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27 septembre 2011 2 27 /09 /septembre /2011 22:50

First cars are being delivered, at least in UK. Maff has kindly allowed me to publish here the very complete report he has posted on Piston Heads, a report which I assume will be completed over the next weeks or months. So stay tuned ! Pictures from the original article.

Sept. 20th

After a wait for a few issues to be sorted by the dealer I picked her up this afternoon, and, WOW!
The McLaren has a lot more visual appearance on the road than any photo's portray, and has quite a stance. The interior fit and finish is very good, better than the Ferrari's, exterior fit and finish is probably on par.
I happened to be driving my GTO and California this morning, and got straight out of those and into the MP4-12C. The first thing I noticed is how small the McLaren feels compared to the Ferrari's, but its actual size is slightly bigger than a California.
The MP4 feels much more nimble than the GTO, but most of that will be down to the weight difference. The MP4 is certainly quicker than the GTO once it gets going, and it pulls like nothing I have driven before once you get to 4500rpm all the way to 8500rpm. However I would guess from a standing start the GTO would pull away, as the GTO just sits down and goes off the line with no wheelspin at all, whereas the McLaren gets a lot of wheelspin and needs to be modulated, I assume due to the turbo torque kicking in. Once the McLaren is up to 80mph or so then it would start to pull away at quite some speed from the GTO. The McLaren really IS quick once rolling and I would be amazed if at motorway speeds anything bar a Veyron would currently pass it (except modified cars wink
Oh, and one thing I was not expecting! The noise!!!! I have the optional sports lightweight exhaust and inside the cabin the exhaust/engine noise is much louder than the GTO, not sure how that compares outside - I would guess the GTO is louder.
I drove the GTO and MP4 back to back on my local twisty hilly roads and the MP4 does handle better than I expected. In comparison the GTO just simply sticks and does not slide very much at all unless properly provoked or driven in a very agressive manner, whereas I found the MP4 to be a little more playful than the GTO but still very well balanced, and the GTO would have its work cut out trying to keep up with the MP4 on the twisties.
Ride is very good, nicely sprung and still dampened to what you would expect. Sometimes feels a but floaty but only in a straight line over undulations, paint finish is very good, better than Aston, Ferrari.
And the not so good bits:
- Seats don't have enough adjustment for height and backrest (and these are the optional electric memory ones)
- interior does feel a bit small, but then as a plus it makes the car feel smaller than it is
- TURBO LAG! Below 3000rpm the small engine does show through. You really have to be above 3000rpm all the time otherwise it feels like I am driving my smart car. There really is virtually no get up and go at all compared to my similar cars. Even compared to my California and C63 AMG below 2000rpm its lousy and between 2000 and 3000rpm its just about on par. To be fair my other cars are NA, but you know its a turbo engined car in the McLaren. And once the power does come on when you back off to brake at say 6000rpm it feels as if the power is still being delivered for a very short amount of time, as if the turbo is still 'un-spooling' which I found a little strange.
- Throttle response leaves a little to be desired. Maybe harsh comparing it with the GTO which is just perfect, but I did expect a little better.
- I wont mention the 'launch car' issues as these have been mentioned in other posts, but they did detract from the experience.
Overall, even with the items above it is a still a great car, and something for McLaren to be proud of. Yes its not perfect, but some of the issues above could be sorted out over time. My main gripes are with the turbo lag and responsiveness, and should be issues that can be fixed.
Some may say its not fair to compare to a 599 GTO which costs over £110k more than the MP4-12C, but its just my way of comparing to what I know very well (>7000 miles on my GTO now and numerous track days).
The MP4 will be put through the same paces as my other cars so it will be interesting to see how it develops with some use and track days.

IMG 2254.sizedBlog admin opinion on the car: Very interesting specification, with a nice combination of black touches, in particular on the turning vanes, with the white body color.

