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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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24 juin 2011 5 24 /06 /juin /2011 20:00

McLaren MP4-12C Road Test 12popClassic Driver publie une courte prise en main qui apporte quelques éléments nouveaux sur les mystères du mauvais feeling de direction, a priori dû a des défauts de mise au point sur un élément de direction:

 

Now, you might have read some earlier reports in the specialist motoring press which comment on this aloofness, citing fractional delays in the active dampers' stiffening-up as the reason for a momentary tactile uncertainty when turning into a bend. I don't buy this; the McLaren is never less than completely accurate and faithful to every steering movement, but the problem in these very early test cars is friction in the steering mechanism. It's within the upper column assembly, it filters out subtle messages and spoils the self-centring, and the engineers are on the case. It's a surprising error and it may have sullied the MP4-12C's initial reputation.

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22 juin 2011 3 22 /06 /juin /2011 22:00

ML 000208Big comparison over 32 pages facing the MP4-12C against the Ferrari 458 Italia, Noble M600, Ford GT, Mercedes AMG SLS and Porsche 911 Turbo S. I won't reproduce here the full article, but just the conclusion and the part related to track result. Evo journalists have been disappointed by a few critical items: feeling of the ceramic brakes, behavior of the suspensions which seemed to lack some fine tuning and the turn-in - some more critical items than the lack of emotions previously reported in other mags.

 

At the end of the test, each tester had to give its favourite car… What you might have noticed is that no one has said, ‘I’ll have the McLaren, please.’ The reasons why have probably become clear enough over the previous 32 pages, but it’s worth going over them again…

The MP4-12C is a brilliant car in many respects – innovative, stonkingly fast, with perfect packaging and frequently sublime on the limit. But as Barker says, ‘it’s not flawless and it’s quite surprising the details that they’ve got wrong’. One of the main problems is with the gearchange. It’s not a problem with the transmission itself, but the paddles. As Meaden notes, ‘the gearbox is brilliant – it’s so seamless and yet you still feel like you’re changing gear. But the actual gearshift action takes too much effort – I like the click, but there’s too much of a pull before it. And the push thing is just a nonsense because it’s so heavy that you physically can’t push it back with your fingers.’

The brakes come in for criticism, too. ‘It’s very easy to jolt yourself forward,’ says Wallace. ‘Sometimes you just want a little bit of braking but there’s a heavy, dead feel to the top of the pedal and it seems like there’s nothing there, so you press a bit harder and then suddenly there’s too much.’

‘It’s particularly not good if you just want to brush the pedal going into a quick corner,’ adds Meaden, ‘and I can see why they need the airbrake because it does squirm around a lot under braking, too.’

I reckon the McLaren needs a chassis setting between Sport and Track. I want the roll stiffness of the Track mode in order to take out that hesitant lightness on turn-in that I first felt on Monday night, but combined with the magical vertical suppleness of Sport mode.

In fact everyone agrees that the whole car feels like it needs extra tuning for fast road driving. It seems to do up to five-tenths pace brilliantly and we’ve found that it does ten-tenths round a track phenomenally well, but at the moment I’m not sure if it’s capable of being really satisfying in that crucial seven- to eight-tenths bracket where so much fast, fun, road driving is done. “…”

We’ve been amazed and impressed by a lot of the things the MP4-12C has done over the last few days, but I don’t think anyone reached the end of a drive, however fast or even occasionally sideways, grinning. I certainly never found myself buzzing with excitement during a drive, wanting to bottle the moment.

Chris Harris hit the spot in his initial review (back in February/March) when he talked about a curious lack of emotion, and he ads that despite being a serial supercar buyer, in the months since he’s never once found himself longing to own one. Emotion. Ferrari’s trump card.

On circuit

The McLaren feels completely different from the Ferrari. More measured, the calm after the frenzied blur of the Ferrari. Inside it’s quieter, both in terms of the engine note and the rate of arm movements. It’s more stable in its responses, a little less on tip-toe. Of course, that doesn’t mean you(re not still driving it by the seat of your pants, balancing it on the thin line between grip and the huge amount of slip that can be brought on by the 592bhp. In fact on my fastest lap I got a little too much oversteer on the exit of Hangar Hairpin and it cost a tenth. There’s no slippy diff, of course, and spectators later said they noticed a couple of instances when there was a wisp of white smoke from the inside rear tyre. From the helm, the Brake Steer system ensures you don’t feel any individual wheelspin, but there’s not quite the level of accuracy and delicacy that you get from the 458. The brakes themselves are mighty, though, and the airbrake helps keep the 12C more stable than the Ferrari, too. As you’d expect, the guttural-sounding twin-turbo V8 is immensely strong now that I can keep it on boost, bellowing all the way to 8500rpm.

