Is it real opinion/journalism or just rivalery between different publications, but Steve Sutcliffe has a different opinipon in this week's Autocar about the recent last minute modifications of the MP4-12C. I would have liked to read such positive opinion on the car when the comparo has been published in order to counter-balance the conclusion quite clearly in favour of the Ferrari 458 and its different approach of the supercar concept.
You may or may not be surprised to know that I was both amused and slightly disappointed to discover that McLaren is “tweaking” the MP4-12C to give it more emotional appeal. Or, to be more accurate, to make it noisier following criticism from us press types that it lacks aural drama beside a Ferrari 458 Italia.
When I went on the production prototype launch of the 12C, way back in January, the good people from McLaren went to great lengths to explain how the 12C wasn’t meant to be as extrovert as the 458, period. “It’s a more advanced, more precise kind of car, we feel, so it doesn’t need to make so much noise to get that point across,” one engineer told me at the time.
In the end, I spent four days driving a pair of 12Cs back to the UK, during which time I fell for the car book, line and sinker, I have to admit. Because that’s what tends to happen, basically, when you spend so long behind the wheel of what is undoubtedly a very good car. Inevitably, you end up focusing on the good stuff, allowing the less good aspects to fade gracefully into the background.
Despite this, one of the things that we – the various engineers from McLaren and I – did talk about quite a lot on our road trip was the noise that the 12C makes (or made) in comparison with the 458. To begin with, I was curiously disappointed by the lack of aural stimulation from its twin-turbo V8. Yet the more time I spent in the car, the better I thought it sounded – to a point where, at the end of four days, I thought it sounded fantastic.
Not loud for the sake of being loud, but just really rather sophisticated and, I dunno, very technical-sounding somehow. There was just an awful lot of unusual noises to listen to, albeit at less volume than in a Ferrari, and at all sorts of different points throughout the rev range. In its way, I thought the 12C sounded every bit as intriguing as a 458, even though its decibel count was lower – as it always will be when you attach a pair of turbos to the side of any engine.
Point is, I came away from that initial experience of the 12C with a very clear belief that this was a car that had a personality all of its own. The 12C was not trying to be a Ferrari. It was something more subtle than a bright red car with a deafening exhaust note and steering so responsive that it makes your heart thump faster – and not necessarily in a good way – even at 25mph.
I genuinely believed (partly because McLaren has so genuinely told me so during the previous four days) that the 12C was more grown-up than that. It wasn’t meant to be a car for posing in along the seafront at Puerto Banus. It was a machine for people who appreciate the business of driving quickly. Therefore, it didn’t need a blaring exhaust or ‘will it, won’t it’ steering merely to make it feel fast.
Now though, just because one or two magazines have said that it doesn’t sound as exciting as a Ferrari, McLaren is going to change the 12C to suit. It’ll have a “fruitier” sound (but only inside the cabin) and more aggressive throttle response, both of which will provide “an emotional increase when you drive the car”. Can you imagine Ferrari changing its mind about such fundamental issues at such a late stage in the programme?
Nor can I.And the thing is, I’m still not sure who’s right: we journos for being so hard to please, Ferrari for being so stubborn, or McLaren for displaying the flexibility (or is that lack of confidence?) in changing its mind.