Sept. 21st

One day on and 100 mile more, and two faults so far, first was an exhaust valve fault, which put the car into limp mode. Pulled over, switched it off, locked it and after 2 minutes it thankfully sorted itself back out again. Phew.
Then 20 miles later an 'ESC Fault' appeared on the dash, and none of the handling or powertrain buttons worked and dash reset to default mode. Switched off in traffic, restarted and fault cleared. Again. Phew.
Oh, and whilst listing to the iPod, the media center rebooted itself for no reason. TO be fair IRIS is not in a very healthy state on all cars, but at least the iPod part works. Or did.
Hope it gets better from here on!!!
- 599 GTO or McLaren if I had to keep one? GTO. Its just a better car, maybe only 90% as fast but just an all round great car. I could see myself getting board of the McLaren, not of the GTO.
- Steels or carbon brakes? I have the steels and they feel fine feedback wise, and do slow it down very well, however I do now wish that I would have spec'ed the carbon ones, as I can see the standard pads/disks wearing out pretty quickly due to the shear speed of the thing and all the braking thats needed!
- Comparison of size to the GTO. See pics below, but I was surprised this morning when I put them side by side to find them exactly the same length and width, and the GTO is large!!

IMG 2265.sizedSept. 25th

Well what can I say?!
A week on with the car and I have been using it every day. In 'normal/normal' mode (drivtrain/handling) and the aero off, and auto mode its easier to drive and more comfortable than my C63.
However, in track/track mode, or even track/sport the car is a different car. The exhaust flaps open and it is proper loud, the suspension changes and it feels as if I have just got in a different car.
In summary, F**k me what a car.
I like to think I drive my cars pretty hard, to give you an idea my 8 month old 599 GTO is already 20% through its near lifetime CCM3 carbon ceramics, and my California of the same age is ready for a re-spray due to stone chips.
I've been giving the MP4 a pretty hard time now she is run in, and I really can not believe what I am experiencing. The initial issues I had with the throttle response, whilst still not perfect has become much less of an issue, and in track mode is much better. The turbo lag is also less of an issue once you learn the 7 speed box's ratio's.
My absolute certain conclusion: This is the fastest car I have ever driven. There is NO way my GTO would hang with the MP4 on a British A or B road. Zero. I can 100% agree with the top gear lap times. I have driven a ot of cars, tracked and raced numerous, and I do not know of another road car that could keep up with the MP4 being driven in anger.
Even the new Aventador, unless it can shed 200kg don't even bother trying, its that quick.
The precision of the turn in sublime, the handling is the best I have ever experienced, the balance is perfect, and for a car that does NOT have a LSD, it beggars belief. I do not know how a car that limits its wheel spin via electronically breaking the spinning wheel does it. I am sure most of us have driven a car without a diff and felt what happens when the traction control brakes the spiining wheel and its not good (C63 for example!), but in the McLaren it just goes, and when it does slip it drifts beautifully with good control.
Yes the GTO is a nicer car to drive, the GTO feels more mechanical, and that V12, but if you want to go for a complete balls out blast at speeds that seem impossible, the McLaren is the car to do it in.
And its not been without problems, 12 electrical faults with the car and counting, I've lost part of the front wing guard, and it stranded me in London at midnight on Friday refusing to start after 30 minutes of trying, but hopefully these issues will be fixed this week.
How some of the magazines found this car slower round a track is beyond me, maybe the most recent updates to the McLaren last week sorted these issues, but thats my next test... track day booked. biggrin

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21 septembre 2011 3 21 /09 /septembre /2011 22:56

Sport-Auto (Allemagne) a publié un très court article sur la MP4-12C, avec une première prise en main sur le circuit d'Hockenheim et un temps plutôt convaincant de 1min8sec7... un dixième plus lent qu'une certaine vieillissante Porsche Carrera GT et 3 dixièmes plus lent que la Porsche 911 GT2 RS, mais malgré tout dans le Top 10 de ce circuit. Et le mois prochain, elle passera l'épreuve "suprême" du Supertest... je l'attends avec impatience!

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9 septembre 2011 5 09 /09 /septembre /2011 08:00

mp4 in milano 0550copyMcLaren a publié sur son site officiel une belle série d'images de la MP4-12C en livrée noire à l'occasion de l'ouverture de son concessionnaire à Milan. A part ça, toujours une activité assez molle en ce qui concerne les nouveautés sur la voiture...

