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The Top Gear car review:McLaren P1
For:Sheer velocity, technical achievement, daily driveability, the list goes on…
Against:It'll bite your face off if you treat it with disrespect. And the repair bill will be astronomic. Sold out.
Typical. I get to drive a McLaren P1 and the rain is biblical. It’s also just been Belgium’s first heavy frost of the year, and so the pounding...
What we say:
Terrifying, brilliant, devastatingly quick. There's nothing like the P1. McLaren ups the hypercar stakes
What is it?
McLaren’s £866,000, 903bhp hybrid hypercar that promises to be the most involving car to drive on road and track. That’s a big claim. The heart is the familiar 3.8-litre V8 biturbo that sees duty in the 12C and 650S, but with bigger turbos to produce 727bhp and 531lb ft. The ‘leccy bit pushes out 176bhp and 192lb ft (twice the KERS system on a 2013 F1 car), and handily fills in the torque hole left by turbo lag. It all drives exclusively to the rear wheels via McLaren’s seven-speed twin-clutch, giving 0-62mph in 2.8secs and a quarter mile in 9.8secs @ 152mph. That’s ruddy quick. And it’ll run in pure electric mode when you want to go quietly, and plug in to the mains, too. Neat.
It feels a bit like a beautifully made Lotus, light and agile and clear. The tech all works: press the EV-mode button and the motor dies and you can drive around on just electric (we managed seven miles on the motorway at 80mph in Europe and more in town). And when you let everything off the leash? It’ll shatter your idea of what fast really means. Warp time.
In fact, driving the P1 on the road is an exercise in restraint. If we’re honest you can’t really push the thing and remain legal, because it produces superbike-bashing acceleration and cornering G. The rest of the world just isn’t geared up to cope. Get to a racetrack, engage ‘Race mode’ – a process that takes 30 seconds, as the wing rises and the suspension drops 50mm. You can feel the active aero and all the time, the P1 is feeding information at you, hands, bottom, ears, eyes. It’s flat, no body roll, but – weird word to use – sensual. It’s a thing of beauty, and fear. Utterly brilliant.
On the inside
You can see out of it to reverse thanks to useable rear-view mirrors, and the view ahead is wide-screen. It feels surprisingly small. And unthreatening. And easy. The all-carbon ‘MonoCage’ is bare, and it’s a bit noisy and granular without the optional lightweight carpeting, but it’s ergonomic and comfy. The stereo works, there’s sat-nav, and you can bowl about on pure electric. And when that piston engine, electric motor and induction all chime in under heavy throttle, you get a noise that sounds like the Starship Enterprise being sucked thorough a jet engine. It’s incredible.
You’ll be lucky. Likely to appreciate because of the limited volumes – only 375 have been built and they’re all sold – the P1 is likely to remain a pipedream for all but the lucky few. Saying that, it officially manages 34mpg and you can drive it all day and not break your back. It’ll even do the zero-emissions electric-only running bit in city centres. So yes, we’ll have two.