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LaFerrari vs McLaren P1 vs Porsche 918

  1. Twelve people have walked on the moon. At the time of writing, fewer have been lucky enough to drive all three of the physics-pummelling trio of hypercars that constitutes LaFerrari, Porsche 918 and McLaren P1. I’m hugely privileged to say I’m one of them.

    So which is best? In truth, these three cars are so extreme, their constructions so complex, their performance so nuanced yet unique, that to herald a winner would be daft. Not least because to fully explore and appreciate their finer differences will require the stars to align, and all three to be gathered in one place at one time. That’s something I can assure you we’re working on.

    Until that day, though, here are my initial thoughts. First off, the rarified atmosphere in which the LaFerrari, P1 and 918 exist means the issue of ‘which to choose’ probably doesn’t make much sense to their deep-pocketed owners. Safe to say many will have purchased all three, or, if not, chosen their car by the brand with which they most closely identify. And what these cars say about their respective brands speaks very loudly.

  2. TG was first to deliver the verdict on the Son Of F1 late last year, when Jeremy was handed the P1 keys in a very wet Belgium. Following the boss’s time with the car, Associate Editor Tom Ford and I were tasked with delivering the uber-McLaren back from Spa to Woking. What instantly became clear on that journey was that the P1 heralded a new era in performance. It took what we knew about going fast, ripped it into tiny pieces and rewrote it afresh.

    Even so, on the long journey back, Tom and I never grew tired of pressing the e-drive mode and cruising silently with only tyre and wind noise for company. Both the 918 and P1 are plug-in hybrids and both can waft in eerie, electric-only calm down the motorway.

    LaFerrari, in keeping with Maranello’s faster-everywhere philosophy, cannot be plugged into the wall, and refuses to go anywhere silently. Instead the electric power is deployed in conjunction with the V12 the whole time, with the sole aim of making a very fast car even faster.

    That long journey in the P1 demonstrated that the ultimate McLaren had lost none of the ride quality or ease of drivability demonstrated by its little brother 12C. Similarly, LaFerrari’s ability to soak up the worst that Italy’s buckled Strada Provinciale could throw at it was equally impressive, the Ferrari slipping over, rather than crashing across, a sinuous mountain road.

  3. The Porsche weighs 1634kg - more than the P1 and LaFerrari, both of which sneak under 1400kg - and on the roads around the firm’s Weissach proving grounds you’re certainly more conscious of the impact of that extra mass on the 918’s ride and braking. Even so, gone are the days where pursuing the outer limits of performance meant an appointment with the dentist the following week to replace lost fillings.

    Maybe the most impressive thing about this trio is the way they make their blinding performance and engineering sophistication so accessible. Each swaddles its vast performance in a blanket so comforting that, honestly, you could imagine using any one of them as a daily driver, fuel bills and depreciation notwithstanding.

  4. Really. The P1 is as docile and approachable as a 12C in the dry, the LaFerrari no more threatening than a 458, the 918 far friendlier than a 911 GT3. Not something that could be said about any of these cars’ forebears: the F1, Enzo and Carrera GT.

    True, practicality is unlikely to be a prime concern of buyers at this end of the market. If you’ve got the cash for one of these cars, you’ve likely got the cash to employ a chauffeur to follow behind with an S-Class containing your luggage.

  5. But in the ease-of-use stakes, the 918 shines. It’s the only cabrio of the trio and the only one to feature four-wheel drive, rendering it the most useable day to day. It would feel as at home climbing up to your Alpine lair in the depths of winter as cruising, roof removed, along the Italian Riviera. Removing the roof has the added benefit of giving you an intimate audience with the top-exit exhausts of that race-spec V8. And Porsche’s bleeding-edge nav and connectivity tech are simply astonishing, leaving McLaren and Ferrari trailing in its wake.

    It’s also the simplest to drive very, very quickly on the road. The 918’s ability to build speed effortlessly (we saw 176mph on a derestricted autobahn) - acceleration emphasised by its lack of roof and the up-close-and-personal V8 soundtrack - is mesmerising.

  6. But not quite so attention-sharpening as the behaviour of the P1 and its twin-turbo V8 in the wet. On damp Belgian tarmac, exploratory prods of the McLaren’s throttle resulted in wheelspin in fourth, a lot of swearing, an argument and a long conversation about avoiding the highest-profile ‘off’ in car magazine history. And that was with the traction control on. We only drove the Porsche in the dry, but I suspect its AWD would make it far less puckering down the same bit of sodden road.

    Of course, you need a track to get anywhere near the outer limits of these three cars. A mighty big track, as it turns out. Our v-max limit in the LaFerrari was restricted by length of the straight at Ferrari’s Fiorano’s test track, a circuit that feels plenty large enough in most road cars. Not LaFerrari.