McLaren has just released a nice set of pictures of the MP4-12C with black paint for the opening of its Milan retailer. Besides this, still very little activity or tests related to the car.

Lien / Link

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22 août 2011 1 22 /08 /août /2011 23:05

mclaren mp412c 047Faible activité cette été, avec à l'exception d'un article dans Automobile (US, basé sur le comparatif déjà paru dans Car UK) et d'un nouvel article comparatif assez pauvre dans Top Gear, essentiellement deux prises en main (sur les routes anglaises) dans la presse française, que je vais brièvement résumer ici, leur contenu étant assez pauvre et succint.


Auto Moto - Septembre 2011

L'auteur y loue la facilité de conduite de la voiture, notamment grâce à une très bonne visibilité, mais se plaint comme beaucoup d'autre de l'effort nécessaire sur les palettes pour changer de vitesse. Surprise, car c'est la première fois que je lis la chose, on note quelques reproche sur le train avant qui a trop tendance à copier la route et demande donc de tenir fermemement le volant, phénomène amplifié au freinage. Au passage, on note des reproches sur le manque de feeling de la direction. Mais il faut noter que les phénomènes diminuent lorsque l'on passe en position sport (apparemment, les commentaires passés concernaient la position confort).


L'Automobile magazine - Août 2011

Là encore, on note des commentaires positifs sur l'habitacle et la visibilité, même si on peut noter des reproches sur l'épaisseur des montants. Par contre, l'habitacle est estimé étroit pour un gabarit supérieur à 1,80m, l'ergonomie parfois perfectible (position des palettes de changement de vitesse, bouton de marche arrière trop reculé, réglage peu commode des sièges électriques). Le moteur pousse fort, mais manque un peu de caractère (ou plutôt de voix) et présente un peu d'inertie du fait des turbos. Il est bien secondé par une transmission très agréable dans ses changements de rapports. Les commentaires sur la tenue de route sont très positifs (grande vitesse de passage en courbe, bonne motricité sur le mouillé...) mais ne semblent pas s'appuyer sur un temps de conduite suffisant pour être vraiment significatifs.

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31 juillet 2011 7 31 /07 /juillet /2011 20:00

mclaren mp412c 012Traduction du comparatif avec la Ferrari 458 Italia déjà publié par Autocar.


Le fait qu’une auto soit un peu plus légère ou un peu plus rapide ne la rend pas forcément meilleure. Autant se faire à l’idée, après tout, que la McLaren pourrait être une auto comme les autres. Elle a, elle aussi, ses petits travers, ses petits défauts de jeunesse. Ainsi, il faut claquer ses portes avec fermeté pour qu’elles soient correctement fermées. Et puis, la plupart du temps, son moteur n’est pas mélodieux. Les boutons de réglage du châssis et du mode de conduite évoquent le plastique bon marché. Enfin, le freinage carbone n’est pas facile à doser à basse vitesse. Néanmoins, il y a une chose positive que l’on remarque tout de suite : le confort particulier de la suspension. Les amortisseurs pilotés sont utilisés pour l’antiroulis. Ils ont tendance à se raidir en appui et à se détendre en ligne droite. Par moments, on peut se croire à bord d’une Mercedes. Certes, la 458 est elle aussi bien suspendue grâce à des amortisseurs magnétiques. Elle n’est pas trop raide en antiroulis et les débattements ne sont pas trop limités. Cependant, McLaren a de toute évidence été très attentif à la notion de confort en usage courant.