“…” It’s 1:20.6 laptime is impressive in isolation, and with more time I may have found a tenth or two, but even then it’d still be a second away. Analysing the data showed that most of the time was lost to the Ferrari in the transitional corners, where a left immediately becomes a right (or vice-versa). Here the 458 darts from one to the next with lightning directional changes the 12C just couldn’t match. On a circuit with longer straights and continuous-state corners the result are likely to b closer.

With Corsa tyres, it cuts 1 second of its lap-time. The overall balance remained the same, only now I had a little more grip under braking, a little more bite on turn-in and I could pick up the throttle that bit earlier. But it was still behind that extraordinary Ferrari time (1:19.3).

mclaren mp412c 018Verdict : 4.5 stars

Full article available on German Car Forum.

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20 juin 2011 1 20 /06 /juin /2011 21:00

mclaren mp412c 038For Auto Express also, I am publishing a selection of the most interesting parts of the article dedicated to the face to face between the 458 Italia and the MP4-12C.

 

“…” The styling of the MP4-12C owes a lot to the wind tunnel, so it shares the low-slung look of its predecessor. While undoubtedly sleek, it’s not as eye-catching as its Italian rival, although buyers who crave exclusivity will appreciate the McLaren’s rarity value, for the time being at least. Climbing aboard is part of the supercar experience, as you won’t find conventional door handles on the MP4-12C. Instead you simply run your hand over a sensor located on the door panel to release the catch.

You can then lift the door upwards and forwards, before sliding easily across the narrow sill. You sit low and towards the centre of the car, almost rubbing shoulders with your passenger. Visibility is brilliant for such a focused machine, but you can say the same about the Ferrari. And the 458 is more spacious inside.

The dashboard in the MP4-12C is simple but effective and build and material quality are both first rate. A large rev counter dominates the instruments, with screens on either side keeping you informed about the car’s various features.

It’s not perfect, though, as there’s a lack of oddment stowage space inside and we noticed a surprising degree of wind noise from around the door mirrors at high cruising speeds.

We were unable to test the touchscreen sat-nav and control system on our early production model, but customer cars feature a seven-inch portrait display for the in-car entertainment, Bluetooth and built-in iPod connection and music hard drive. Beneath it are dials for fine-tuning the Powertrain and Handling settings, with a choice of Normal, Sport and Track for each. “…”

Fitted with sticky Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres, it basted from 0-60mp in an average 3.1 seconds (best at 2.9). Keep the throttle planted for another 3.2 seconds and you’ll hit 100mph – four tenths sooner than the 458.

The seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox can claim some of the credit, too. “…” It’s incredibly slick, but all of our testers preferred the Ferrari’s paddleshifters, which provide a more pleasing blip of the throttle on downshifts.

“…” The wheels thump noisily over cats’ eyes even in the softest setting, but low-speed smoothness is a match for the Ferrari and the MP4-12C is more composed in the corners, where the body stays flat in Track mode. It takes a while to get used to, but once you do, you can attack bends with real commitment. Go in too fast “…” and the clever Brake Steer facility will intervene.

The set-up momentarily brakes the inside rear wheel to keep you on the desired line, so you can brake far deeper into corners than you imagine and cover ground at incredible pace.

This technology flatters your driving and hides your mistakes, but there is a downside. While the feisty Ferrari isn’t ultimately as capable, we think it’s more likely to put a smile on your face – and that could be the Brit’s undoing…

Styling ****

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but out team was unanimous – the sleek McLaren doesn’t look as good as its opponent. Its distinctive exhaust pipes exit above the rear number plate, so it arguably works best from the back.

Interior *****

The polar opposite of the Ferrari, as you get four column stalks and no controls on the steering wheel. Uncluttered design is simple but effective. All the switchgear is unique to the car, and the smart instrument cluster and simple controls make it very easy to live with.

