9

10

Model

Coupe

Price

$398,000

The Numbers

3.8-litre twin turbo, RWD, 459kW, 600Nm, 11.7L/100km, 0-100km/h in 3.3secs, 330km/h max

The Topgear Verdict

An awesome piece of industrial engineering. Less flamboyant than a Ferrari, but equally able.

2013 McLaren MP4-12C Coupe

What is it?

F1 supremo Ron Dennis’s mass-market small supercar to follow the legendary F1. A two-seat, rear-wheel-drive, mid-engined small supercar with bat-wing doors and fairly conservative styling, the 12C (it’s lost the ‘MP4’ bit for 2013) offers something we’ve not seen in the market before: a subtle supercar. That’s not to say the little Mc is in any way soft, however: the 12C is powered by a 3.8-litre bi-turbo V8 that’s been recently enhanced with a power boost to 459kW. This equals 0-100km/h in 3.3 seconds and a higher top speed of 330km/h. It sounds better too, courtesy of enhancements to the ‘Intake Sound Generator’, and can be identified by a greater choice of colours. It does costs a bit more, mind.

Driving

The 12C uses a unique hydraulic anti-roll bar system which combats dive, roll and squat, plus upper and lower wishbones, to give a very mature ride quality. The steering is pin sharp; the way the car stabilises under braking (partially thanks to the airbrake), nothing short of miraculous. And even though you can surf around on the turbo-torque of the engine, when you really push the car to the red line of 8,000rpm, it is sensationally rapid.

And yet there’s something about the 12C that doesn’t give you quite the emotional kick you expect of a supercar, despite recent work to make the exhaust sound frutier. But forget that because it does at least make it devilishly easy to live with.

On the inside

To get inside, you stroke the underside of the windowsill to activate a touch-sensitive pad; there are no doorhandles. Which seems a bit frivolous. But once you get inside, the thing that really impresses about the 12C is the fact that although the interior shies away from the bells’n’whistles approach of other supercars, it still manages to feel neatly special and exciting. There’s exceptional vision, great ergonomics – you really can get comfortable in here – and some interesting telematics from the portrait-style centre console info screen. It’s a car that could be very easily lived-with long-term.

Owning

The McLaren seems to have occupied itself so completely with being supreme on paper that it’s lost a little of the sparkle that makes a really good supercar. Saying that, it provides an exceptional driving experience, and after the initial showing-off period has expired, the 12C might well be the kind of car you come to appreciate after long-term ownership. It’s practical (11L/100km-ish is possible), clean (279g/km is exceptional per kW), comfy and rides well. And the cachet of owning a McLaren cannot be bought cheaply – the base car is $398,000, but a decently specced one can shoot the price up with frightening ease.

Driven: November 07, 2013