L’habitacle de la 12C est moins flamboyant que celui de la 458 mais il est vaste, fonctionnel, doté d’excellents sièges et complété par un coffre à bagages digne de ce nom. A bord de la Ferrari, on est assis plus haut et on a l’impression que la caisse est plus large. Le volant de la Mclaren est plus sympa, avec des palettes plus petites et solidaires, censées évoquer la F1. Reste que Hamilton n’a pas à franchir des ronds-points et que les palettes de la Ferrari, plus grandes et non mobiles car fixées sur la colonne, sont plus pratiques. Mais il y a trop de boutons sur le volant de la 458. /…/

Tout en suivant le flot de la circulation, sur l’autoroute encombrée, nous remarquons, à bord de la McLaren, que les percussions les plus sèches de la suspension sont transmises dans le châssis avec un effet de résonance. On dirait également que les bruits de roulement sont amplifiés par la coque de la structure creuse. La direction est en revanche parfaite, douce, stable, équilibrée, avec une bonne consistance. Celle de la Ferrari est plus vive et peut se montrer plus fatigante sur un long parcours. On dirait que la 458 aime se faire remarquer, elle titille, elle veut jouer. Même lorsqu’il s’agit d’aller chercher le pain. Alors que la McLaren va volontiers passer en septième sur le mode auto, à 1000 tr/mn, la 458 cherche en permanence à faire entendre sa voix.

Rien de mieux que les petites routes du Pays de Galles pour continuer la partie. Tout de suite, la McLaren confirme la qualité de sa suspension. Elle avale les bosses et se joue des montagnes russes, elle filtre les inégalités avec un savoir-faire que pourrait jalouser Lotus. Tout en gardant la même assiette, elle encaisse les bosses et les trous tandis que la direction ne bronche pas. Sauf dans les cas extrêmes, lorsque les percussions sont plus fortes et que l’on arrive en butée, ou bien lorsque, déjà contractés, les amortisseurs se font surprendre et renvoient l’impact dans la direction. Reste que la McLaren dégage une grande impression de facilité. Ce faisant, elle rassure. Mais attention, sur route ouverte, cela pourra être trompeur pour celui qui ne reste pas sur ses gardes.

La Ferrari est moins facile de caractère, sa direction est plus nerveuse. Mais elle dispose d’un moteur autrement plus expressif et réactif, unique en son genre et d’une sensualité qui fait défaut au V8 biturbo de la McLaren. Sa boîte double embrayage est elle aussi exceptionnelle. Objectivement, la 458 est plus endiablée, plus communicative alors que le freinage est plus facile à doser. Retranchée derrière son assurance, la 12C paraît réservée. La 458 se place mieux sur les freins et répond mieux à l’accélération quand il s’agit de virer de façon neutre à la limite du raisonnable sur route ouverte. Avec la 12C, on ressent un temps de réponse à la remise des gaz, avant de virer avec plus de facilité et moins de sensations. On passe plus vite et c’est moins grisant. Je dois avouer qu’au bout des deux jours durant lesquels je n’ai cessé de passer de l’une à l’autre, je me suis pris d’une véritable affection pour la Ferrari. Pour tout vous dire, cela m’a laissé perplexe. La McLaren donne l’impression d’être plus rapide mais cela ne suffit pas à faire la différence, à convaincre, ou à séduire.

C’est sur la piste d’évolution du MIRA que j’ai commencé à comprendre un peu mieux le phénomène, après avoir débranché les ESP. Comme vous le savez, la McLaren est dépourvue de différentiel autobloquant, à ce qu’il semble pour des raisons de poids. Mais elle est sensée disposer d’une botte secrète, le ‘cornering brake’ ou ‘brake steer’, une fonction supplémentaire de l’ESP Bosch. Le principe de ce dispositif est de plus en plus répandu mais McLaren a l’alibi supplémentaire de l’avoir développé en Formule 1. Il permet de corriger le sous-virage en freinant la roue intérieure, et de remettre les gaz plus tôt en sortie de courbe. Contrairement à ce qui se passe sur un ESP classique, le système n’attend pas la perte d’adhérence pour intervenir. Du coup, sur circuit, la 12C enregistre des vitesses de passage en courbe étonnantes. Et c’est en utilisant pleinement les possibilités de cette aide à la conduite qu’il faut l’exploiter. Si vous la pilotez de manière instinctive, comme vous le feriez avec n’importe quel autre modèle du genre, le train avant gardera toujours la main. Il est difficile de placer la 12C sur les freins, et le léger temps de réponse des turbos à l’accélération complique un peu les choses. L’arrivée désynchronisée des chevaux engendre plus de sous-virage. Par réflexe, on lève le pied, avant de remettre les gaz. Et cela marche à merveille sur la Ferrari, avec certes une transition un peu pointue entre sous et survirage. La recette ne fonctionne pas sur la 12C, laquelle demande des automatismes de pilote de F1. Il convient de solliciter plus franchement la direction pour informer le système avant de mettre du gaz, beaucoup de gaz, pour combattre le retard à l’accélération et supprimer le sous-virage. Et c’est à ce moment-là que l’on peut exploiter tout le potentiel d’accélération latérale et s’extraire de la courbe à une vitesse inimaginable. Quand l’auto se met à glisser, on a une sorte de relation télépathique avec la direction, et le châssis pardonne beaucoup. Je n’ai jamais ressenti pareille sensation en sortie de courbe. C’est en cela que la McLaren est spéciale, différente des autres et quelque peu surnaturelle. Elle a été mise au point par des pilotes avertis, pour des pilotes avertis. Et à ce niveau-là, elle semble intouchable. Chez Ferrari, on n’a pas la même philosophie. Peut-être suis-je victime du côté exhibitionniste de la 458, mais c’est elle que je préfère.




