McLaren MP4-12C - Click above for high-res image gallery
It takes a lot to stand out during Monterey Car Week, yet one vehicle that came up in nearly every conversation was the McLaren MP4-12C. Making its first appearance since debuting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this year, the MP4-12C was trotted out for prospective buyers and champagne-slurping journalists adjacent to Pebble Beach's photogenic 18th hole so those of us in the States could finally see what the fuss is about.
If you're not already up on the stats, here's the pertinent information: The MP4-12C packs a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 mounted amidships, with 600 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque delivered to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. And this isn't an off-the-shelf drivetrain from another automaker - the entire car, from the engine to the window controls has been developed in-house. The result is a 2,800-pound exotic that - on paper - has the potential to rule the segment.
We spent nearly two hours poking and prodding the 12C, all while interviewing McLaren's Managing Director, Antony Sheriff. He answered our questions, laughed at our stupid jokes and came equipped with an encyclopedic knowledge of nearly every facet of McLaren's new baby.
But more than the power and the looks, it's the 12C's overall concept and execution that stuck with us. Rather than go with an aluminum spaceframe, McLaren opted for a carbon fiber monocoque weighing a mere 176 pounds. An aluminum structure is mounted fore and aft, and the body work is simply draped over the structure to aid aerodynamics. Nobody does this. (And we now want a bare chassis to mount on our wall).
Get inside and it's obvious that the act of driving is the sole focus. The seats are molded to the individual buyer's body, the steering wheel is infinitely adjustable, the tachometer sits front and center with two configurable displays flanking it. The paddle shifters work like a camera shutter switch: hold the downshift paddle halfway, the gearbox recognizes you're about to select the next gear, dials it up and as soon as you pull back past the detent, it engages. And the headroom. We wouldn't be surprised if the McLaren had more of the stuff than a Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Other interesting tidbits: You can option the 12C with a three-camera video recording system to document your on-track antics. Carbon composite brakes are optional, but unless you're heading to the track every weekend, the steel units are said to stop the 12C in the same distance (and don't squeal). Three wheel options are available - forged, lightweight forged or ultra-lightweight - the latter of which came into being after McLaren execs told the engineering team to just design the lightest wheel possible - they didn't care what it looked like. We saw them on the concept car lawn at Pebble and the ten-spoke design looks fantastic.
There's much more, but we'll let our interview with Sheriff take it from here. And if you're interested, McLaren plans to make a total of 1,000 MP4-12Cs next year, with sales in the U.S. beginning in August. McLaren hasn't announced pricing, but we expect something in the $250,000 range. Hit the jump for the interview and check out our two high-res galleries below.
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Gallery: McLaren MP4-12C Bare Chassis