Driving *****

Twin-turbo V8 delivers phenomenal performance, while the suspension combines a forgiving ride with impressive cornering composure. It’s polished and flatters the driver with its electronic trickery, but it lacks the involvement of the 458 at lower speeds.

Costs ***

Yes, the McLaren is cheaper than the Ferrari, yet extras will see its value rocket. The Sport exhaust alone adds £4,040, while touchscreen sat-nav and premium hi-fi vosts £5,100. Even parking sensors, essential on a car like this, are price at £1,530.

Green **

Low kerweight and clever seven-speed gearbox help to maximise efficiency. We averaged 23.1mpg on the road, and 22.2mpg in the Ferrari. We even saw over 30mpg on the trip computer during one gentle cruise, although economy dipped into single figures at the track.

Verdict

What an achievement! With the MP4-12C, McLaren has taken on the biggest kid in the supercar playground – and done it the hard way. Engineering the chassis, V8 and twin-clutch gearbox in-house is some undertaking, and we can’t think of another brand that could pull it off as convincingly. So is that enough?

Well, the new car does exactly what it was designed to do, as it’s faster, lighter and more economical than its rival. But despite all of its talents, we found the 458 more enjoyable.

In such a closely fought test, it comes down to what you demand and expect from a supercar. The McLaren’s clinical performance is something to behold, yet the Ferrari is more fun.

mclaren mp412c 013

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18 juin 2011 6 18 /06 /juin /2011 14:00

mclaren mp412c 006Here are the most significant parts of the comparison between the Ferrari 458 Italia and the McLaren MP4-12C done on the Isle of Man by Top Gear. No real numbers, things are all about driver's impressions and the winner at that is the Ferrari.

 

“…” The Ferrari 458 Italia has been lauded since its launch a few short months ago as a game-changer in the baby-supercar market, a swirly, exciting blend of pseudo-F1 technology and Italian-speaking stomach-butterflies. It is the car that the new and apex-tech MP4-12C has been designed and engineered to eclipse. "..."

Both V8s, both mid-engined two-seaters, both rear-wheel drive with electronic traction conjuration, both seven-speed double-clutch gearboxes with near identical weight distribution. Rumor has it that McLaren benchmarked the 458 in terms of performances, and tasked itself with making the MP4-12C better in every direction. So the McLaren produces 592bhp and 443lb.ft of torque from a 3.8-litre bi-turbos; the Ferrari, 562bhp and 398lb.ft from a naturally aspirated 4.5-litre. It’s pretty much the same with the performance figures. “…”

But on the road, such fine on-paper delineations are much harder to call. Both will leave your flabber-well-and-truly-gasted the first time you really allow them some room, the Ferrari almost ridiculously vocal in ‘Race’ mode, howling and screaming, gurgling and spitting on the overrun. It devours revs, a constant goad. It feels light at the fingertips, communicative, visceral, passionate. Like a proper bloody Ferrari, in other words. The paddles are huge carbon-fibre sickles mounted to the column, the view a little restricted, but by no mean bad by supercar standards. When it really winds up, it’s hard to imagine much faster this side a Veyron.

But the McLaren manages it. You can disseminate, argue and wander around the houses all you like, but the MP4-12C immediately feels faster down a real road. The mid-range avalanche from the turbos simply means that the little Mac can pull out car lengths on the 458, its block-like stability under braking and mid-corner meaning that once you get used to it, you can carry more speed, more of the time. The vision – necessary for going properly quick – is exemplary, the seating position perfect, the small, wheel-mounted paddles needing a firm yank to get them moving. And the suspension. You may think the Ferrari manages a stunning compromise between glide and go, but drive the MP4-12C properly quickly down a bumpy road, and it gets better and more composed, to the point where there appears to be no compromise.

