2012 McLaren MP4-12C
Power: 593 hp, 443 lb-ft.
Engine: 3.8L Twin-Turbo V8
Fuel Consumption: 15 city/22 highway
Price Driven: $231,400
Months had passed since I’d had a good slice of pizza. Coming from Chicago to live in NYC wasn’t an easy transition in this sense, and it wasn’t even because of my deep dish bias. It’s because New York City is the world capital for floppy, sloppy, all-of-your-toppings-come-crumbling-down pizza. You want to fold your pizza? Go eat a calzone. It took getting out of the state and into Greenwich, CT to finally find a nice, crispy triangle. Yet, after all that, I still couldn’t enjoy my buffalo and barbecue chicken. Why? Because I was in the middle of test driving a $231,000 McLaren MP4-12C, and all I could think about was getting grease on the car.
You see, there is no door handle on a 12C. To open the dihedral (basically, butterfly) doors, you have to slide your hand underneath the smoothly carved edge of the side body scoop. Some might complain about about the lack of a tangible, fixable part, but the high-tech entry gives the car a truer “supercar” feel. With this type of thought put into just the handle, you might expect that you’d be stepping into some wild, A.D.D., eye-ball-bouncing interior like the Pagani Huayra’s hyperactive cockpit. But it’s not. It’s the exact opposite.
As soon as you step down into the contrasting double-stitched front seat, a sense of calm allows you to breathe easy.
As soon as you step down into the contrasting double-stitched front seat, a sense of calm allows you to breathe easy. There’s no single-screen digital cluster telling you 30 different things, there’s no bright and distracting brushed aluminum, and there’s no complicated radio. Hell, there’s not a single button on the steering wheel, which is a representation of the car itself, in a way. The steering wheel was purely designed only for steering just like this car was purpose-built for driving.
When you scan the lodge, you see a few P,D,R, buttons, a couple of clearly labelled dials for different driving modes, individual climate control on your door’s armrest, and a big middle tach with small digital gauges on either side. It's a pleasantly comfortable space. But enough about how I felt sitting in it, how did it feel driving?
In short, effortlessly thrilling.
A big point of the 12C’s brilliance is its low weight of about 3,200 lbs. The car is built around a carbon fiber MonoCell, which is a big part in keeping the weight down, but also giving the car an extremely rigid feel.
The goal of McLaren’s road cars is to create a drive that feels as close to a track-ready car as possible. And although I’m not able to compare with the personal experience of driving a legitimate GT3, this car was faster and more responsive than anything I’ve ever been in. Testing it on some winding back-country Connecticut roads, the launch was incredibly fast. The 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8, which was designed and built entirely by McLaren, produces 593 horspower and produces the kind of torque you might expect from a jumpy electric powertrain (80 percent comes at less than 2,000 RPMs on a 9,000RPM range). Speed is literally at the demand your finger tips.
A small feature we loved was the ability to shift both up and down from either left or right paddle. It gives you a little more ability when you’re turning, instead of having to awkwardly twist your arms, when you're trying to change gears during turns. Turns that you barely even notice, thanks to McLaren’s innovative suspension.
The 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 produces 593 horspower and produces the kind of torque you might expect from a jumpy electric powertrain.
The double wishbone set up was no surprise. It’s the lack of mechanical anti-roll bar that makes the ride so good. It’s been replaced with a hydraulic system that automatically corrects the car on turns. Basically, when you’re coming around a corner, the weight is transferring to the outside, right? The system recognizes this and electronically pushes back, basically creating an experience with no body roll. It’s the type of intelligent technology you’d expect from a company with so much race experience, but the type that still wows you when you experience it in person. Add this to the strength of the carbon tub, and it makes for an incredibly stable, grounded drive.
Taking the cluttered highway on the way back to the dealership, I was able to experience one more unique, and impressive, feature of the 12C: the airfoil-assisted braking. The airfoil, or airbrake, is a takeaway from the design of the F1 and can sit in three different positions. Lying down, the wing creates as much downforce as possible to keep the car gripped. Under heavy braking, which I was able to test by slowing down for an extended period of time to let people drive ahead, the airbrake automatically lifts up, giving it a stoppage time from 125 mph in less than five seconds. I had to actually check to make sure nobody was going to rear end me, thanks to the ridiculous stop.
As I carefully parked the lava orange ride back in its rightful parking place next to its siblings, I couldn’t help but wonder what car was going to be able to out-perform the one I had just driven. It’s blistering speed, impeccable handling, and clear-cut styling put it at the top of discussions with Lamborghinis and Ferraris. And with that, I remembered getting a good slice of pizza was the least of my worries, fore I had just experienced the smallest, but greatest, slice of them all: the one-percenter slice of the auto world.
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