So what does the name of McLaren's latest offering stand for?, that would probably be one of many questions McLaren enthusiasts will ask about the new car. "MP4" is a designation that's been used by every F1 car built by McLaren ever since 1981, and has therefore been included to pay homage to the machines of years gone by. "12" represents the efficiency coefficient of the new car, where as "C" represents the carbon-fibre fits.
The McLaren Mercedes Benz SLR was the last car to be built at McLaren's Woking factory. While the SLR was aggresively designed, great sounding, and fast but any standards, it arrived to the market in 2003 where it was met with plenty of scepticism. First of all, it had to fill in the void left by the legendary McLaren F1, a car considered by many to be the best performance car of the 1990s. Secondly, being a joint-venture with Mercedes-Benz, many feared it would end up feeling too much like a Mercedes saloon. Some of those fears were confirmed when the SLR only came with an automatic transmission, handling that wasn't as involving or responsive as the F1, and weighing some 600 kilos more than the F1.
So with production of the SLR having ended, McLaren is now aiming to regain some of the glory the F1 had brought them with the MP4-12C.It must be said that the MP4-12C shares no parts at all with the outgoing SLR, but it must also be said that McLaren is aiming to steal potential customers of the Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, rather than, say, the Bugatti Veyron. And with an expected price tag of between £125,000 and £175,000, McLaren is set to be very competitive especially when you consider the ingredients used to make the MP4-12C.
Many people were expecting McLaren's new car to receive a reworked version of Mercedes-AMG's 6.2l V8 engine. The MP4-12C has an all new 3.8l twin-turbo V8 (codename M838T) developed by McLaren, capable of producing around 600hp and 600nm of torque (about 442 lb ft). The engine is dry-sumped and consists of a flat-plane crankshaft enabling the engine to be placed very low down the chassis. The new powerplant also has a key characteristic of low-displacement flat plane crank V8s, namely high revs, and in this case the unit will spin all the way to 8500rpm. The engine is connected to a seven speed dual-clutch transmission (called Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox-SSG) channeling drive to the rear wheels.
McLaren has yet to release any performance details, but they have stated that the MP4-12C will be available at dealer networks begining early 2011. With less involvement from Mercedes-Benz, it might be safe to say that McLaren will have shifted their focus back to creating one of the fastest point to point machines while keeping the driver constantly dialled in the process. The MP4-12C is certainly set to give Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini owners a run for their money, now all we have to see is if it will recapture some of the magic the F1 offered.
Jay Leno has been extremely quick to get a first hand glimpse of what's to be expected. Check out the video below.