2014 McLaren 12C Coupe
Heritage can be a big asset in the automotive world, but when a company has some of the best racing engineers in its employ, perhaps it is best to start with a blank sheet of paper. McLaren is in that enviable position. This brand's heritage springs from its racing history, and there is the legendary F1. In the 1990s, it was the supercar ideal, unmarred by overly extravagant styling or any kind of technological compromise.
When the MP4-12C was launched in 2011, it was a fitting tribute to the F1, despite its lower market positioning. Down to its matter-of-fact model designation, it is designed to be a precision tool, the perfect weapon, a surgical instrument to cut through time and space as rapidly as possible.
But some customers found it to be lacking in drama, noise, and effect. The 12C does compete, after all, with the likes of the Ferrari 458 Italia—which comes to battle with three shrieking exhaust pipes and the fussy Manettino driving-mode switch on the steering wheel. To address these concerns, McLaren made a mid-2013 update to the 12C to make it louder, a bit faster, and its Track mode even sharper. The 12C delivers just as before, but does so a bit more emphatically. Those changes continue into 2014.
The twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8—co-developed with engineering-house Ricardo—fires up at the push of a button, and it makes its presence known even at idle. Once pushed, it cannot hide its character as a turbo engine, sounding more subdued and generic than the V-8 engines of AMG and Ferrari, or the V-10s of Audi and Lamborghini. There is the distinct, very 1980s whoosh of the turbochargers, and the 12C does display a whiff of turbo lag. Drivers who wish to mark the corner exit with a precise repositioning of the vehicle's rear end must practice accordingly.
Maximum horsepower is now rated at 616, reached at 7500 rpm; maximum torque is 443 lb-ft, available from 3000 to 7000 rpm. There is so much thrust on hand at any time that it’s easy for the 12C to achieve triple-digit speeds between corners. The sprint from zero to 60 mph takes a mere 2.9 seconds; top speed is 205 mph. Redline is a lofty 8500 rpm. Yet, the 12C is a highly efficient machine; during our drive it reported an average of 15 mpg in mixed driving, and even stretches of 20 mpg on the highway with a very light right foot. The rear spoiler rises and functions as an air brake during hard snubs, a race-car element rarely seen on public road.