McLarenfor its MP4-12C supercar earlier this year, and most recently brought the car to California so we could get a look.
Along with the car, which a McLaren representative said was 98-percent production ready, McLaren also put an open chassis on display to show off the MP4-12C's construction. The cockpit is housed in a thick carbon fiber tub, with aluminum suspension pieces bolted on front and rear. As these pieces make up the structural elements of the car, the body panels work for aerodynamics, not rigidity.
McLaren boasts that its carbon fiber production techniques are refined to the point that it can produce one of these tubs in four hours. The design of bolting suspension pieces to the tub was learned from racing, where a damaged front or rear suspension piece can quickly be replaced. McLaren said that in front crash testing of the MP4-12C the carbon fiber tub was undamaged, and even the windshield came through unscathed.
For the MP4-12C, McLaren posts a very conservative estimate that its 0-to-60 mph time will be under 4 seconds, with top speed over 200 mph. Those performance figures are very likely considering that the car weighs only 2,866 pounds, but uses a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8 generating 592 horsepower.
McLaren, like Ferrari, focuses on building race cars for international competition. The difference between the two companies has been that Ferrari relied on a continuous stream of production car sales to support its racing efforts. McLaren mostly relied on sponsorships. But with tougher economic times, McLaren is turning to production cars as a new revenue stream.
The MP4-12C will have a limited production run of 1,000 units per year from the company's Woking, U.K., plant. Only 300 of these cars are slated for U.S. import, with a price somewhere between $225K and $240K.