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23 juillet 2011 6 23 /07 /juillet /2011 16:00

mclaren mp412c 036

It seems the first British reviews have been heard by McLaren who has updated the MP4-12C on a few points before the first deliveries starts. Last issue from Evo gives a detailed report on the matter.

 

Eight days after its new supercar lost to Ferrari in Evo’s group test, a revised MP4-12C rools out of the McLaren factory – with our man Harry Metcalfe at the wheel. The Bristish company has acted with astonishing speed to answer criticisms of the MP4-12C. This is the exclusive behind-the-scenes of how it happened.

Last month, we tested the MP4-12C against its sternest rival, the Ferrari 458, and the verdict was not what McLaren had expected. The team who had spent years working on the project were gutted.

In a way, I was too. /…/ After we had concluded our McLaren group test last month, I penned an email to Antony Sheriff, managing director of McLaren Automotive, to explain my feelings towards the car, before adding (rather cheekily) some suggested tweaks, which I reckoned would help improve the MP4-12C no end.

My three main gripes where these:

1. The sound of the MP4-12C at full chat: here was a car that could sprint to 100mph in just 6.4 seconds, yet it sounded almost anodyne whilst doing it. That’s almost unacceptable. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to sprint a McLaren F1 will know it’s that car’s induction bark that will live with them forever. Surely, McLaren could do something similar for the MP4-12C?

2. The weighting of the rocker mechanism controlling the gear changes was set way too high. Changing gear should have been a tactile delight but, on the press car at least, I was almost a chore to use.

3. The steering feel at the moment you committed to a corner wasn’t as precise as I was expecting. Perhaps by altering the initial roll stiffness or changing the bushing on the front suspension, I suggested, this could be improved. /…/

That’s how I find myself inside McLaren’s HQ in Woking on Friday July 1st. As I wait in reception, a beaming Antony Sheriff bounds in and insist I drive the development car he’s just jumped out before we go for lunch. Outside sits a brand new, steel-braked MP4-12C, covered in protective tape. ‘We’ve made a couple of changes along the lines you were suggesting’, he says.

As we hit the road, it is immediately obvious they have altered the weighting of the paddles on the steering wheel, making changing gear a dramatically better experience than on the press car. Pulling a paddle towards the steering wheel is no longer a fag, plus there is a more satisfying ‘click’ as it reaches the end of its travel. It doesn’t feel quite perfect – it still takes more effort than is comfortable to push the paddle away from the steering wheel – but it is so much better to use than it was before.

‘The McLaren engineering teams were keen on the heavier paddle weighting, as they felt it was closer to the feel of our F1 car,’ Sheriff explains. ‘They felt making it lighter would give it too much a “PlayStation” feel. In the end, we had 25 different weightings to choose from and the one you’re driving today was from the lighter end of the spectrum.’

It isn’t long before we arrive at some decent cross-country roads where we can start to use some of the MP4-12C’s epic performance. Flicking the facia-mounted Powertrain dial into ‘Sport’ seems to release a much deeper induction sound into the cabin. As a decent straight appears, I give it the beans, and suddenly the car erupts in a new symphony of sound, reaching a howling climax as the red line appears.

Wow. This is what it should have sounded like all along! A proper, spine-tingling induction roar as each gear pops through. It’s almost impossible not to laugh out loud, it sounds so good now; no wonder Antony was beaming when he stepped out of the car earlier.

What’s great about this new-found voice is that it remains very throttle-dependant, so when tricking through town or cruising up the motorway there’s no imitating exhaust bark resonating through the cabin. It’s all been achieved by careful channelling of the induction sound into the cabin. All very clever stuff and, to my ears, very McLaren. Interestingly, the car I’m driving doesn’t have the sports exhaust option fitted and nor did our original test car either.

As we make our way back to Woking, the steel discs on this car feel much more natural to use than the ceramic discs on the road test car too, with none of the grabbing we complained about in last month’s comparison, while progression is as near-perfect as you could wish it to be. Once we’re back, Sheriff announces to the team that the new induction kit is to be fitted to all customers cars, and agrees that the weighting of the paddles will be on all customers cars but weren’t on the press cars.

I’m amazed at just how much they’ve achieved in the last few days, but Sheriff says that’s the great thing about working at McLaren. The engineers are used to pushing tweaks through quickly; after all, that’s what the race team do every day of the week. /…

What this visit has taught me is that the bosses at McLaren will not be happy until the MP4-12C is deemed to be the best super-sports car in the world. It’s the only way they know how to operate. Just like in F1, they’re out there to win. I can sense that a re-match with Ferrari is very much on the cards.

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