Game over, then? Well, no. Because a ‘supercar’ isn’t just about statistical masturbation or a couple of tenths to 62mph, in the same way that losing well can be more of a victory than winning without grace. “…”

The styling seems to polarise neatly. Some prefer the lean, clean lines of the McLaren, seeing purpose and resolve in the low sweep of the nose and slash-vented haunches. The Ferrari is more sensuous, more organic, more insectile evolution than graphic design. Immediately, we’re into the realms of taste rather than objectivity. “…”

The back-and-forth continues throughout the couple of days we spend on the island. The McLaren has the more ergonomically comfortable, well-designed and slick interior, but the Ferrari has a sense of occasion missing from the MP4-12C. The car from Wokingmay have the most impressive roll-on acceleration, but the Ferrari makes such a bonkers noise – worth at least 10 imaginary mph – and as such delicious, natural throttle response, that the fact that the McLaren is actually faster doesn’t count for much. “…”

But a decision is necessary. I’d like to cop out and say that both cars offer different things and that if you’re rich enough for one, you’re probably flush enough for both, but for me it’s all about delivery. I want the McLaren to have all the engine responsiveness of the 458. I don’t want to be a ‘Ferrari owner’, and the McLaren’s obvious attention to detail and slightly mystical provenance would really count. But the turbotastic nature of the MP4-12C just doesn’t cut it. It feels faintly – and this’ll cause a few shakes of the head – faintly Nissan GT-R-ish in terms of delivery. Astonishing, but faintly industrial. It doesn’t sing. Or involve like the Ferrari. Or like a McLaren, for that matter. If the MP-12C were a naturally aspirated, operatic sliver of pure inspiration, then this would be a different story. But it never seems to be enjoying itself, so the Ferrari feels more thrilling for more of the time. To get the sense of wonder from the MP4-12C, you have to be totally engaged; the Ferrari is a huge grin-inducer under 60mph.

So we’re going to ignore the empirically ‘better’ car, and choose to take home the car that delivers a sucker punch to the soul – the Ferrari 458 Italia. Because sometimes winning isn’t just about being faster.

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15 juin 2011 3 15 /06 /juin /2011 20:00

La MP4-12C est un triomphe technique, mais elle n'arrive pas à procurer les émotions d'une Ferrari 458 Italia... voici en substance comment résumer l'article de Autocar et expliquer pourquoi son auteur préfère la Ferrari à la McLaren tout comptes faits. Les autres points marquants de l'article, que je vais juste me contenter de lister, reprennent et confirment dans l'ensemble les premières constatations faites lors des différentes prises en main:
- un poids mesuré à 1465kg, soit juste 20kg de moins que la Ferrari.
- quelques critiques en vrac: les portes doivent être fermées avec force, le son du moteur n'est généralement pas très agréable, certains boutons font trop plastique et les freins (carbone céramique sur la voiture essayée) sont parfois difficiles à moduler.
- sans surprise, les suspensions sont sublimes.
- la voiture est facile à utiliser au quotidien: bonne visibilité, coffre acceptable, sièges confortables, bonne ergonomie.
- les palettes fixées au volant ne sont pas toujours la solution optimale.
- le Brake steer fonctionne à la perfection et donne un avantage en terme de tenue route à la voiture, mais il faut un certain temps d'adaptation pour en comprendre les subtilités.

L'article est disponible dans son intégralité sur le très bon site German Car Forum.

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15 juin 2011 3 15 /06 /juin /2011 07:30

Deux premiers essais, comparatifs, sont publiés ce mercredi dans la presse anglaise, par Auto Express et Autocar. Je n'ai pas encore les magazines pour en faire un résumé ici (ça viendra dans la semaine), mais voici en attendant les points marquants de l'article publié en ligne par Auto Express:
- 2.9 secondes de 0 à 60mph (3,2 dans l'autre direction, pour tenir compte du vent)
- 6.0 secondes de 0 à 100mph (6,5 dans l'autre direction)
- 1.4g d'accélération
- 43,4m de 70 à 0mph
Le reste dans le magazine, mais la voiture a fait forte impression aux journalistes !

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8 avril 2011 5 08 /04 /avril /2011 23:40

McLaren's dealers have started to present cars to customers in UK, this week at Dunsfold. Some of the lucky persons who attended that event have been kind enough to share their experience on various forums, bringing a different light on the car compared to the journalists reports issued so far. I got the authorization to reproduce here a few of them, I hope you will appreciate reading them as much as I did. Thanks again to the lucky testers who reported their driving impressions!

A few key elements for the lazy guys before I publish the full transcripts:
- Journalists have been maybe optimistic about the ride when they compare it to an E-Class, but it still top quality, above the competition, and able to go over potholes with surprising ease. The car can be a good daily driver with as a bonus a good all around visibility
- The car offers good traction, even on damp conditions.
- The involvement required by the paddleshift system has been posiively received.
- Very good chassis, but steering a little less communicative than Ferrari's. Handles better than a Scuderia (even 458) according to several owners, easier at the limit.
- Engine noise is good despite the turbos, loud enough without being tiresome (one reviewer saying he's glad not to have ordered sports exhaust).
- Good brakes, whether they are steel or carbon
- There isn't yet an official lap time on the Nurburgring... so stop dreaming about it.

