First up, the McLaren P1, probably the car I’m most familiar with. And a car I’m still learning. I still love the fact that it looks like an alien warship, its compactness, the fact that it looks as if the bodywork has been shrink-wrapped tight against the structure. I still climb into it and find it comfortable, and love the MonoCage’s ‘skylights’ in the roof. I love the way it starts like a racecar, a rough-edged V8 chainsaw with nothing but murder in mind. I love the fact that it’s as easy as the 650S to drive, that it can punt out of an early-morning garage silently on pure EV, that it works. I love it.
And when you get a short straight, I adore the fact that this car simply snatches the ground away, the fizzes and cracks, the whooshes and snaps, the hisses and chunterings. It’s like a wild animal. The noise of those turbos building, and the force of the acceleration on offer, is astounding. When you lift, and you see the back of the car light briefly as it spits flame from the spade-shaped exhaust, you know it’s serious. It handles, too. There’s delicacy to it, to the ride, and the way it arcs around a corner.
And yet… it’s the car that makes the least sense, here.
Practically, it’s a bit of a handful. Though the hybrid system helps infill the torque curve, this is a car that totally celebrates its turbocharging, and yes, it still gives you a slap of boost when everything gets spinning. This is thrilling - and sounds like a technological apocalypse in the cabin, but out here, on the real roads and with real bumps and cambers and grease and oil, the McLaren makes you concentrate a bit too much. To the point where you don’t get out of it exhilarated, you get out of it with hunched shoulders and a slight headache. Especially with fourth gear wheelspin. When it’s dry, you get more chance to use more of the power, and going faster you do get more use out of the aero - but I didn’t really get to those kind of speeds on the road. And you can’t use the ‘RACE’ full-attack aero mode on the public carriageway anyway. What I’m saying is, although I love the fact that the P1 is a roadcar, it’s got too much of a track bent for me - it’ll shine on track, but I don’t really do that. And if I did, I suspect I’d just buy the track only P1 GT-R and driver training programme. People will say that this car is a pussycat, and that you just need to be a better driver, and yes, if you’re good, you’ll get more out of a P1. I think Ollie will place it first, for instance, because he’s a racer, and therefore lacking the fear gene. But you’ll get more out of it on a track than the road. So it’s not, ultimately, for me.