There is a huge coverage of the car in the British press... this is not really a surprise for a British car, one which is set to make a blow at Ferrari's face ! Here is a summary:
You can find a short summary of the magazine's review online but the main article has been published in the paper version of the magazine (April 2011 issue). It can be bought online at Zinio and I will publish just a few quotations.
First one is about the way the car handles - the comments are highly positive:
The big news about the way the 12C drives is not its twin-turbo V8, or the seven-speed 'box, but its fantastic combination of ride and handling. Most particularly, the ride quality. It's the single biggest factor that marks out the 12C as a car you would want to drive regularly.
Second one is the conclusion of of the comparison versus the McLaren F1. No big surprise, it cannot match the F1 in terms of image and emotions:
The question of whether the 12C will take over the mantle of the F1 is much easier to answer. It won't. Not because it's inferior - in so many respects it is a much better car. It's safer, less expensive to maintain, less polluting and near-as-dammit just as fast.
But it will always be less special. The F1 broke the mould and the passage of time has ensured that the mould can never be put back together in the same fashion. It's a car that was simultaneously both of its time and outside its time, and that's why we'll always love it.
Steve Sutcliffe is very positive about the car in his online review. Some extracts:
What’s it like?
In a word, incredible. And very, very fast indeed. There are all sorts of elements that define the 12C dynamically and elevate it above its already esteemed competition, but the ride, handling and above all else the performance are probably the stand-out features.
Another comment, related to engine and performances, an aspect of the car I am not focusing on a lot but which is also very impressive:
From there until the cut out at 8500rpm there is then just a vast, constant wave of energy that catapults the 12C forwards – with more conviction than any road car you can ever remember this side of a Bugatti Veyron. Including the legendary F1. And the numbers would appear to support this impression, too; in all three acceleration disciplines – 0-60mph, 0-100mph and standing quarter mile – the 12C is faster than the McLaren F1. Only on top speed does the legendary old timer have the measure of the new car.
There is a short online review available, but the paper magazine (March 2011 issue) has got a much more detailed study of the car. Two articles are dealing with it, on from Jason Barlow, the other from Jeremy Clarkson.
Here are a few quotations from Jason's article:
- MD Antony Sheriff reckons the car's ride quality is its best feature and I can see why - it glides like an S-Class over really gnarly surfaces.
- McLaren bought a Nissan GT-R for evaluation, and professes great admiration for a car that's close, remember, to the Bugatti Veyron when it comes to lunatic cornering ability. The 12C's right up there with them, without needing all-wheel drive to generate massive grip or absorb big lateral g, and weighting substantially less. Respect is due.
- That said, the track bit of the equation is less satisfying. I don't doubt that the 12C will make a highly effective GT3 race car, and today's greasy surface certainly doesn't help. But this is a car that, for all its remarkable duality and technology, somehow seems happier on the road.
Clarkson is making a comparison versus the Ferrari 458 (don't get overexcited... not a real face to face). My selection of major quotes:
- About how it handles:
But is that fast? Yes. Biblically so. In Track mode, with all the driver aids turned down to a minimum, it absolutely flies. In a straight line, and round the corners, I would say that it is faster than the 458. And with the optional ceramic brakes, and that big wing on the back, I would guess it stops faster too.
- About the gearbox, he is more critical... but when you know the man, it shouldn't come as a surprise.
The gearbox isn't that brilliant, though. In the 458, you just tap the paddle and you have another gear, whereas in the McLaren the paddles are mounted on the same rocker set-up they use in the F1 cars. So, you pull the lever a bit which lets the double-clutch gearbox know whether you want to go up or down the 'box and then you pull it a bit more to actually make the shift.
This sounds clever, but in practice you have to put more effort into changing gear than you would imagine. And, since I'm fundamentally lazy, most of the time I told the gearbox which way I was thinking of going, but then let go of the paddle before we'd actually got there.
- I haven't read much comments about the traction control, so this piece of information is interesting and the way to phrase it... terrific as usual!
That said, though, the traction control is terrific. Instead of ordering you to behave by dropping an anvil on the throttle cable, it asks you to come in for a cup of tea and then it sits you down and gently reminds you that you might be overdoing things a bit, old cap.
- Final word... which car is the best ?
Look at it. It's pretty, and it definitely has the air of a supercar, but where is the flair? Where's the suggestion that a human being has been at work? It's a bit too clinical. You get the impression it was styled by software and shaped by a simulator. It probably was.
Then there's the noise. For sure, a Ferrari never stops shouting, but the sound it makes is spine-tingling. The sound the MP4 makes, even at full volume in Track mode... isn't.
There's a similar issue with the driving experience. The 458 feels more agile, more deft, more nimble. It probably isn't, but it feels that way. In short, then, and for reasons it is impossible to explain without climbing into the pit of my stomach for a furtle, the McLaren isn't as exciting as the 458.
No car makes the root of my penis fizz, but if such a thing where to happen, it would be the 458 that caused more effervescence.
Of course, there's no doubt that you really could use the McLaren every day. It rides beautifully, its engine can be put into submarine mode and the interior is a far, far nicer place to be. But why would you want to use a car like this every day?