GT-TT on McLarenlife
"So had the chance (and privilege) to drive the car at and around Dunsfold today. Did a drive for about 15 mins on local (pretty bad) B roads and then about 10-15 laps on the Top Gear circuit (yes the actual circuit!) at all modes. Will probably end up writing more later on but main points;
- indeed on city/traffic/potholes/Daily Driver mode the car is much better than competition. That does not mean that the car feels like an Mercedes E Class (it doesn't and it really shouldn't anyway) but you can go over potholes and not feel the usual jerk, boom, paf etc that is associated with Ferrari cars and GT Porsche models. I think the expectations are probably set a bit too high on that it is going to feel like an executive saloon etc and that is unfair as you can still hear the engine note (as you should be in a car like this) and you are sitting on a sport seat, pretty low etc etc. So people should expect the best ride quality possible in a SPORTS CAR (not a Lexus).
- Overall the suspension setup is obviously pretty clever as you can tell in N mode that there is plenty of roll for a car like this but beyond a certain turn angle it is as if a sway bar magically appears and suddenly keeps roll in check.
- On normal and track mode you can feel no roll and the only feeling i got is that of a very stiff and efficient chassis, with equally stiff suspension (see hydraulic system) but also bushes everywhere instead of usual rose joints or monoballs. The result is very efficient cornering ability with very good NVH characteristics. If anything one could even consider remove some of those elastomer bushes to get a bit more "feel".. but i guess that could be pretty pointless in terms of efficiency. Very well thought out indeed.
- Grip is very good for such a car. Was driving on beaten-up P zeros which offer nothing like the grip of the corsas, especially on a damp day like today. Got some wheelspin on cold tires on 2nd which is normal but the traction on the exit of a corner is very good, esp for a 2 wheel drive car.
Engine
- Was quite interested to see how it would feel to me, since i currently drive a car with a lot more torque/hp. Pleasant surprise there as the feeling of acceleration is quite good for the quoted power numbers and it genuinely feels like it has more torque than 600Nm. Top end power is good too with an effective power band of 5k rpm! This, together with the fast gearbox/weight, must be the reason for the ground breaking perf figures that mclaren has announced.
- Exhaust note. Personally i like it. It is not high pitch like the Ferrari or loud like the Lamborghini cars obviously but its loud enough and purposeful. I am interested in the sports exhaust and at some point i was wondering whether its really necessary..
- Gearbox. Being a manual fan i was also quite worried i would not like the paddleshift but i think mclaren did a good job with this rocker system as it has mechanical feel that really makes you feel involved in the whole process a lot more than other dual-clutch systems. I remember that the downshifts in N mode don't have the "drama" blips of a scuderia or GTO but on track mode they were quick and fun. Upshifts are pretty instantaneous, and so are downshift if you engage the precog system. Basically the reason why Clarkson DID NOT like the paddles is the reason why I LIKED THEM! They feel like you are actually doing sth! If one is lazy then they can put it in auto mode. (did not even try that to be honest)
Handling
- Feels like a light car with a lot of power and good traction, which is obviously a very good thing! You can carry insane speeds at wot on those 4th gear corners at Dunsfold (I think I scared a bit the person next to me.. so he did the same to me on few hot laps at the end!). Was worried about the absence of LSD but the brake steer works well on those tight corners when you come in pretty fast. Tried all modes and obviously the track mode is by far the most fun as it allows you to really place the car on medium and fast corners beyond the limit of traction. And at those moments you get to see the balance of the car; it just holds the line - even when sliding at over 100mls/hr, and just digs in and goes.. I was just trying to imagine how it would be with a new set of Corsas and no passenger next to me.! (yes 80+kgs do a make a difference at those conditions).
On the tight 2nd gear corners though the ESP was interfering, i would rather take it off completely for track use. (yes it is possible but could not try it)
I think that the chassis is definitely capable of taking more power/torque as it really did not get out of shape (and i tried hard!)
- Steering is a tad slow, i would say medium in terms of directness compared with a 458 or GT3. There was a reason for that, as most people would probably prefer that setup as it is less "scary" and definitely safer. I for one would prefer it to be a tad faster..
- Brakes. Only drove the ceramics, stopping power is very very good, even compared to the PCCBs. Never seemed to get tired. Stopping power at the end of the straight was only limited to the tires and the car was always very balanced on the brakes. The weight makes a big difference here. I think with grippier tires the stopping power would be even more impressive.
- Car presence is more understated than say a ferrari 458 or 599GTO but i guess that was the purpose of mclaren anyway. I toured the production line and saw most colour/ interior combinations and I think that with a careful selection of colours/ carbon bits etc one can get closer to this "italian supercar" feeling that some might claim that this car may be missing. I for one saw the combination that i like that I think looks stunning without shouting too much.
PS. I think i ll go with titanium silver (ceramics with orange calipers ) with most carbon options -except vanes- with a black/ carbon interior with orange stiching. You can get more exclusive effect with alcantara and some other dual colour combos, also the orange, black and red (especially) looked really nice imo but not for my intended use. [From a second post]
Verdict- absent any force majeure events, I think I might be getting one!
Part 2
So was thinking about the brief encounter yesterday with the car, was waiting for a long time for a test drive so there was too much to take in during those 30-40 mins in total I got to drive it.
Firstly to answer some of the questions above if I may, there is no turbo noise as such. You get induction noise (esp in track mode where that system transfers the noise in the cabin) and then its exhaust/engine noises. So all in all think sth between an AMG type grunt (a bit more high pitch) and a ferrari screaming at 8k rpm. Very small turbo lag, also response is good, not very sudden. I would actually like even quicker throttle response as well as steering, but all that is personal preference.
Second, yes the car is a daily driver, as it can be driven slow at crap roads. You can probably go shopping, go to long trips or.. to the theatre in this. No bad visibility, long nose to negotiate parking or u-turns, wide track for small roads etc etc.
And yes it handles better than a scud (an scud owner immediately told me this after his test drive) and it is waaaay faster. Also as he said, it is a hell of a lot easier at and beyond the limit, at a damp slippery airfield track with normal P Zeros (not R compount). But also more comfortable and less noisy.. With the scud you are forced to be in huper mode all the time, even at 30 kms/hr, here you get both. Pretty much what all journalists and mclaren marketing material have described.
So I was thinking about yesterday and was trying to find what i did not like. Well one has to admit that yesterday's drive conditions pretty much epitomised the usual downfalls of most sportscars. On crappy B roads at 40mph a performance car jitters, makes funny noises on pot holes etc, it just does not feel right. Also at the limit on a racetrack you almost ALWAYS get some (if not all) of the following; roll, squat under braking, braking fade, understeer, snap oversteer on exit under power, component fatigue etc. To be fair yesterday i did not get any of those.. And i am not comparing my observations to a standard 911tt or ferrari etc. I spend a lot of $$ and effort to improve the above on my car at the detriment of NVH/ noise/comfort and finally got to something that I liked. Well this car did it better to be honest.
And we did not get to drive it on the conditions that most other sports cars thrive on; highway with long corners, or mountain roads with smooth series of corners etc. Only tried it in the worst conditions that traditionally expose a car built for performance.
So why some people think that there is something missing? Well after a long thought my opinion is that the answer is maybe somewhere in the above lines. Usually people are used to compromises; a 430 ferrari makes silly noises at a traffic light and jitters on crap roads but feels great on that perfect road. The 911tt feels better at slow driving and is much quicker and safe up to 8/10s but.. does not feel like a 599GTO or scud when you downshift or corner it on that perfect ride. The GT3RS is fantastic on that perfect road but is maybe too harsh on the bad roads, has a roll cage and that wing! (and imo lacks power and torque).
Here they tried to give it all at the same package. Its not italian, german or even a british kit car (see Noble or TVR). Its a combination I guess of what they liked in all of them without the theatrical performance of the ferrari and lambo - no the italian cars dont need to sound like they do when you drive slowly, or when you downshift. And no they dont have to transfer the engine vibrations in the cabin- these are all features designed on purpose to make you feel like a F1 driver when going slowly. They dont add performance or usability.
And that is maybe what confuses people?
I think the hopefully objective comparisons coming up on magasine reviews will be very interesting..
An additional comment I received through private message from the above writer: As a side note people may not have understood is that this review comes from a user that is driving a (expensively modified) car that is quite a bit faster than the mp4 and also has very good handling capabilities etc. But this Mclaren is a piece of art in so many ways that you can't compare..  So these was no overwhelming sensation of acceleration /speed that most people get from such a fast car. In that way it is quite a bit objective I believe since most users can't get used to the capabilities in such a short time.