Comportement moderne

Confort de suspension


Moteur peu expansif

Mode d’emploi particulier


La McLaren défend une froide perfection et un souci d’efficacité sans états d’âme. A l’image de la marque et de la Formule 1. Sur circuit, elle a un potentiel de vitesse en courbe jamais vu sur une routière, qui plus est confortable. Mais elle n’a pas le lyrisme et le pouvoir émotionnel d’une Ferrari, au demeurant peut-être aussi efficace. Mais cérébrale, plus instinctive, elle est née d’un savoir-faire ancestral.

Ferrari 458 Italia 19/20

McLaren MP4-12C 18/20

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28 juillet 2011 4 28 /07 /juillet /2011 20:00

mclaren mp412c 003Is 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.

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24 juillet 2011 7 24 /07 /juillet /2011 09:30

mclaren mp412c 061Comparison done on European ground (UK), it features the McLaren MP4-12C, the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Porsche 911 GT2 RS. This is the first comparison won (by a wisker) by the McLaren -  in opposition to Bristish magazines, Car & Driver is using 'objectve' numbers rather than emotions to find a winner. Review of the McLaren below.


Tales of McLaren Group boss Ron Dennis’s obsession with organization and precision are legion. In many ways, the MP4-12C is the roadgoing embodiment of his compulsions. Take the center-mounted tachometer: in most cars, a blip of the throttle sends the rev needle up and back like a ball tossed in the air, slowing at its peak. Not so in the 12C. Rev the twin-turbo V-8 in neutral and the needle sweeps steadily, stops abruptly, and goes back down at the same steay pace.

Next to the overly elaborate GT2 RS and the curvaceous Ferrari, the 12C is almost understated. The main attractions here are the dihedral doors, which pivot up and out after a light massage under their lips, which activates a sensor to open the latches. Ingress is easy – simply step in and sit down. Climbing out over the wide sill is tougher.

Get into the McLaren after driving the Porsche or Ferrari, and the differences are apparent – maybe only to a small degree, but the small things matter here. The seats fit perfectly. The range of steering-wheel adjustments for rake and reach will accommodate the most acrobatic of driving positions. The cowl eight is low, which gives the 12C even better forward visibility than the two other cars here, although the Ferrari’s lower rear end provides a better view straight back. The McLaren is built around the driver. The setaing position is farther inboard than in the Ferrari, which gives the 12C a narrower feel and lends the driver a better sense of the car’s placement on the road.

Comfort and visibility also help make better use of the McLaren’s power, which propels it forward to the best acceleration times in the test. Its 13.9-second 0-to150-mph time is half-a-second quicker then the second-place GT2 RS’s. You wouldn’t know by the engine note, which is muted compared with the Porsche’s and Ferrari’s. Switching the drive mode to “sport” or “track” pipes more of the sound into the cabin, but it doesn’t change the fact that much of the noise is lost in the sound-damping turbochargers. The quiet highway ride is nice, but when you pay for 593 horsepower, you don’t want to hear them only at high revs.