Let me put it this way. The Ferrari is a pair of stockings. The McLaren is a pair of tights. Scientifically and mathematically and practically, the McLaren is better. And yet somehow, it isn't.
Even the Daily Mail is publishing a review, by Ben Oliver. I chose a comment which can be found in several other reviews, complaining about the car being too perfect.
The only real flaw we can find with the MP4-12C is its flawlessness. It's like a child prodigy; generally begotten by hyper-ambitious parents, staggering in its abilities, perfect in its behaviour, but oddly cool and aloof, and difficult to warm to.
The other kids seldom want to hang out with the 12-year old concert violinist. Criticising a car for being too perfect seems odd, but in a supercar, character and emotion and idiosyncracy and simple, fidgety excitement count for a lot, too.
Matt Davis has following conclusion about the MP4:
The launch of the MP4-12C throws down the gauntlet to Ferrari. What’s amazing about this first model from McLaren Automotive is that it’s such a complete package right from the start – something that has taken other supercar manufacturers decades to attain. For some buyers, it may be a bit clinical in the way it demolishes quality opposition, such as the 458 Italia, in terms of handling, acceleration, braking, build quality and everyday useability. But the MP4-12C is now the car for all the world to beat.
The online review is short and I am still waiting to find the magazine to get more details. Just a short quote from Chris Harris:
What’s it like to drive?
Unlike any other sports car because it separates the roles of ride and roll-stiffness. On a straight, bumpy road, it’s more comfortable than a Merc E-Class, change direction and it’s sharper than a GT3.
More interesting is the blog entry from Chris Harris about it:
Cold, clinical, unemotional.
You’re going to hear and read these words used a lot in association with the new McLaren MP4-12C. This is not a car that wears its heart anywhere near its sleeve: it’s a towering piece of engineering that requires time and a multitude of conditions to reveal the complexities of its brilliance. In many ways then, it is the anti-supercar, because a supercar by definition is a binary creature; something that exists on a solitary, self-indulgent, look-at-the-bulge-in-my-trousers level.
So I can’t tell you if the Macca beats the 458, but I can tell you that, great though they both are - sitting here right now - I suspect I would rather have an F40 than either.
I am also waiting to get the printed magazine. Online article by Chris Chilton has got some interesting parts tough:
- About the engine:
But I’ll bet those twin blowers mean the new McLaren supercar sounds like a Lexus LS460, and has the throttle response and rev range of a black cab?
That’s exactly what we feared beforehand, but McLaren proved us wrong on both counts. The crisp throttle response, almost total absence of lag and incredible 8500rpm redline is all down to clever matching of the ECU mapping and turbo geometry, McLaren says.
The mixture of intake and exhaust noise is nigh on perfect: unobtrusive when cruising but capable of erecting those neck hairs as well as any naturally aspirated supercar. And unlike the Ferrari’s rather wearing quiet-LOUD-quiet-LOUD character, the transition from demure to demonic is more progressive on the McLaren. This is all on the standard exhaust too. Heaven knows how juicy the optional straight-though sports pipes must sound.
- About the impossibility to fully disconnect the ESP - which for some journalists is a major flaw on a sports car!
There is really only one disappointment but you’ll have to be a pretty tasty driver, and probably on a track to experience it. And it’s that even in Track mode, the ESP system doesn’t allow an inordinate amount of slip and will be reined in even further for production. If you want to switch it off, you need to enter some special cheat code while parked that McLaren wouldn’t reveal.
Now away from sideways-obsessed car media, that may not be relevant, but surely if you do want to really play about, it’d make more sense to be able to do it with some sort of safety net available rather than risking everything by switching it all off.
- Last, some comments about the styling, and its lack of emotion:
What about the styling though? I’m not convinced...
Our only real disappointment concerns the way the new McLaren supercar looks. It’s certainly not ugly, in fact it’s quite pretty. But it’s not especially dramatic. When Leonard Setright first used the term supercar in CAR Magazine over 40 years ago it was because he needed a term to convey how much more extreme the Lamborghini Miura he was driving was than other sports cars. Not just in performance, but in every respect, including visual drama.
Last for today, a review in The Telegraph. My selection of the interesting parts:
- The usual highly positive comment about the ride:
Comfort was a key feature of our drive around the snow-ravaged roads of Surrey. You hear the bumps as the wheels react to the huge potholes, but the McLaren rides through them like a family hatchback and there's no steering reaction, either. The engine, too, is docile and mercifully quiet.
- Another average comment about the gearbox which might be confusing compared to some other systems:
The gearbox is fussy and lumpy at low speeds, which is fairly typical in cars such as this. Changes are made via steering wheel-mounted paddles, which are yoked in the middle so a pull on one equals a push on the other. It's a good system, derived from racing practice, but eschews the industry protocol that a pull on both paddles selects neutral. Some owners might find this confusing.
- Some very positive comments about the cabin:
The cabin is surprisingly practical, too. There's space for a couple of small cases under the bonnet and the two seats are comfortable: the centre console is shaved to such an extent that the satnav screen is upended, but you are sufficiently far apart not to touch shoulders. Widely adjustable seats and steering enable a good driving position for most and the pedal box is mercifully large, so you can drive in brogues rather than racing boots. It has a nice steering wheel, too: oval and squared-off at the bottom, it feels like the precision instrument it is.