Which leaves two more complicated contenders: the
Bugatti Veyron and the Pagani Huayra. Side by side on the strip, the standard
Veyron is very similar to the P1 in terms of acceleration, and the SuperSport
is definitely faster. There, I’ve said it. It wouldn’t leave the P1 for dead,
but the SS has the edge in terms of sheer grunt. Despite weighing 400kg more,
that 300bhp power advantage tells.
But the P1 makes any Veyron feel like an Audi TT
in terms of driver enjoyment. The Veyron has a massive thousand-horsepower,
all-wheel-drive party trick that never gets boring, one that’s even more
addictive in 1200bhp SS flavour. The P1, on the other hand, is intimate in a
way that the Veyron can never be, connected to the driver on a different level.
You pilot a Veyron, but you have to drive a P1.
That ends up being a bit of a double-edged sword.
You can point a Veyron in the right direction and more-or-less just hit it – it
will look after you to a greater extent, and it makes a faintly ludicrous
amount of horsepower not just deployable, but actively useable. But it will
reach a point where it simply understeers and loses focus.
The rear-wheel drive P1 is not so accommodating,
and will take a lot longer to learn to drive to the limit, but will be
infinitely more satisfying once you start to push that particular dangerous
envelope. Around a track or on a winding route, the P1 will be a good deal
further down the road than the Veyron, but the driver will be working harder
and thinking more.
Which kind of brings us to what you want from a
very, very fast car. If you just desire the Top Trumps angle, to be the
‘fastest’, then the Veyron SS is still the king. But if you want to be more
involved in the thrill of it, then the P1 has found a new niche.
You can see where McLaren have gone with the
pitch. Instead of chasing top speed (I reckon the P1 is easily a 250mph car if
de-restricted), the P1 has opted to keep the car relatively light and engineer
for sub-150mph. The extra braking/cooling/aero/stability needed to make a
250mph top speed possible tends to have an adverse effect on other factors. The
P1 makes those differences crystal.
For Jeremy Clarkson’s world exclusive take on
the McLaren P1, you
need this month’s Top Gear magazine, OUT NOW or available to download on iPad