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24 mars 2011 4 24 /03 /mars /2011 07:00

Full review from Jeremy now online here. Full texte below:

The Ferrari 458 is fantastic. Yes, the button-festooned steering wheel is stupid and the driver is forced to choose between a speedo and a satnav, which is insane, but when you ignore the idiocy of the interior and you put your foot down, it feels like no other car. It feels better. More alive. Just absolutely, totally brilliant.

This is why, on our television programme, James May wondered out loud how the McLaren MP4-12C could be better. Unless it runs on water and does zero to a million in one second, it just doesn’t seem possible.

McLaren however says that it can prove, scientifically, that in fact its car is better. It says that the maths are on its side. So are the headlines for that matter, because the MP4-12C is a tiny bit less expensive than the Ferrari, but delivers more power. A lot more.

There are other things. The McLaren is a much nicer place to sit and a much nicer car to use. In a Ferrari 458, the indicator buttons are on the wheel, so if you are going round a corner, you push the button on the left to tell other road users that you are about to turn right. And at night, when you want to indicate, change gear and dip your lights at the same time, you need to deploy your tongue.

There's no such madness in the McLaren. The steering wheel is just a steering wheel. And what's more, the circumference is precisely the same as the circumference of the wheel fitted to the cars driven by Messrs Hamilton and Button. Minus a fraction to take into account the thickness of their gloves.

There's more. Where the Ferrari is festooned with miles of shiny carbon fibre, the McLaren is all leather and hand-stitching and simple, clear, nice graphics.

McLaren's people are also at pains to explain that their car rides much more sweetly than the Ferrari. They say that because it doesn't have anti roll bars, the suspension is truly independent. And that the computer which controls it - designed by a man I don't want to have round for dinner - ensures that bumps are ushered into another room so you simply don't notice them.

They have a point. On the last left, through the tyres on the TopGear test track, it's tempting to drop two wheels off the tarmac and into the grass. In most cars, this causes your entire skeleton to shatter as though it's been dipped in liquid nitrogen and then hit with a hammer. But in the McLaren, I thought I'd simply misjudged the move and that all four wheels had remained on the road.

That's not really possible though, because visibility is another area where the McLaren trumps the Fezza. I'm not suggesting for a moment that the 458 is a postbox, but in the McLaren, because the windscreen is so deep and the top of the front wings are precisely over the centre of the front wheels, you are alwaysexactly where you want to be.

Yes, yes, yes, I can hear you saying. But is it 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.

Certainly, and thanks to the turbocharging, it always feels more muscular. If I may be permitted to liken the Ferrari to a kingfisher, then the MP4-12C is a gannet.

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.

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 chap.

So, by any scientific or mathematical measure, then, yes, the MP4-12C does appear to have its only real rival licked.

However, while science and maths are very important in the pursuit of speed, emotion must also be considered, and here, I'm not so sure the McLaren stacks up quite so well.

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 an 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 were 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.

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21 mars 2011 1 21 /03 /mars /2011 22:00

McLaren_PP_Portimao_15_2.jpgI can read some limited German, but trusted Google for this overview of the 4 major German magazines (same article to come in French later on). I hope there won't be too many mistakes!

 

Auto Zeitung / English

First of all, I have selected a comment related to the transmission:

The automatic gear changes are performed quickly and smoothly.  The driver has at any time the opportunity to change gears manually through the two paddles on the steering wheel.  The resistance to the rocker is noticeably larger than for comparable systems.

Then a few words about the chassis:

The Brake Steer helps, but does not diminish the fun.  The razor-sharp steering and active suspension work perfectly together.

And the conclusion!

No doubt: The McLaren has the necessary tools for class leader.

 

Auto Motor und Sport

I couldn't put it through Google translator unfortunately, so I wil focus on the final comments of the article, which gives very positive words on the handling, mentioning neutral handling and the surprising but not too disappointing lack of limited slip differential.

 

Sport Auto / English

I did not find much in the article, just a remark on the design which is focused on efficiency rather than beauty.

