I could finally read Evo's report after they drove the MP4-12C. They had the chance to drive the car 3 times in fact: in Portugal like everybody, on Top Gear track and finally in Wales. A few extracts from their impressions for Portugal first, with a focus on engine and transmission related comments:
It's a mighty impressive powertrain on the move, and I use that second adjective quite deliberately. It doesn't fizz with enthusiasm the way the Italian mob tends to, but it does offer a very particular gearshift - well paddleshift. On McLaren's F1 car, both paddles can up- and downshift, in case the driver needs to change gear with the wheel in a strange position, and this has been carried over to the street car. Most of the time, you pull the right paddle to go up, the left
do go down, but you can also push the opposite paddle to the one you would pull to get the same result. McLaren has deliberately added a mechanical feel to the paddle action, like the last few millimetres of a closing door latch, even though you are still only controlling and electric switch.
It's a clever device, but one that requires surprising levels of finger effort, which itself is slightly at odds with the light steering in Normal mode. A queer observation, but something you really notice. Gentle pressure on a paddle activates the 'Pre-Cog' function, which pre-loads the clutch, reducing the time taken for the next gear to engage when the paddle is pulled fully. The resulting shift is fast and seamless, but I do experience the odd flutter on light throttle-openings between second and third gears.
A few further comments related to the interior of the car:
The driver benefits from delectable steering, which has far ore feel than a 458's and which adds weight as the chassis firms up. The seating position is superb and the electrically operated bucket offers a good range of adjustment. The ergonomics is sound too, especially the vast rev-counter that dominates your view ahead - it feels driver-centric, developed for the business of driving.
And a kind of preliminary conclusion:
So why am I sitting here now, wondering why I don't crave an MP4-12C? It's just too lazy to call it an unemotional machine - factually incorrect as well; because it proves (take note Herr Porsche) that turbocharged cars can make a great noise. It is uniquely useable too - far quieter and more comfortable than a 911 Turbo, which is outrageous for something that can hit 100mph in a claimed 6.1sec. More than anything, the 12C questions the conventions of what a car of this type should be, what it should offer its owner and how it should operate within their lives, and this is where I think the origins of my gut response to the MP4-12C lies.
This car is designed to be used every day - McLaren wants its customers to use the car as much as possible, and that message fills my chest cavity with warmth and the desire to sing - but the flip side is this: in being so useable, the MP4-12C is lacking that frisson of excitement you get every time you open the door of a 458. It's not for me to judge how people respond to the McLaren in this respect, merely to log the observation, but the MP4-12C confirms my belief that the core, indispensable supercar attribute might well be some element of rubbishness, simply because in making the MP4-12C so damn competent in every area, it has left it feeling more of a device than an object of raw desirability. And not that it should matter to anyone else, but I don't think this is a great looking car from any angle, especially the rear three-quarter.
Technology fiends will love the MP4-12C - it is a car of dynamic substance, interstellar performance and groundbreaking engineering solutions. It is the best sports car - perhaps the best road car of any description - I have ever driven. I drove it three times in four weeks, and each time another layer of intrigue was revealed. And yet when I shut the door and walked away I felt no compunction to steal an extra glance at it.
The last part of the article is quite elogious, after the drive in Wales:
We can be fairly sure that McLaren has never been to Llandow Circuit near Cardiff before. It’s a tiny little loop and almost entirely unsuitable for a car like the MP4-12C - narrow, bumpy, treacherous. Yet in monsoon conditions the 12C is astounding: I had expected savagery and terror, but the car's suppleness, traction and freakish ability to use Brake Steer to peel the nose into medium and slow bends allows it to make sense of a seemingly impossible situation.
Roger Green is equally spellbound: 'You instantly feel secure. It keys into the tarmac, virtually dismissing bumps and standing water. You build confidence to lean on it within a lap. And it's shockingly fast.' The 12C feels easier to control and has less understeer than the Gallardo Superlegerra I drove round here a couple of months ago, on P Zero Corsas, in the dry. And the chassis systems are so clever: in Track mode it will allow quite a lot of slip angle, and you shouldn’t try to correct too much yourself because the individual wheel braking can cause you to over-correct, but it allows a driver to use far more of the car's 592bhp than you'd ever think possible on a sodden, bumpy little track. There is just one downside to this virtuoso performance: there is no chance of switching the system off and pulling great show-off slides. Yes, you can disable the ESP completely if you want, but the lack of a locking differential means the car is reluctant to play. Meaningless to most; important to a thug like me. We move from damp Welsh circuit to flooded Welsh moorland roads. The conditions would tax an Audi RS4, so I just can't believe the way this car dismisses the mayhem. There's great visibility, too - slim Apillars, a low scuttle and perfectly sized and positioned wing mirrors make the MP4-12C no more intimidating than an M3. Its P Zeros slice through deep water on the motorway and the ride comfort is superb.
Heading up onto those moorland roads, rendered hideous by horizontal rain and standing water, there is no other performance car that could match the McLaren. Rog is equally stunned: 'I opted for Sport to tighten the roll rate, but it still had an exceptional level of suppleness, connectedness and feel. It's a true drivers' car. One where you feel instantly at home with it.'
What the 12C trades in traction to four-wheel-drive machines, it more than claws back through its resistance to cambers, its vast wheel travel and its indifference to any bump. The steering is light-ish in Normal, but still in tune with the chassis' responses. Even in Sport the level of compliance is unprecedented. This is a car built to excel on UK roads, and we should be grateful; you can use so much of that 442lb ft torque so much of the time. But above all else, accepting the staggering straight-line performance, acknowledging all the MP4-12C's remarkable decathlete talents, there is one message delivers with this weapon that should make every other supercar maker shudder: this is its base car. This is the 1.1LX. From here it only gets faster and better. Hopefully, that includes the styling.