The dial adjacent to the drive mode controls the chassis and the 12C’s trick suspension, dubbed Proactive Chassis Control (PCC). If there is a single key to the 12c’s brilliance, it is this. Through an interconnected system of hydraulic fluid and nitrogen, PCC allows for the separation of roll stiffness from suspension reactions at each wheel. In “normal” mode, it gives the 12C a ride like a family sedan’s. Turn the dial to “track”, and it’s nearly as stiff and unyielding as the GT2 RS. Even on the waviest of road surfaces, the McLaren stays vacuumed to the tarmac.

The 12C is a car of total coordination. The superior visibility grants the driver greater confidence, and the suspension compliance allows for full use of the brakes and engine. Add in linear power delivery, a smooth brake pedal, and predictable steering, and you have a vehicle that, however monstrously powerful, feels like and extension of yourself. Everything in the McLaren works exactly as expected, allowing you to adjust your speed in small increments and, ultimately, get from point A to point B quicker than in the two other cars.

The 12C is maybe a millimetre short of perfect, though. At low speeds, the gearbox and brakes conspire to make creeping stops difficult to modulate. Over single-wheel bumps, an audible “thunk” resonates through the carbon-fiber chassis. Our prototype test car lacked a functioning infotainment system.

By most indications, however, McLaren has elevated the supercar. The MP4-12C offers a range of capability not seen before. It’s the sort of car that can be driven across the country and straight onto the track, with no compromise on either end of that spectrum. For now, it’s as close as you can get to eternal automotive bliss.

+ Highly versatile suspension, smooth power delivery, comfortable cabin

- Somewhat lacking in soul, difficult to exit with grace, unproven reliability

= An astonishing combination of refinement and performance in a user-friendly package

You can find scans of the full article on German Car Forum.

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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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3 juillet 2011 7 03 /07 /juillet /2011 14:00

McLaren PP Portimao 3 2En l’espace de quelques semaines, les 5 magazines majeurs de la presse automobile anglaise ont passé en revue la MP4-12C, bien souvent en face des ses concurrentes, notamment (et essentiellement) la Ferrari 458 Italia. Pour tous les fans de la MP4-12C, dont je fais partie, le verdict est dans l’ensemble sans appel et peu en faveur de la McLaren, avec 6 victoires sur 6 de la Ferrari (et ce dans Autocar, Car, Evo, Top Gear et Auto Express, ainsi que sur 5th Gear à la télé). Plus dérangeantes sont les 4.5 étoiles sur 5 attribuées par Evo et Autocar, pour une voiture qui se présentait comme « game changing » et qui donc devait réécrire les règles du jeu dans le monde des supersportives/supercars. Pourquoi cela ?

Tuons tout de suite dans l’œuf la polémique très présente sur internet concernant les Ferrari 458 testées, qui n’auraient pas été réellement de série… la suspicion existe depuis de nombreuses années, la question n’est pas vraiment là car la McLaren a « déçu » aussi en dehors des comparatifs et pas nécessairement selon des critères directement mesurables. Alors quelles sont les raisons de ce relatif échec ?

Tout d’abord, un manque de maturité pour les voitures testées, qui étaient encore des véhicules de pré-production. Ainsi, la voiture testée par Car a eu un problème d’hydraulique lors du test sur circuit, Georg Kacher, journaliste dans le même magazine a rapporté de grosses différences de comportement entre les voitures et un article de Classic Driver parle de problèmes en cours de traitement au niveau de la direction – une direction qui justement a été critiquée à plusieurs reprises pour son relatif manque de touché. C’est surprenant pour une entreprise comme McLaren qui semble pourtant essayer de tout mettre sous le plus strict contrôle et laisser peu de chances au hasard ou à l’imprévu et pourrait être désastreux pour le lancement d’un nouveau véhicule.

Un autre reproche concerne le touché des freins céramiques, qui équipaient la majorité des véhicules testés, et qui ne semblent pas être au niveau de ceux de la concurrence, avec un manque de dosage.