 

Auto Bild / English

A very positive conclusion for this first drive:

Ferrari are loud, bright, poisonous.  Lamborghini are evil, brutal, uncompromising.  Porsche are minimalist, curve-hugging race track addictive.  The McLaren MP4-12 is a racer for all days, with a GT sports car genes. 

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18 mars 2011 5 18 /03 /mars /2011 07:00

ScreenHunter_14.JPGVery interesting video published by Autocar on their website. They joined the sign-off process of the car for a long road trip. Follow the link.

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17 mars 2011 4 17 /03 /mars /2011 22:00

86288_McLaren_PP_Portimao_70_122_1160lo-2-.jpg

A selection of some remaining articles dedicated to first drive reports, with extracts which focused my attention.

 

Popular Mechanics

Climb in and it's clear that McLaren has shaved every detail to keep the width of its supercar down to manageable proportions. Even the navigation is turned sideways in interests of maintaining a skinny center console. There's plenty of room for two, though, with a great driving position, thanks to multi-adjustable seats and steering, and there's even space for a couple of small bags in the trunk.
Driver's Grievance: Scissor doors might look supercar sexy, but they also add a couple of feet to the width when they're open. Those doors and their impossible-to-find openers (instead of a handle, there's just a button under the body crease) make it as difficult to get into this car as it is to get out of.

 

Autoblog

Not much to report here, many common thoughts. So I'll focus on the section related to design:

Honestly, in our eyes, the MP4-12C looks comfortingly most influenced by the legendary McLaren F1 built from 1993 through 1998. We imagine a few mouthbreathers criticizing the design as a "total rip-off of the Ferrari 458 Italia and Lotus Evora." We take comfort in the fact that these individuals are wrong.

These bold lines can be polarizing, we know. Such aggression – for us the gaping twin side air intakes to the engine radiators stand out – are bound to cause both heated and cooler reactions. But, c'mon, it's mostly hot. The only other spot where we paused, folded our arms, and acted like we were pondering something we knew a lot about, was the rear fascia. Its flushness of all elements seems a bit out of rhythm with the rest of the car. Not even a slightly protruding exhaust blunderbuss. Still, it's pretty hot...

 

Brisbane Times

A few more comments about the chassis and its ability to cope with bumps:

McLaren is keen to demonstrate that the 12C is not a one-trick pony that's been engineered entirely on a race track. It's not often your first taste of one of the fastest cars on the planet comes through tight streets, stop signs and potholed roads. But the McLaren is surprisingly compliant over very second rate surfaces despite the ultra low profile Pirelli tyres (19-inch in diameter at the front and 20-inch at the rear). It's also good at keeping its nose clear of dips and undulations that can often scar the underside of a high performance machine.

Some comments about the wet conditions handling:

A tight and greasy right-left-right combination off the end of the main straight is the perfect challenge. Even in the wet when it's thrown at a tighter corner it manages to tuck itself in and scythe through the bend with the sort of precision that can add a touch of Schumacher - or Lewis Hamilton - to the whole equation.

 

Piston Heads

The introduction of the article is very interesting, for the rest, you can follow the above link to read it completely:

 

Clinical. It's a word that pops into your mind with remarkable frequency when asked to describe what the new McLaren is like to drive.

Is it a fair word to choose, considering how mind-alteringly good the MP4-12C is at just about everything it does? It depends entirely on your own personal expectations - both of what a car like the 12C should be like, and on what the word itself actually means.

For some, clinical will mean cold, grey and unemotional. For others it will mean efficient, effective, and devastatingly capable. Either way, there are certain facts about the new McLaren that are unequivocal.

One, at £168,500 it is cheaper - just - than its arch rival, the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Two, with 592bhp and 442lb ft courtesy of its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine (and weighing at least 50kg less than a 458) it's also faster than its nemesis from Maranello. Quite a lot faster, truth be told.

Three, beneath its slightly beige looking yet classically styled mid-engined supercar exterior, it's one of the most technically advanced road cars the world has ever seen.

