Having recently formed its own independent automotive division, the British maker of the iconic F1 (1993-1998) and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (2003-2008) has finally revealed its first supercar, the McLaren MP4-12C. The two-seater mid-engine model has been developed in-house, meaning that it features no carryover parts from any other car, and will be produced by McLaren in the UK with sales expected to begin in early 2011.
At the heart of the bespoke McLaren is a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine that delivers "around 600 horsepower and 600Nm or 443 lb-ft", with 80 per cent of torque available below 2,000rpm. The engine drives the rear wheels through two wet clutches and a McLaren-developed seven speed Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox (SSG).
Performance figures haven't been released yet but expect a zero to 60mph - 100km/h sprint time under 4,0 seconds and a top speed of around 200 mph - 320km/h.
McLaren's engineers did their best to keep the MP4-12C's weight as low as possible and even though the company did not issue a kerbweight figure, it did say that the supercar features a one-piece carbon fibre chassis structure called Carbon MonoCell that weighs in at a mere 80kg or 176 pounds and is dressed in lightweight aluminum and plastic body panels.
The suspension is based on double wishbones with coil springs while the four adjustable dampers are interconnected hydraulically. There are three suspension modes - normal, sport and high performance, which adjust numerous parameters in the system.
The MP4-12C gets the usual suite of electronic aids that include ABS, ESP, ASR traction control, Electronic Brake Distribution, Hill Hold and Brake Steer that applies the inside rear brake as the car corners.
As with the F1 supercar and the SLR, McLarens's supercar model gets a rear-deck mounted airbrake that deploys hydraulically under braking, or when the driver wants to trim the car for increased downforce by using a switch on the Active Dynamics Panel.
In terms of styling, the MP4-12C is no stunner and is definitely far less extravagant that many of its rivals like the recently introduced Ferrari F458 Italia. But if we are to believe the firm's design director Frank Stephenson, the man responsible for the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and Alfa Romeo Mi.To, the design of the 12C was clearly led by aerodynamics.
"All the fins, vents and the flat underbody are there for a reason. No styling addenda have been incorporated for appeal or style alone," said Stephenson. "This aerodynamic purity explains why this car can hit top speed with great stability without resorting to tea tray wings or deep front air dams. I really feel that the styling communicates the 12C's engineering integrity and technical benefits and it is this purity that makes the design timeless."
The same, straightforward design philosophy is also evident in the car's cabin. McLaren claims that the interior is "extremely space efficient" and is designed to accommodate "98th percentile adults in comfort".
"With the interior, we have created a real step forward in the packaging of a sports car," says Stephenson. "Moving the driver and passenger closer together improves driving control and moving the pedals improves the problem of wheel well intrusion. We also repackaged many of the major components that normally sit under the dashboard to allow for more space and a unique form. Packaging is one of the 12C's really strong points."
According to McLaren, early planning indicates that half of the MP4-12C's sales will be evenly split between the UK and the USA with the remainder to the rest of the world, notably Germany and mainland Europe, the Middle East and some Far Eastern countries.