first customers take delivery in October.”
For more information, see www.mclarenautomotive.com or www.facebook.com/mclarenautomotive and www.youtube.com/mclarenautomotivetv.