And four, despite the vaguely Teutonic association one tends to make with the name McLaren Automotive (entirely unfair, of course), the MP4-12C itself is a 100 per cent Great British creation. Which is important, what with the British car industry having abandoned its greatness at around about the same time that Steven Spielberg decided to make a film about a very big fish.

The problem with creating a car that's so obviously aimed at the very best - yet which is a first-time effort from a brand new company, remember - is that unless you succeed on every level, you run the severe danger of being accused of failure; of not delivering on the promise. Yet at the same time there can be no greater motivation in life than knowing precisely what you have to beat, and that's primarily why the 12C is what it is; and, more to the point, is as good as it is.

 

Winding Road

That might seem an easy statement to doubt, but throughout the full range of driving conditions experienced on the day—dry and sweaty track conditions, various local roads, comfort and track configurations for the car—we came away knowing that McLaren has achieved a major breakthrough, by anyone’s measure.

 

Wall Street Journal

The author is maybe the most critical so far. His comments, first on the design:

And then there's styling, and here the 12C collapses under the weight of its other priorities. Never mind thrilling. This is not even an interesting car to look at, with little amplitude or sculpting in the body and a pro forma supercar profile nicked off an eighth-grader's spiral-notebook cover. The 12C's signature design flourish is the massive engine-cooling gills ahead of the rear wheel arches. At some angles these make the car look like its being overtaken, being consumed, by a Dyson vacuum.

Then on the "clinical experience" of the car:

And so you have a car that might be taken as a mirror of Mr. Dennis himself. Utterly vanquishing, innovative, a masterpiece of reconciled engineering and accounting. Obsessively compulsively brilliant. And yet oddly flat in affect, a strangely clinical exercise in high-speed, low-altitude mathematics. In performance and dynamics, the McLaren has it all over the Italia. But the Ferrari is emotional, visceral, a whistling scythe of car that cuts off the top of your head and pours in pure automechanical pleasure. The McLaren delivers telemetry.

And so, ironically, you may not want the best sports car in the world. Crazy, huh?

 

Classic Driver

A few words about the interior:

Entry is via tall, free-swinging gullwing doors activated by a sensor that you ‘swipe’ in the manner of an iPad. The broad, carpet-covered sill is easily negotiated (and makes a handy ‘seat’ itself, with the doors open – I liked that). Naturally, every car can be trimmed to suit the owner’s taste – with more bespoke work available on demand – but the first impression is of just the right level of high quality leather/alloy/carbonfibre; think Bang & Olufsen, if they made cars. A pure design, classily executed. I loved the leather: not too soft, not too hard with a wonderful, fine-grain, ‘satin’ finish.
The driving position is perfect. Straight legs, wheel very vertical in plane and the seat super-comfortable for road or track. Setting off is a simple ‘foot on brake, pull the paddle into first and press the throttle’.

 

Car Enthusiast

McLaren hasn't only launched a new supercar; it's created a new supercar company. Its first creation, the MP4-12C, is aimed squarely at the Ferrari 458 Italia. A few laps of Silverstone suggest it is more than up to the job.

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12 mars 2011 6 12 /03 /mars /2011 19:00

63272 i mclar

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.

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12 mars 2011 6 12 /03 /mars /2011 18:00

63272_j_mclar.jpgLe magazine français Sport Auto a eu l'occasion lui aussi de prendre en main la McLaren MP4-12C dans son numéro de Mars 2011. Voici quelques morceaux choisis de leur essai.