Andy C on Ferrarichat
Just got back, [long day for me!,everything 360 has said i concour,] great fun to play with the different modes. On the road auto normal handling and track powertain was fantastic as it gave you the full exhaust sound without having to think too much, on that note I'm now glad I didn't get the sports, it might be a bit much as a daily driver.
Coming to the brakes, I was lucky to spend a lot of time with Chris Goodwin and he was explaining how much work they had put in on the steel rotors and the cooling for them. I rode in both cars today: one with steel, one with ceramic,and as you can imagine they were getting a lot of hammer, I couldn't find a difference between them, and as Chris said they still stop you quicker than a 458.
I also asked him about what he said about the Iris track mode for downloading suspension settings for different tracks, he said that the way the system is set up this was a possibility for the future when they have more time to go to each track to get optimum settings!!!
The Topgear track time! when he said they had beaten the laptime, he meant for cars with doors and a roof, so not the Atom, but the Bugatti Super Sport.
The Ring time they haven't set as the season was finished before the car was signed off,but they know what the car will do because of the sim, which as he said is only a couple of tenths off for formula 1 setups,and he also said he beat the sims time at Dunsfold anyway. They will go later in the season to get a true ring time,but as a team they have to have a cage in it ,so someone might get there first,lets hope one of the german mags.
Two of the guys there had 458s and Scuds, and they both said they wouldn't stand a chance against it, in a different class altogether
None had sports exhausts, Chris goodwin said the inconel exhaust was alot louder in a more metallic way. If that makes sense, you really don't need it as a daily driver, just use track mode on the powertrain. The 458 owners there said they thought over time it was better, as even good as the sound is on the 458, it gets waring over time ,and you wouldn't like to be in the car all the time
The car is alot better in the flesh than any photo, I like the orange, but its maybe a weekend colour rather than a daily driver
The RIDE?? because my trip was so long I took my wife's GT Continental and jumped straight from that into a 12c that we took out on the local B roads, as you would expect it wasn't as comfortable, but not far off, but the big difference was the ride over potholes, which was far better, confusing! Where the GT crashed into them, making the whole car shudder on its suspension (but comfortably) the 12c just rode them. It made you look for potholes to aim at! Lack of sway bars really makes the difference, also [as 360 says] on track/track you can feel every pebble. I must admit the journos have taken the sterile tack a bit to far, but they have to think of something negative.

