Friends in high places had given me the opportunity to drive the new McLaren MP4-12C. I had seen it in the showroom but this was my first opportunity to have a go…
Aimed squarely at the Ferrari Italia, McLaren MP4-12C occupies roughly the same place as the 458, but with a totally different personality.
As the newest supercar, everyone is ready with a stopwatch and a g-meter, trying to eke out the tiniest difference in stats.
But performance isn’t always the great equalizer, and while most people can’t discern the difference between 3.2 and 3.4 seconds to 60, everyone can feel thesomething different between the McLaren and the Ferrari.
The McLaren is beautiful in person. No handles means waving your hand under the door scoop a little like the old Ferrari 355, but instead of a pull handle you have a touch sensor (that works sometimes but not always).
The doors are the swing up and out version and at 5’7”, in and out is easy for me, but over that and your excess/egress isn’t pretty. Standard doors, please!
For me, Ferrari has always done interiors best, but the McLaren is right there. Seats are firm with great support,beautifully appointed with perfect stitching and feel.Simple, easy, masculine.
Simple And Clean
The touch-screen navigation system could use a health dose of Steve Jobs as it didn’t respond predictably, and when we were pulled over by one of New Jersey’s finest, looking for the glove box to dig out the registration proved futile, as their isn’t one.
Who cares about limited storage? Hit the starter button and the turbos muffle a wonderful noise that’s “back there” but not intrusive.
Unlike all other paddle shifts I’ve driven, pulling the paddles together (and it’s a hard pull) does not give you NEUTRAL. Rather, there is a button on the center console marked N.
On the highway in NORMAL MODE the MPC-12 feels like a Benz, the suspension soaking up anything from pot holes to rain grooves, thanks to a new type of suspension system unlike anything else.
Even in SPORT MODE, the same system lets you float over apex rumble strips and never feel them.
Wicked fast, I ran through 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the blink of an eye, and though I got precious little time in the twisty bits, the grip has got to be awesome.
And to slow all that speed, the McLaren incorporates an air brake similar to Bugatti, which activates when braking hard from 60 MPH or higher, although the brakes on the car I drove seemed over modulated and difficult to get used to.
Technologically advanced, composite chassis, two computer operating systems, it does the job less emotionally and more workman-like than the Italian rival, but in the process, has dialed out much of the fun I have gotten driving458’s.
And that’s what most people are going to feel driving the McLaren; no matter how fast, it leaves you less engaged. The McLaren is simply not the event that driving the Ferrari 458 Italia is.
But it’s a work in progress, a developmental project. This is where they have started and it’s tough to go head to head with Ferrari and expect there not to be some fits and starts.
Rumor has it that a McLaren hypercar is in the works, and that’s going to be really special.
See you on down the road,
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Dave Miller drives the fastest, coolest, sexiest cars on the planet. He travels the world uncovering the hidden gems in luxury transportation, meeting the owners, and connecting with extraordinary car enthusiasts. Dave is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and writes for various publications.
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