La MP4 ressemble à tout sauf de l’amateurisme. Elle semble être le fruit d’une réflexion brillante dans laquelle tout converge dans le sens de l’efficacité. Au contraire de la McLaren SLR qui s’embrasait comme un feu d’artifice pour en mettre plein la vue. Ici, c’est l’inverse, plus on en découvre, plus on l’apprécie, plus elle force le respect. Il y a un quelque chose de durable, de raisonné et d’intelligent dans la MP4. /…/
Vous l’aurez compris, ce premier contact dynamique avec la MP4 nous a enthousiasmés. D’autant qu’il ne s’agit que des voitures de préproduction de la version ‘’normale’’, elle-même appelée à être déclinée dans le futur. A partir du lancement au mois de mai prochain, McLaren annonce une nouveauté à venir tous les dix à douze mois. En précisant bien : ‘’Nous parlons d’une vraie nouveauté et non pas de série spéciale.’’ Pour conclure, on repense à la phrase que Ron Dennis prononçait pendant la conférence technique de la veille : ‘’La MP4 a le meilleur comportement de voiture de sport de l’histoire.’’ Ce premier galop d’essai est trop court pour l’affirmer, d’autant qu’il nous faut attendre le match avec une Ferrari 458 Italia et comparer les chronos. Mais le moins que l’on puisse dire, c’est que la MP4 fait mieux que se défendre. Pour ceux qui ‘’ne veulent pas remplacer Ferrai mais offrir une alternative’’, ça semble très bien parti.
L’avis de Laurent Chevalier : La MP4 fait penser à une 458 Italia avec plus de couple, plus de confort à basse vitesse et plus de facilité de conduite à la limite. Ce premier contact, qui force le respect , devra être confirmé par l’essai complet et un duel contre la Ferrari que tout le monde attend.

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9 mars 2011 3 09 /03 /mars /2011 07:30

86069_0O0K8335_122_457lo.jpgThere 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:

Octane
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.


Autocar
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.

Top Gear
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.


Daily Mail
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.


Auto Express
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.

Evo
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. 

Car Magazine
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.

The Telegraph
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.

 

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8 mars 2011 2 08 /03 /mars /2011 07:00

86063_0O0K8316_122_85lo.jpgI will publish a series of posts dedicated to the various press reports written after the MP4-12C press presentation in Portugal. This first post will focus on some key notes from the 4 major American magazines, as well as from Inside Line. More North American reviews may follow in another post. I cannot copy/paste full articles, so I have chosen to publish a few significant quotes for each of them.

 

Road & Track
Just a short article but some interesting additional pages to go through. Chosen quote, related to chassis and suspensions:
McLaren touts the MP4-12C to be for the road and track. So our first stint in the car sampled the car’s civility on rough roads around Portimão. Even with handling set to Track mode, the 12C’s all-around double-wishbone suspension with hydraulically linked active damping is able to soak up road imperfections with ease. But on long and winding roads is where the new McLaren really feels at home. Powering through high-speed corners, the car is never unsettled by any sudden gaps in the pavement, and communicates the event with a touch of vibration through the steering wheel just to let you know it’s alive.

Motor Trend
As usual for Motor Trend when there is a significant new performance car, the magazine makes at the same time a test report and a technical presentation, which is a nice and short summary of the main car features. The 3 major conclusions from Edward Loh:

1. The 12C is fast, fluid, and flickable, yet easy to control. I get on the gas a bit too early out of a rising left and the rear 305/30ZR20 Pirellis just begin to break away. I steady my foot and countersteer just a touch, and the car drifts ever so slightly through to the edge of the track. It's natural, beautiful, and I'm feeling smug, when the voice next to me says:

"It does a nice job of correcting mistakes, doesn't it?"

Indeed. McLaren set out to build a super sports car that can be driven by guys who have the money, but nowhere near the talent, of an F1 driver. Active dampers with adjustable roll control and brake steer technology culled from F1 make this scalpel easy to handle, as do simpler virtues like excellent visibility and honest steering feedback.

2. The 12C delivers brutal performance. For $231,400, roughly the price of a Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren aimed to deliver "level-up" performance -- the speed and handling of super exotics with names like Pagani, Koeniggsegg, and Bugatti. And the 12C does just that. Per the McLaren's data logger, I muster over 150 mph down Portimao's 0.6-mile front straight on my second lap, just before firing the carbon ceramics and fancy airbrake to generate 1.1 g of deceleration over the bumpy tarmac. While chatting me through the car and track, Mr. Goodwin hits over 158 mph and pulls 1.5 g of braking into the very same corner. This only partly validates McLaren's supercar claims, but at first blush, it appears the 12C dives deep into supercar territory.

