McLaren P1 Super Car Details:
- Incredible hybrid power | Active aerodynamics | Active suspension
- V8 engine charges electric motor | 198 lb carbon fiber core | Carbon fiber safety structure
- F1-derived KERS and DRS | Aluminum subframes | Multilayer carbon-ceramic brakes
- 903hp and 664 lb-ft | 0-62mph 2.8sec | 217mph top speed
Electronics: Battery fully charged in under 2 hours | Multiple charging options
+ Pros: Incredible performance | Multiple powertrain modes | Active aero | Good ergonomics | "Race" button
- Cons: 7.5-mile range in EV mode | Super Car Price
A marque's DNA can be measured by its ability to produce a new car that's instantly recognizable as one of its own. The clues lie in how the shape, proportions and details are eloquently described by the design language that's evolved over time. And while mass-market brands seem locked in a relentless course towards interchangeable designs, at the other end of the market, the converse is true.
The latest super sports cars from Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche are the visual and technical epitome of their respective company's heritage and aspirations. In a nutshell, the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder showcase some of the most extreme expressions of design and engineering you're likely to see, and a hint to the production cars of tomorrow.
While all three marques are playing with decks stacked full of aces, McLaren clearly holds the wild super car card. All three have long and illustrious histories in motorsport, but as carmakers, McLaren is definitely the newbie here.
Having less road car history as a reference point isn't a problem for McLaren, whose F1 exploits are the stuff of legends. Playing the maverick has always been good for the British marque, and McLaren chief, Ron Dennis, is the consummate master of the art. It simply makes McLaren the most unpredictable of the three manufacturers.
Just like one of its F1 championship winners, McLaren's first road car, the '92 F1, left the start line on full throttle, winning the '95 Le Mans 24 Hours in spectacular fashion on its first ever outing, snatching first, third, fourth and fifth places. Three years later, the legend grew with the accolade of "fastest production car." McLaren clearly doesn't do things in half measures.
This was crystal clear, as I ran my eyes over the futuristic lines of the McLaren P1 super car sitting on the tarmac at the Bahrain International Circuit. In the warm sunlight, the perfect carbon fiber bodywork displayed its deep metallic purple paint.
To reach this stage, McLaren had to dig deep into the expertise accumulated by its road and race teams, adapting existing technologies and inventing some along the way. The trick was integrating cutting edge ideas into a seamless carbon fiber entity that would be able to raise the bar for a road-legal hyper sports car to an all-time high.
In short, the aim was to not only eclipse the Bugatti Veyron, but also upstage its contemporary rivals such as La Ferrari and the 918 Spyder, which are also playing the new hybrid power game.
The P1 manages its airflow like an aeroplane, both over and through its bodywork, with the McLaren engineers ensuring state-of-the-art performance from both its active and passive aerodynamics. McLaren's chief test driver, Chris Goodwin, explained that the DRS setting alters the rear wing's angle of attack to reduce drag by up to 23%, for example.
Like its F1 predecessor, the P1 is compact by supercar standards. You could even say it appears shrink-wrapped around its mechanicals. Yet as an unashamedly engineering-led design, the P1 is perhaps the ultimate automotive expression of form following function.
Dubbed the MonoCage by McLaren, the 198 lb carbon fiber core is unique to the P1 and quite different from the 12C's. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the core of a Le Mans prototype, the passenger safety cell includes the A-pillars, roof rails, snorkel air intake and special moldings for the IPAS battery and power electronics.
Like all hybrid cars, the P1 has two powertrains. The internal combustion engine is a development of the 3799cc M838T V8 biturbo found in the 12C. Major changes include dry sump lubrication, allowing the engine to be lower in the chassis, as well as larger turbochargers running at 35psi boost pressure. The resulting M383TQ produces 727hp at 7300rpm and 530 lb-ft at 4000rpm.
