McLaren MP4-12C 2012 Test Drive
McLaren of San Francisco
McLaren MP4-12C 2012 Test Drive Photos and Stories.
McLaren of San Francisco, Palo Alto, California
Palo Alto Showroom
1997 McLaren F1 GTR 028R chassis # 28R FIA GT
Several weeks ago I had great day and more fun than one person should have behind the wheel of a Porsche. I had signed up for a Hooked On Driving event held at the famed Laguna Seca race track in Monterey California, and spent the day driving around the track just as fast as my driving skills would allow. Then a few days after the HOD event an email arrived from HOD and the local dealer, McLaren of San Francisco in Palo Alto, California, inviting me to an open house and a test drive of the all new 2012 MP4-12C McLaren.
The good times never stops.
My very able host Alessandro Ribola, met us at the door of the dealership and explained the cars on the showroom floor. A 1997 028R chassis # 28R FIA GT car, David Coulthard's 2001 Formula One car, a 2012 MP4-12C rolling chassis, and 2 - 2012 MP4-12C cars, one orange and one white. Outside were 2 more MP4-12C's, gassed up and waiting.
2012 McLaren MP4-12C
The MP4-12C is the first production street car for McLaren. McLaren did a short run of street cars with the very successful F1 GT of which the race ready example was displayed there on the floor. The rolling chassis was a artful example of engineering showing the Carbon MonoCell safety tub with its, no seams or joints, design containing the 2 seats with a magnesium front cross member. The fore and aft frame members were beefy sections for the suspension and engine. Simple. Straight Foreword. Light. Strong.
The engine is McLaren's M838T 3.8L, mid-mounted V8 twin-turbo engine working the rear wheels through a 6 speed paddle shifting automatic trans-axel. Very similar to their F1 race cars.
The MP4-12C is carbon fiber, magnesium, aluminum, and all the other lightweight race car materials.
The design is from wind tunnel and race track experience. The front supplies the high speed down-pressure. The rear has under-tray air tunnels, and the rear deck sports, the now mandatory wing-spoiler, which adjusts with speed to provide down-force at the rear. However the rear-wing also takes a page from the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Le Mans cars. When the on-board computer determines that the car is braking hard from speed, the wing flips and becomes an 'air-brake'. Nice touch.
My turn in the car. Alessandro takes me out on a short 'familiarization' run as he explains the 'workings and settings'. The MP4-12C has several sport and normal settings for the suppression and engine management. Two dials with 3 settings each. Each click gives the car a different personality. The drive can be full auto or shift select with the paddles.
Alessandro turns the car over to me. Unfortunately we are on busy streets and freeway in light traffic. Having this opportunity back on the Laguna Seca track would be more to my liking, given all the switches that gives the MP4-12C its different 'race personalities', but this is after all a street car. The seats and driving position is very nice. Full visibility all around. You could easily take this car out to dinner. The back area behind the seats had room for incidentals and the front storage was available for more.
I found the car simple to drive and easy to move around. The steering was hydraulically assisted and gave back nice road feel, but for my personal tastes, there was a bit too much input required, kind of like maybe, 'dial back on the hydraulics for low speed driving'.
When spooled-up the twin turbos pushed the car as if going into launch speed heading for orbit.
Most car manufactures make cars for running around town and across the country. Then for show or for engineering advancement they try out new ideas on the race track by building race cars. Bruce McLaren, back in the beginning, built race cars so that he could win races, which he did. Then he built other people race cars for the track. Now McLaren car company is building other people race cars for the street. Yes many other automotive companies can say they 'build race cars for the street" but the MP4-12C, is after all a McLaren.