3. The 12C is not a Ferrari; it is very clearly a McLaren. The gents from Woking, England, weren't shy about calling out the 12C's primary competition, but there was some grumbling from the assembled journalists about what the car gives up to the Ferrari 458 Italia. Some of these whispers are merely reactions to the unfamiliar. Despite the flat-plane crankshaft, there is no signature Italian shriek, though the 12C has a turbo-muffled roar all its own. Crisp Italian lines are nowhere to be seen, but why would they be? The 12C cuts its own purposeful profile, which looks much better in person than in photos. Its broad nose and organic curves recall manta rays while its cab-forward proportions bring to mind the Acura NSX.

 

Car & Driver

A very nice summary by Don Sherman:
Amateurs will enjoy this ride, good drivers will feel like track stars, and great pilots will find the MP4 a handy  tool for polishing their skills. There’s something here for everybody.
And because the MP4-12C is not perfect, a few critics from the same writer.
Of course, there are lapses. The MP4 suffers from an obvious lack of sex appeal, and it was christened with a part number instead of an evocative name. We wouldn’t mind a touch more steering feel and less brake-pedal travel during aggressive stops. High-speed stability is slightly shaky, a fault probably attributable to the substantial aero forces heaving on the rear of the car. Lower seat bolsters are spread to accommodate thunder thighs, a flaw easily resolved by ordering the optional sport seats. A lighter, louder sport exhaust system is also coming. Lastly, the MP4 could use a nicer welcome mat than the mouse fur covering the doorsills.

Automobile Magazine
Another very elogious report, with praises for the chassis:
Technologies like these allow the 12C to make the best drivers faster while flattering lesser ones, and inevitably they will one day save lives. Simply put, the McLaren's best feature is its ingenious chassis, the living embodiment of forty-plus years of winning.

Inside line
This time, I have selected an extract related to the transmission, but the article once again gives kudos to the chassis and points out that brake steer technology operates well:
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, too, is a joy to operate. Because the shift paddles are mounted on a rocker, the driver can favor one hand over the other to perform both up- and downshifts — pushing on one paddle or pulling on the other — to accomplish the same shift. In Track mode, the shifts aren't just fast, but smooth. This is aided by the use of the Pre-Cog function where the shift paddle is preloaded so that when the shift is requested (with a full pull at around 7,500 rpm on upshifts), it's instantaneous — thanks to years of Formula 1 field testing.
Leave the transmission in Automatic mode with all "normal" settings engaged, and we were just as impressed with its functionality over southern Portugal's variety of roads as we were by its ability to dominate the track.

Matt Davis who wrote the article is rather neutral on the design:
To most, the MP4-12C is not the most astonishingly beautiful design in its class. Many at McLaren, including Design Director Frank Stephenson, freely admit that certain angles can challenge the eye. They've also already heard every possible "It looks a lot like a..." comment, so they're unflappable on the topic. For us, it is most influenced by the original McLaren F1.

 

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7 mars 2011 1 07 /03 /mars /2011 22:56

Sport-Auto France publie aussi un article ce mois-ci, il me faut encore acheter le magazine pour vous en parler un peu. En attendant de pouvoir en faire un résumé, vous pouvez aller sur leur site lire un vieil article qui présentait techniquement la voiture.

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7 mars 2011 1 07 /03 /mars /2011 22:00

Peu d'articles en ligne à ce jour dédiés à la MP4-12C. Le Moniteur Automobile, magazine Belge d'une grande qualité dont j'attends toujours les articles avec impatience tant ils sont complets et détaillés, a testé la voiture et propose un avant-goût de l'article papier sur la page suivante. Je vous recommande vivement d'acheter le magazine (il existe une option de téléchargement de pdf sur le site pour ceux qui auraient manqué la version papier).
Le magazine proposant d'acheter en ligne l'essai, je ne recopie rien ici de l'essai, à l'exception de deux explications techniques très complètes, une sur la suspension, l'autre sur le groupe motopropulseur.