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3 avril 2011 7 03 /04 /avril /2011 21:00

Site PlanA team led by operations director Alan Foster is also putting the finishing touches to a magnificent new assembly plant (officially dubbed MPC, for McLaren Production Centre) which nestles almost out of view across the lake from the original McLaren Technology Centre, but on the same site.
Foster, a 24-year veteran of car production who acquired his experience at Ford, Toyota and GM before arriving at McLaren in 2005, says it was far from certain at the beginning that McLaren would make the 12C in Woking. “At one stage we had seven options,” he says. “We could have made cars abroad, using businesses like Magna Steyr, or Valmet or Pininfarina.
“Even after we’d decided to do it here – the general feeling was it takes McLaren people to build a McLaren car – we still had two options: to lease a plant or to build one. When we decided to build, we put 18 months into the planning. Ron Dennis had just one instruction: draw me what you need. Of course, we had lots of help from Norman Foster, who designed the original MTC building…”
The celebrated attention to detail for which McLaren Group chief Ron Dennis is renowned came to fore during the late planning stages of the MPC, Alan Foster recalls. “The plan called for an enclosed area 100 metres wide and 200 metres long, all tiled, just like we had in the SLR factory,” he says. “Someone in the company calculated that the 220,000 tiles  needed would reach from the MPC to our new showroom at One Hyde Park, in central London. “Then we had meeting with Ron, and he dropped a bombshell. He decided it needed to be smaller. We’d done all the calculations, and most things had been agreed, so we were quite perplexed, as you can imagine. Then he explained it was only a little change: he wanted to set it all on an 18-metre grid to make it 99 metres by 198 metres. He’d worked out that, based on the size of the tiles and taking the width of grouting into account, the 18-metre grid would mean we didn’t have to cut tiles. It would save three weeks of the tilers’ time and save £50,000 on the tiling…”
Foster describes the MPC as “not expensive” at £40 million (his previous car plant, for GM, cost £180 million). Reasons? Because McLaren’s approach is to be thorough with the initial planning then change very little in the build phase: “The plan is the plan.” It also helps that, like the SLR, the MP4-12C is a hand-built car. Each MP4-12C takes about 20 days to build and is moved along its production path by hand, through 45-minutes assembly cycles. No one should think of the process as primitive, however; McLaren has installed an electronically based check system on all key assembly operations to ensure they are completed exactly as required.