Pour rester dans la dynamique du véhicule, le comportement routier, qui d’après les premiers contacts devait constituer un des points forts de la voiture, a lui aussi déçu lors de ces essais détaillés. Tout d’abord, alors que tout le monde s’attendait à des temps sur circuit éclipsant de loin ceux de la concurrence, il n’en fut bien souvent rien. Ensuite, certains journalistes ont trouvé la voiture rétive et sont même allés jusqu’au tête-à-queue. La raison semble être l’orientation prise par McLaren d’introduire le Brake Steer, qui impose une conduite particulière à la voiture et oblige les conducteurs à conserver les aides électroniques actives… ce que les journalistes, surtout en Grande-Bretagne, n’apprécient guère. Lorsque l’on se plie aux contraintes imposées par McLaren, la voiture semble devenir d’une efficacité bluffante (Autocar notamment l’a reporté)… un peu comme une certaine Nissan GT-R, qui après avoir soulevé une certaine unanimité, se trouve elle aussi maintenant critiquée de l’autre côté de la manche pour son côté aseptisé.

On en vient à la dernière critique majeure adressée à la voiture : son manque d’âme. Moteur trop silencieux, comportement trop policé… c’est sûrement efficace, mais pour cette catégorie de voitures, il semblerait que le client (ou bien pour le moment le journaliste essayeur) attende autre chose : une âme. Et si une Ferrari 458 en regorge, il semblerait que celle-ci fasse défaut à la McLaren.

Pour finir sur une note positive, on peut tout de même faire remarquer que les suspensions n’ont pas démérité et constituent toujours le point fort de la voiture, qui peut être conduite en tout confort sur tout type de route, ce qui fait d’elle le choix idéal pour une supersportive à conduire tous les jours. Evo a toutefois noté certaines inconsistances de la suspension par moments, peut-être un problème de mise au point.

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29 juin 2011 3 29 /06 /juin /2011 21:00

mclaren mp412c 002Most of the full test is available on Autocar Website. I will just provide a short summary.


The car has been tested with the optional (stickier) PZero Corsas, as well as with carbon ceramic brakes, lightweight wheels and exhaust.


For each category, results are as follow:
- Design & engineering : 4,5/5
- Interior : 4/5
"Unconvinced that even the options quite pull the interior up to the perceived quality of the Ferrari's cabin."
- Performances : 5/5
- Ride & handling : 5/5
- Buying & owning : 3.5/5
- Verdict : 4.5/5 (2nd behind 5/5 Ferrari 458 Italia)

Dry circuit
1min 8.6sec vs 1min 8.9sec for the Ferrari 458 Italia
The 12C lapped marginally faster than a 458 Italia despite some damp patches.
Wet circuit
1min 19.1sec vs 1min 12.7sec
The McLaren is an exceptionally well balanced and adjustable mid-engined car. Only a Lotus Evora and a Porsche Cayman are more manageable at the limit... strange comment if you look at the lap times ! Error in the printing ?

At the limit (the online article refers a lot to this particular part)
Thanks to its ProActive dampers, there's precious little dive under hard draking, but the carbon-ceramic brakes aren't the easiest to modulate.
That the brakes take some modulating means it's tricky to trail them into a corner to get the nose to stick, but that shouldn't be a problem thanks to the 12C's 'Brake Steer' system. It's an extension of the ESP system that brakes an inside rear wheel to dual out understeer, but it doesn't require grip to run out before it activates.
In practice, some understeer does build up. In faster corners this is nullified by a lift of the throttle or touch of the brakes. In a car with a limited-slip diff, that would bring the rear into play too, but in the McLaren that's not the case. Because of the slight turbo lag, coming back on the throttle only offers sufficient power to push the front wide again.
Instead, at the point of understeer, if you give extra commitment on the steering wheel and stay very enthusiastic on the throttle, the Brake Steer will tug in the front end via a dab of brakes on the inside rear wheel, and allow a lot of power to be directed through the outer wheel. The result is spectcularly fast and, when it slides, fabulously adjustable.

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