86091_McLaren_PP_3_122_379lo.jpgBoîte 7 ‘’Pre-Cog’’

Développée, conçue et élaborée par McLaren, mais produite par Graziano, la boîte de vitesses compte 7 rapports et 2 embrayages à bain d’huile. Jusque-là, rien de révolutionnaire, si ce n’est sa compacité et surtout le fait qu’elle dispose d’une fonction que les pilotes de F1 connaissent depuis longtemps, le ‘’pre-cog’’. Ainsi, lors de la montée des rapports (1-2-3-4, par exemple), une boîte à double embrayage classique anticipe et prépare sa logique de fonctionnement pour engager le 5e rapport (dans le cas présent). Le problème survient quand le conducteur décide alors de descendre en 3e. Il s’ensuit un temps de latence, le temps que l’électronique ‘’corrige ce qu’elle avait préparé’’.

Avec le pre-cog, dans l’exemple de la même séquence de rapport, le conducteur peut, s’il sait qu’après la 4e, il devra redescendre en 3e, ‘’préappeler’’ le rapport adéquat via une légère pression sur la palette. Alors l’embrayage concerné est soumis à une précontrainte et les fourchettes prépositionnées, ce qui diminuera le temps de changement lorsque le conducteur appellera effectivement le rapport voulu.

C’est essentiellement utile sur un circuit, évidemment, mais ainsi utilisée, la boîte se montre suprêmement rapide alors que l’onctuosité des changements de rapports, même en mode ‘’Track’’, ne met jamais à mal l’équilibre du châssis, même en appui tendu. Du grand art…

L’inconciliable réconcilié

La MP4-12C est dépourvue de barre antiroulis. C’est quelque chose que Gordon Murray, le concepteur des F1 GTR de route à l’aube des années 90, abhorrait, les considérant comme des obstacles à la motricité. Il n’est plus là, mais ses principes sont restés. Le roulis est ici maîtrisé par le ‘’ProActive Chassis Control’’, un dispositif basé sur la régulation électronique d’une pression hydraulique (variant de 20 à 32 bars selon le mode sélectionné) dans un circuit mettant en connexion chaque roue avec les trois autres. Chaque amortisseur hydraulique dispose d’une chambre de compression et d’une autre de détente. La compression avant gauche est reliée à la détente avant droite, et vice versa.

A faible vitesse, en ville par exemple, la pression est quasi nulle et chaque roue est déconnectée des trois autres pour un confort optimal. En courbe, à droite par exemple, l’huile sort de la chambre de compression gauche et rencontre celle sortant de la chambre de détente droite. Il en résulte un ‘’conflit’’ de haute pression absorbé par un accumulateur, lui-même mis sous pression gazeuse et muni d’une membrane souple. La ‘’souplesse’’ de cette membrane dépend de la pression du gaz à laquelle elle est soumise, elle-même déterminée par le réglage ‘’Normal’’, ‘’Sport’’ ou ‘’Track’’ choisi par le conducteur au tableau de bord. Et de ce mode, dépend donc l’angle de roulis autorisé, quasi nul sur le plus sévère.

Cette communication permanente entre les sphères de compression et de détente des quatre amortisseurs permet aussi de gérer les attitudes de plongée/cabrage (des attitudes également corrigées par un bras en Z, reliant les roues arrière gauche et droite sans avoir d’influence sur l’antiroulis), de hauteur de caisse et de tarage différencié avant/arrière pour un confort de roulage étonnant en usage quotidien – quand la connexion entre les 4 roues peut être pratiquement interrompue – et une extrème efficacité sur piste.

A ce sujet, les responsables du projet affirment avoir enregistré des pics d’accélération latérale de 1,8-1,9G, contre 1,2 à 1,3 pour les deux concurrentes de référence.

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