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McLaren reveals ultralight MP4-12C supercar

McLaren, has released photos and details of the McLaren MP4-12C, the automaker's first supercar since the iconic McLaren F1 was launched 17 years ago.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
3 min read

The stupidly named, but awesomely styled, McLaren MP4-12C.
McLaren claims that every aspect of the the MP4-12C's design is there to make the car go faster. McLaren Automobiles

McLaren has released photos and details of the McLaren MP4-12C, the automaker's first supercar since the iconic McLaren F1 was launched 17 years ago, not counting the models built in partnership with other automakers.

McLaren MP4-12C revealed--photos

See all photos

The McLaren MP4-12C (or just 12C for short) is an all-new model from McLaren with "no carryover parts from any other car." In plain English, that means there are no Mercedes-Benz components, contrary to early rumors. What the 12C does have is a laundry list of interesting performance technologies, including an innovative Pre-Cog shifter tech that we think will breathe new life into dual-clutch, automated, manual transmissions.

Make the jump for more details and glossy photos.

High power, low weight

Starting with the chassis itself, the 12C is built around a Carbon MonoCell, which is a one-piece carbon fiber structure that forms the vehicle's basic chassis and passenger compartment. The entire structure weighs less than 176 pounds before you start adding body panels, the engine, and metal suspension components--all of which are mounted directly onto the stiff MonoCell structure.

Lightness is always good, especially when it's combined with power. In this case power comes from the McLaren "M838T" 3.8 liter, V8, twin-turbo engine mounted amidships, producing around 600 horsepower and 600 Nm (442 pound-feet) of torque. McLaren makes some big claims about the 12C having the "highest horsepower to CO2 ratio of any car on the market today," but doesn't publish any hard emissions number or estimated mpg ratings.

A new way to shift gears

The engine drives the rear wheels through two wet clutches and a McLaren-developed seven-speed Seamless Shift dual-clutch gearbox (SSG). The SSG offers variable programs ranging from normal, sport, and high performance. There are also modes for automatic, launch control, and winter.

McLaren MP4-12C is down a seat from the F1.
There are two things missing from this picture: a central driver's seat and a shifter stalk. McLaren Automobiles

Gears are changed using Formula 1-style rocker-paddle shifters. The shifters incorporate one of the most interesting bits of tech developed for the 12C, a feature known as Pre-Cog. Pre-Cog allows the driver to preselect the next highest or lowest gear by applying slight pressure to the up- or down-shift paddle, respectively. The system works similarly to prefocusing a shot on a camera by slightly depressing the shutter button. Fully depressing the paddle tells the transmission to go ahead and complete the gear change.

McLaren claims that the Pre-Cog system eliminates the lurch, hesitation, and unpredictability of traditional automated-manual transmission systems. If the system is as good as the automaker claims, it could mean another step towards the death of the traditional manual transmission--which isn't even available as an option for the 12C.

Turning and stopping

Meanwhile, the Proactive Suspension system features normal, sport, and high performance modes that not only affect the adjustable dampers but also the adjustable roll control, which replaces the mechanical antiroll bars with a hydraulic system that helps to keep the chassis flat when cornering, but compliant when necessary to soak up asymmetrical bumps.

A feature called Brake Steer assesses the steering angle to determine the driver's intended course and applies the inside rear brake to increase yaw rate and resume the desired course. The system also works on acceleration out of a corner, slowing the inside wheel to reduce slip and eliminating the need for a limited slip differential. This move saves weight, but most likely reduces the life of the brake pads in the process.

The 12C flashes its Airbrake for the camera.
The 12C uses an Airbrake and Brake Steer to help the supercar turn and stop. McLaren Automobiles

The 12C also features an Active Airbrake similar to the one on the Bugatti Veyron, which deploys under braking to increase drag. The brake also acts as a spoiler and can be adjusted to increase downforce using a switch on the Active Dynamics Panel.

Like its precursor, the McLaren F1, the new McLaren MP4-12C is a midengine supercar. Unlike the three-seat-with-central-driver F1, the 12C has a more traditional two-seat configuration. However, McLaren claims that the 12C's seats are extra close together, which we're sure counts for something. It goes on sale worldwide in early 2011.