We don’t need to go into a long backstory explaining the history of McLaren road cars, we all know how it goes; a British manufacturer with decades of winning F1 experience decided to build their first road car and it ends up being considered still to this day, one of the greatest supercars ever made...the McLaren F1. With just 106 examples produced between 1992 and 1998, McLaren did what few are ever able to do, get it right on the first try. The benchmark was set very high, so high in fact that it took McLaren 13 years before they were satisfied enough with their work to release a second car. The MP4-12C was the follow-up to the infamous F1 and with features like heated seats, dual-zone climate control and the ride comfort of a Rolls Royce, evolved the face of McLaren and proved to the world that it's possible to make a supercar you can drive on a daily basis.
While the F1 started it all, the MP4-12C is really the genetic forefather to the modern-day McLaren’s. If you’ve had the opportunity to spend some time behind the wheel of any of their current line-up (650, 720 etc) you will see where a lot of their styling influence both inside and outside came from. Even at almost ten years old, this car has all the features to uphold modern-day expectations. Featuring a simple layout and unique button placement, the cockpit of the 12C is a unique experience. Climate control is dual-zone and located on each door panel. The infotainment screen floats above the cupholders and is vertically oriented instead of horizontally, below sits the controls for the various modes the car can perform in. Leather and Alcantara adorn the points of contact and the optional carbon fibre package tastefully accents the interior with the sporty material. The seats are firm yet comfortable, offering the right amount of bolstering for support but without being too aggressive, making entry and exit relatively easy even for larger people.
As previously mentioned, a closer look at the 12C will reveal many styling cues you are already familiar with if you know their current line up. Akin to Porsche, McLaren has been able to adapt styling features early on that are not only beautiful to look at but highly functional and putting the 12C beside its mighty modern-day relatives like the 675LT and 720S is all it takes to realize how heavily this car influenced the future of the present-day McLaren design language. Some of the most obvious similarities are the dual exhausts mounted above the license plate, an active aerodynamic rear wing to assist with high speeds and braking and the plexiglass engine bay cover. Just like the current line up, aggressive air vents are positioned behind the doors to allow cold airflow to the engine. To deal with visibility around the wide-body, two large rearview mirrors stick well off the side of the vehicle with a look that has become a signatory of the modern-day McLarens. Selective use of carbon fibre on the exterior gives a more mature look than its modern-day equivalents and helps maintain the overall timeless appearance of the 12C.
As seductive and significant as the 12C looks, it's under the technical light which this car really shines. Starting with the “ProActive Chassis Control”, the car doesn’t use conventional springs and dampers, instead, it employs the use of hydraulic suspension in harmony with ultra-high functioning ECU’s. When the ECU senses the car needs support in a specific corner, its ability to manage what is effectively the spring rate at a moments notice, which is part of the reason why it's able to handle normal roads with such smoothness and ease which in turn makes the car easier to drive more often and especially brilliant on long road trips. All of this can be controlled by the driver with three main settings; normal, sport and track mode. The powertrain is the same. In normal mode, the MP4-12C is quick yet comfortable but if you turn that dial all the way over to track mode, this car becomes an entirely different animal. The 3.8L twin-turbocharged V8 is capable of delivering 592 horsepower and 443 lb/ft of torque. This means the 12C can hit 60 mph from a standstill in a blistering 2.8 seconds and has an official top speed of 207 mph, but many owners have documented proof that it goes faster. Showing a low 13, 648 km (8481 mi) on the odometer, this 12C has been carefully preserved over the years and shows no signs of ageing or wear.
We all knew a kid in high school who had it all, the rare combination of brains and brawn that kept them on the honour roll as well as the starting line-up. The McLaren MPC-12C is that kid. Quietly studious under one set of conditions, this car makes a legitimate argument that it can be driven as a daily commuter with ease, but put it in party mode and you’ll be left wondering how two completely different cars can exist under the same shell.