Pictured: Auto design legend and McLaren design boss Frank Stephenson posed proudly in front of his latest creation, the MP4-12C (call it 12C for short)
McLaren, long known for excellence in racing and an absurdly fast, low volume road car called the F1, is diving head first into the “entry level” supercar game. I know what you’re thinking…entry level my left foot. But before you write us off forever, I do have a decent explanation for my seemingly wacked out pricing nomenclature. Entry level, in this case, pertains to exotics hovering around $220k like the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes SLS AMG and Bentley Continental GT. Then you have the $300-$500k players like Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and Lambo Murcielago. Finally, the hyper exotics…members of an elite top speed club capable of velocities somewhere north of 220 MPH – Bugatti Veyron, Koenigsegg CCX, Pagani Zonda, Gumpert Apollo, SSC Ultimate Aero, and last but not least, the infamous McLaren F1.
Ok, now that we have covered supercar class hierarchies, back to the McLaren at hand. The Woking-based company is cashing in on all the aforementioned sweat equity amongst race fans and deep-pocketed supercar lovers to offer discerning sportsmen a reason to consider something other than a Ferrari or Lamborghini. After spending an afternoon gazing at this lustful machine at the Lux studios unveiling, it’s easy to understand why the eyes of Italian loyalists will feel compelled to wander. The sexy two-seat coupe, with its trick scissor doors and gaping side intakes, is every bit the exotic and exudes a tasteful level of design restraint alongside more angular competitors. Put another way, it’s easy on the eyes. The low slung body was penned by auto design legend Frank Stephenson, formerly head of design at Alfa Romeo and the man responsible for. amongst other things, modern versions of the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500.
You might be wondering what ever happened to the other “entry level” sports car that had McLaren’s name on it. Well, if you recall, it had Mercedes’ name on it too. Of course we’re talking about the now defunct Mercedes SLR McLaren, the long nosed coupe jointly developed by the two brands and sold for some 6 years (2003-2009). Needless to say, the brands have since parted ways to do their own thing.
Here are some of 12C’s juicy performance details in case you were curious. The chassis, a superlight carbon fiber affair, contributes to the car’s relative lightweight while also maintaining stupefying levels of rigidity. Positioned amidships, 12C’s 3.8L twin-turbo, all alluminum V8 churns out 592 HP and 443 ft lbs of torque. Couple that in with a 2,866 pound dry weight that undercuts rivals by some 200 pounds and you have yourself a sub 4 second 0-60 MPH time and a top end somewhere near 200 MPH. The F1-derived 7-speed, “Seamless Shift Gearbox” has the ability to preload gears as you attempt to negotiate through all that raw power.