Living With the McLaren MP4-12C - CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

Uploaded by drive on 22.02.2012




The MP4-12C is quite simply a supercar you could live with
every single day of the year, if you wanted to.

It's a car with heated seats and dual climate control.
And, to be honest with you, the ride
comfort of a Rolls Royce.
But that last bit's a lie, because the last Roller I rode
in didn't ride as well as this supercar.
But it's also a car with an automatic gearbox and such
good forward visibility, you sometimes wonder if you could
see your own feet.

But should people drive supercars every day?
I mean, don't they lose something when they become
comfortable and sanitized?

In being so technically capable, is the MP4-12C
actually less effective as something to sort of rattle
your undergarments when you go for an
occasional drive on a Sunday?
Because that's what you do in a supercar.

Come to think of it, does the world
actually need good supercars?
Aren't they kind of defined by being a bit rubbish, noisy,
hard to see out of, difficult to drive?
Is the MP4-12C kind of not a supercar because it is so good
at going slowly?
Which it is.
Do you know what?
Judged by those point criteria, the MP4-12C is in no
way a real supercar because its dihedral doors open wide
for easy access.
The boot is a decent size for shopping.
And the view behind in these massive mirrors is truly
It's a wide car.
But it's not an intimidating car to drive.
I want to make one proviso there.
It's not intimidating to drive.
But in one respect, this car does feel like a genuine
supercar, even at low speed.
And it's the pedal box.
Sounds strange, but the petals are quite heavily sprung.
They take quite a push, and judging your
inputs takes time.
I'm not saying it's impossible.
But certainly around town, you have to get used to how much
throttle you need to make the car creep off the line.
And you need to just remember how much
brake pressure is required.
Because sometimes it doesn't always correlate with what you
think you need.
It's not difficult.
But it keeps you thinking.
It's not Nissan Micra that happens to do
200 miles an hour.
The other thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the
creep in first gear from stationary.
I'm in first now.
If I let go, the car does get going at quite a rate.
In fact, I would say it kind of creeps like a teenage boy
outside a girl's dormitory when he's about 14 years old.
It's that kind of creep, you know?
But as I said, you get used to it.
In the most part, for a car that can literally scare the
bejeezus out of grown men, this car is offensively easy
to drive at lost speed.

The MP4-12C to mooch around town.
Although you could argue that in terms of disciplines, that
was the most difficult thing it had to conquer.
Making fast cars go slowly is not easy.
But I'm now out on some more open roads.
Truly the MP4-12C is not like any other car I'd ever driven.
It is strange, fascinating, complex, brilliant,
frustrating, all of those adjectives.
But most of all, it's unforgettable.

The reasons for these freakish qualities.
Well, first of all, there's proactive chassis control.
As you probably know, the McLaren doesn't have
conventional springs and dampers.
It does have supports at each corner.
But it's hydraulically suspended.
So effectively, there's hydraulic fluid
linking every corner.
So the car is suspended diagonally and sort of
And it means that every single time one of the ECU spots that
a corner of the car needs support, it can throw extra
support, effectively extra spring rate, at that corner.
Does mean that on the road it gives you this
incredible flat ride.
When I mentioned it riding better than a Rolls Royce, I
really do mean that at this sort of speed--
58 miles an hour on an A road-- where a 458, or a 911
GT3 would be giggling around, this really isn't.
It's just level and flat.
And it makes the car incredibly soothing and
We'll come back to that in a minute.
Because do we want our supercars to be comfortable
and soothing?
Personally, I do.
Because it means that you can enjoy this
car more of the time.
And most of all, you can enjoy it on long journeys.
Now, the chassis is kind of infinitely variable.
But you can choose three settings.
So you can either have it in normal, sport, or track mode.
On the road, normal gives you lovely suppleness.
Move it into sport, and you just get a
little bit more support.
And then move it one more time into track, and you get a very
firm riding card, which I have to say, isn't
necessarily for me.
The powertrain is the same.
It has three settings, normal, sport, and track.
They bring about some big differences.
So at the moment, I've got an automatic car.
I put my foot down.
It kicks down for me and gives me a bit of noise.
If I go to sport mode, I then get paddle shift.
And I also get a lot more noise.
This is what's interesting about this car.
That's when it changes.

It's a pretty remarkable powertrain, this.
3.8 liter, twin turbo V8, little under 600 horsepower,
442 foot pounds of torque.
And it's insanely fast.
0 to 200 miles an hour in a little over six second, 205
flat out, and so much torque.
This is fourth gear.
It just pulls.
It has seven gears.
It needs about three gears.

Remember how there was a geek at everyone's school who one
day completely, without warning, left his computer
screen, bought a bottle of vodka, and cut loose in the
most spectacular fashion imaginable?
Well the MP4-12C is just that character.
Computer optimized to behave like a family hatchback when
it needs to be house-trained.
And then, bang, a frothing monster the moment you twiddle
a few switches and push that long travel
throttle into the carpet.

What is the MP4-12C like at my home circuit, Castle Combe?
That's the first word that springs to mind.
It's the one that sticks with you a bit as well
as you drive it.
It's just incredibly fast.
I've got the car in track mode now.
Less assistance.
Revving out seven eight.
I mean, that's just immensely fast.
In fact, it bears no resemblance to the thing that
was quite happily poodling around the
center of Bristol yesterday.
Listen to that noise!

The motor doesn't really feel turbo charged
when you're up it.
You just pull another gear, gear change into the--
bang, snap.
And away it goes.
It's an animal.
It's just so quick.
I've got lots more support in track mode.
To the right, it's firm.
But the car is agile, wants to change direction.
But there is one big change about this car over the last
time I drove it.
Before, you couldn't really turn the systems off.
Now you can turn the systems off.
And it will do this.

But forget skidding around for a minute.
It's only when you're barrelling into a turn like
tower, third gear a bit too quick.
And you feel the assistance moving around, the support
chaining on the suspension, the traction control working.
So much going on that you think to yourself, hang on a
minute, this car can actually warm my ass.
It can play beautiful music through its Meridian hi-fi.
It can cruise through town.
It's only when you're doing this and you try and remember
just what can do, its breadth of ability that you realize
just how special this car really is.