September 17, 2010
Mclaren MP4-12C, Supercar in a flannel suit
If a fine man's suit is defined by details and what makes that suit truly special are those details invisible to anyone but the man wearing it, then the Mclaren MP4-12C is the Tom Ford suit of supercars: sharp but not loud, posh but not boring, expensive but not ostentatious, meticulously detailed and appreciated by those hip to it.
CG and I were at the Mclaren NYC premiere last night in a room full of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche owners, the target client in Ron Dennis' ambitious bet of starting a brand new global car company. Not a high margin, artisan business like Pagani but a bona fide car company with dealers, spares, service and long term plans. A titanic endeavor even in good economic times...
More, plus photos and videos after the jump
A dark silver MP4 was there as was a naked chassis, the car's skeleton for all to see. CG and I were especially impressed at how low the twin turbo v8 is mounted, the top of the valve covers is well below the top of the wheels. We were surprised the car does not have adjustable sway bars, like the Porsche GTs but then the 430 Scuderia does not either (EDIT: and it tuns out the MP4 does not have one..see comments). The welds, even the brake pedal, a sculpture in its own right.
The MP4 looks better in person then in pictures, styling more R8 than Lamborghini, subtle but sharp. Paint quality is phenomenal. Cool design details are everywhere, the rear has no visible lights or turn signals, the doors have no latches or switches. Inside the cabin, materials, which will of course be fully customizable, are top quality. Here again, many touches which speak to an obsession with engineering perfection that is so Mclaren. A good example, the reading light switches: not just switches, they are touch activated dimmers.
The touch screen navigation, entertainment, communication console in the center console was not immediately user friendly but then again it's not like I had either time or the manual... Looks great in any case. Shift paddles are on the steering wheel and even the air vents look special, product of months of CFD analysis not doubt. The only non Mclaren like bit? hidden under the center console, a cupholder.
The cabin is small but not crowded. The driving position close to perfect and getting in and out of the car made quite a bit easier by the doors being mounted so far forward. There is ample room for long legs in the passenger seat though exiting with a short skirt and modesty might be mutually exclusive.
How does it sound? good question. We were not allowed to start it but wondered how they were able to meet noise regulation with that tiny exhaust, I guess turbos must quiet things. How does it drive? hopefully we'll find out soon.
Frank Stephenson in his introduction mentioned how working at Mclaren was liberating as he was not burdened by design language and expectations and here, I think, lies the crux of issue: Who will be the Mclaren buyer?
Porsche and Ferrari, have a at least a 60 year head start in the aspirational market. Axis readers will appreciate the technological tour de force that lies beneath the Mclaren flannel suit but, to sell the numbers projected, Working is going to have to convince lotto winners who crash their 458 into trees and Greenwich fundies who buy 911 turbo cabriolets to spring for a car with little name recognition outside of the hardcore and without the obvious bling of a Lamborghini.
That might make winning a Formula 1 championship seem like child's play for Ron "Enzo" Dennis, I'm sure he relishes the challenge.
Thoughts and questions always welcome in the comments.