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 616bhp. This equals 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds and a higher top speed of 207mph. 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.
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.
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 (25-ish mpg is possible), clean (279g/km is exceptional per bhp), comfy and rides well. And the cachet of owning a McLaren cannot be bought cheaply – the base car is £176k, but a decently specced one can hit £200k plus with frightening ease.