  7. As you uncoil the car out of the left-handed Turn 13 and onto the pit straight, it’s truly a struggle to wrap your mind around the combination of speed and sound the LaFerrari dishes out. It feels more… mechanical, more petrolly than the Porsche or McLaren, a sensory overdose dominated by the V12 as it fires its way to that insane 9250rpm redline. The LaFerrari was cracking 162mph on the Fiorano straight, a speed only rivalled by Maranello’s F1 cars.

    Whether you’re on track or road, the LaFerrari doesn’t overcomplicate matters. Handy test-driver Fernando Alonso experimented with dozens of methods for activating the hybrid’s HyKERS electric module, and eventually came to the conclusion that even he couldn’t do it better than LaFerrari’s own brain. So Maranello decided to keep it simple, and allow the car to set its own performance parameters depending on which of the five manettino settings you’ve selected. In other words, if you want everything in the LaFerrari, pin the throttle and you’ll get it.

  8. The 918 is the halfway house between LaFerrari’s you-want-it-you-get-it philosophy and the P1’s configure-everything approach. By twiddling the nondescript dial on the bottom right of the Porsche’s wheel, you can slip from electric mode (for silent cruising), through hybrid mode (where the V8 will activate as required by the throttle input), into sport mode (engine on all the time) and then full-fat race mode (everything-everything). The LaFerrari doesn’t bother with such options.

    The P1, meanwhile, makes much more of a song and dance of engaging max-attack mode, as we discovered after commandeering Lydd airfield in Kent to find just what the McLaren could do with a dry, empty runway. And it can do quite a lot, as it turns out.

  9. McLaren might have a reputation for strait-lacedness, but there’s real drama as the P1 readies itself for a full-bore run. When stationary, the McLaren hunches itself 50mm, and the wing stretches to its full 120mm extension, before you’re ready to launch.

    And what a launch. With a mile and a half of tarmac ahead of you and every drop of petrol and electric power deployed, the P1 catapults at the horizon’s vanishing point with a violence that you feel in every sinew of your being.

  10. If the LaFerrari experience is dominated by the response and staggering sound of the V12, and the 918 is an effortless pursuit of speed with every element of that hugely complex AWD drivetrain working in unison, then launch in the P1 is tyrannised by a wave of midrange torque as the turbos spool up and unleash face-warping savagery. For the record, I ran out of balls and braking distance at 197mph on Lydd’s runway.

    Which is best? Impossible to say. The reality is that the few lucky billionaires who will own all three of these cars will discover a depth of performance they’ll never grow tired of exploring. For one car to so entirely reconfigure our understanding of road-going possibility in the way that every one of the P1, 918 and LaFerrari does would have been extraordinary enough.

    But for all three to have arrived within months of each other suggests we are living in the most extraordinary times. Each is the ultimate articulation of the very best bits of its respective brand. Each is an icon of the future, and it has been an unbelievable privilege to experience every one of them. The automotive landscape shall never be the same again.

  11. Ferrari LaFerrari vs McLaren P1 vs Porsche 918 Spyder: the specs


    Ferrari LaFerrari: 6.3-litre V12 naturally aspirated
    McLaren P1: 3.8-litre bi-turbo V8
    Porsche 918 Spyder: 4.6-litre V8 naturally aspirated

    Engine power:

    Ferrari: 789bhp, 516lb ft
    McLaren: 727bhp, 531lb ft
    Porsche: 608bhp, 389lb ft


    Ferrari: 161bhp, 199lb ft, 330g/km CO2
    McLaren: 176bhp, 192lb ft, 194g/km CO2
    Porsche: 282bhp, 545lb ft, 70g/km CO2

    Combined power:

    Ferrari: 950bhp and over 663lb ft
    McLaren: 903bhp and 664lb ft
    Porsche: 875bhp and 943lb ft


    Ferrari: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel-drive, third-gen E-Diff, EF1-Trac F1 TC
    McLaren: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel-drive, IPAS and DRS
    Porsche: seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel-drive, Hybrid, Sport and Race modes, plus Hot Lap setting


    Ferrari: 265/30 R19 (front) 345/30 R20 (rear)
    McLaren: 265/35 R20 (front) 325/30 R21 (rear)
    Porsche: 265/35 R20 (front) 325/30 R21 (rear)


    Ferrari: 1345kg est
    McLaren: 1395kg
    Porsche: 1634kg


    Ferrari: 2.9s
    McLaren: 2.8s
    Porsche: 2.5s


    Ferrari: 6.9s
    McLaren: 6.8s
    Porsche: 7.2s


    Ferrari: 15s
    McLaren: 16.5s
    Porsche: 19.9s

    Top speed:

    Ferrari: 218mph+
    McLaren: 217mph
    Porsche: 214mph

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