09 September 2009

McLaren's all-new Ferrari killer

We’ve got all the details on the astonishing McLaren F1 successor, the MP4-12C…

McLaren MP4-12C

See more McLaren MP4-12C pics

The McLaren F1 was the greatest road car of all time - just look what happened when Hammond and the Stig raced one against the Bugatti Veyron. Now its successor, the MP4-12C, has arrived. You should be excited.

Let's start with some numbers. The mid-engined 12C is powered by an all-new 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 with a dry sump and flat-plane crank. It produces 600bhp and 443lb ft of torque, 80 per cent of which is available from less than 2,000rpm. It will weigh just under 1,400kg.

Though McLaren hasn't released any performance figures, a 0-60mph time near three seconds and a top speed in excess of 200mph would seem highly likely. So, yeah, it's going to be fast. Not quite as insanely quick as the original F1, but still... fast.

The 12C is underpinned by a revolutionary new one-piece carbon fibre tub, a brand new piece of technology that weighs in at just 81kg. There's more clever tech on board, too - an all-new seven-speed dual clutch transmission (called SSG) and innovative suspension that does without a conventional anti-roll bar, featuring instead hydraulically inter-connected dampers. Oh, and - just like the original F1 - there's a rear air brake.

What do you think of the looks? True, it's much more... slow-burning than most 600bhp mid-engined sports cars, but McLaren MD Anthony Sheriff says that was exactly the point.

"The structure, layout and packaging were all defined before we put pen to paper," says Sheriff. "We started with an aerodynamic proportions model to see if we could meet the targets we'd set, and created a shape around that."

Designer Frank Stephenson - who joined McLaren in 2008 after a long stint at BMW and a shorter one at Ferrari, Fiat and Alfa Romeo, agrees.

"There's an efficiency to the design of the 12C," says Stephenson. "The shape is not overpowered by styling tricks or elements that don't need to be there. With McLaren it's more technological - there's no styling for styling's sake."

McLaren plans to build around 1000 12Cs each year, with prices expected to start at just under £150,000 - right on Ferrari 458 money. That's a virtual bargain compared to the original F1, which weighed it at over half a million quid even back in 1992.

So... thoughts, please. A worthy successor to the McLaren F1?

Need more convincing? Have a look at this BBC News video.

For even more info, and a raft of exclusive pictures, get hold of this month's Top Gear magazine.

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