G FloorBasic engines are made in a new McLaren-liveried plant at the South Coast base of the consultancy Ricardo, which assisted with design and development, but are ‘dressed’ for installation (complete with seven-speed McLaren-Graziano twin-clutch gearbox) in a separate operation near the final assembly track. When more models are launched and the plant is working to capacity on two-shifts at 90-100 cars a week, annual production should reach 4500 units. In theory, the plant could run three shifts (and nearly 7000 cars), but both Foster and Dennis are adamant that a third shift is not part of their planning.
The 180,000-square-metre MPC, a relatively simple structure designed to have the same air of designforward modernity as the McLaren technology Centre, has been built with amazing speed. The builders, who needed to excavate around 180,000 cubic meters of earth from the site to lower and level it, broke ground in March 2010. As this is written, Foster says the project is around three weeks ahead of schedule, within £10,000 of budget, will be handed to the company about now, and its 200 personnel should start building cars by the end of May.
McLaren people are all pains to insist that top quality, not sales or production numbers, is their first concern. Foster talks a lot about ‘no faults forward’ production system, and Sheriff reckons the company’s volume aspirations are low enough to prevent any suggestion of forcing cars down the pipeline. No specifics are available just yet, but McLaren reckons it will build cars strictly to order and that it has established demand “for a year or so”. On the marketing side, Sheriff readily acknowledges that McLaren is entering an arena where the long-established, big-name competition sets extremely high standards. Even so, he sees no need for special marketing strategies. “We’re going to tell the truth,” he says. ‘When we say we have a technological lead, it’s the truth. When we cite McLaren’s racing heritage or say we’ll draw on our relationship with the F1 team, it’s the truth. Our approach is to be who we are.
There’s no need to explain the car to people; they get it.”One remarkably successful move has been to equip most dealers with an ‘open’ display model of the MP4-12C – in effect a rolling chassis minus body. The idea wasn’t part of the original plan but evolved when potential dealers and buyers visited the MTC and starting seeing the built-up carbon tubs, with their extruded aluminium structures, suspension and engines. “They’ve become very effective sales tools,’ says Foster. “Practically every dealer wants one.’ /…/ McLaren will have few dealers, but they’ll be very special. They will operate over large areas and “do things very, very well”. Sheriff points to the unique location and image of the London McLaren dealer, opening in the exclusive One Hyde Park complex, as an example of a high-calibre dealership. “We want to be special,” he says. “We won’t be forcing our volume. The healthiest way to operate is to find customers who really want to buy.
“When you analyse customer satisfaction, you find service is far more important than the buying process. And the main driver of service satisfaction is fixing the car first time. So we’re not even going to risk a dealer not having the right parts. Instead, we’ll make sure every dealer has all of the parts of the car, at all times. The only piece we won’t supply instantly is the carbon tub, but then, if your car needs a tub replacement, it’s probably not a candidate for same-day return.”
Training is a vital link in McLaren’s chain of excellence, says Sheriff. The company has already had several dozen sales execs at Woking for training sessions. Why? Because at present sales execs are more important.
Now McLaren is starting on dealers’ service technicians, who are coming to Woking “to see our standard at first hand”.
Sheriff, always a passionate man, is utterly convinced that once the product is right, motivating McLaren Automotive people in every corner of the operation is vital to success. “There’s no magic bullet,” he says. “You achieve success in this business by having the right attitude and using the right approach. Get the spirit of the company right and the right results follow.”

Article published in Autocar special edition dedicated to the MP4-12C

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