The electric motor is mounted alongside the V8, produces its own 176hp and 96 lb-ft, while step-up gearing gives it an effective torque of 192 lb-ft. McLaren claims the electric motor produces twice the power of its Formula One KERS unit, and that the lithium-ion battery pack has greater continuous power density compared to anything else available. Weighing 211 lb, the battery sits between the cabin and engine bay, and almost perfectly in the car's center of gravity.
An important difference from other hybrids is that McLaren eschews regenerative braking in the interest of brake response and feel.
As a plug-in hybrid, the P1 can be charged from a wall socket, via a bespoke charger, taking two hours for a full charge or 10min for a top up. Alternatively, there's a "Charge" button on the dash, allowing the V8 to act as a generator.
There are two ways to deploy the electric power. The first is as a standalone source, where the battery alone can move you 7.5 miles and travel up to 99mph, with 0-62mph taking a sedate 9.4sec. However, high-speed travel depletes the batteries very quickly. So the other option is to use the electric motor to boost the V8 in maximum attack mode, engaged by the IPAS button. At this point, the P1 boasts an unfathomable combined maximum output of 906hp and 664 lb-ft. As a result it will hit 62mph in a stunning 2.8sec, 125mph in 6.8sec and 186mph in 16.5sec from a standstill.
Both power sources drive the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. This is the same unit found in the 12C, upgraded for greater torque handling and enhanced cooling. Apart from a larger oil cooler, the unit has two air-blast clutch coolers to control temps.
The claimed 217mph top speed is electronically limited for the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires that are mounted on 19x9" and 20x11.5" forged wheels.
The P1's cabin is an orgy of carbon fiber and alcantara, making for a comfortable, high-grip, low-reflection environment: A perfect blend of spartan, functional luxury that puts the vital controls and dials directly ahead of the driver. The P1's workspace demonstrates perfect ergonomic design and the art of carbon fiber used as a structural material.
At normal speeds, the P1 is a pussycat; both docile and comfortable. Laid-back cruising can lull you into a false sense of security, because when you drop the hammer, the contrast is mind-blowing.
All the torque is very tempting and, like a junkie, once you've experienced the sound of the V8 and the awesome thrust towards the horizon, you keep wanting more.
The power steering is moderately light but has plenty of feel, just like the 12C. While the brakes are simply incredible - they're from Akebono, McLaren's F1 partner, and use a new type of carbon-ceramic rotor capable of absorbing 50% more heat energy than existing systems.
By itself, the twin-turbo V8 engine can appear to stumble at times, displaying a modicum of turbo lag, especially in the higher gears. But with its peak torque available from zero revs, the electric motor fills the gaps very efficiently.
Two rotary switches on the center console allow you to adjust the handling and powertrain application, with each notch shifting the balance more towards the racetrack.
If you have 30sec to spare, push the "Race" button and the P1 changes character completely. The active suspension collapses to the tarmac, the spring rate goes up 300% and the rear wing extends all the way, neatly blocking your rearward vision.
At this point, the P1 takes you to the edge. The maximum aero pins the car to the tarmac, while the boosted powertrain flings you at the landscape. It's both incredible and ridiculous at the same time, yet there's little doubt even an experienced driver would get into trouble on the first lap if they use Race mode straight off the blocks. It's something you need to work up to...
Experienced international racer, Chris Goodwin, explained the McLaren P1 has more raw speed and is more fun to drive than many purebred racecars. "Last summer I spent two weeks with the P1 on the Nordschleife, and drove a 12C GT3 in the 24 Hours of Spa race," Chris recalled. "The GT3 was so much slower than the P1, making it perhaps the most boring 24 hours of my life!"
The McLaren P1 should be on sale later this year, built to order, with approximately 375 available (significantly more than the limited edition F1) and all suspected to have been pre-sold. Prices are rumored to be anything from $1.1 to $1.5 million, but the value can only increase over time.
2014 McLaren P1
Layout longitudinal mid-engine, RWD
Engine 3799cc V8 twin-turbo gasoline engine with variable valve timing plus a lightweight electric motor
Drivetrain seven-speed SSG dual-clutch transmission
Brakes six-piston calipers, 390mm Akebono carbon-ceramic rotors f, four-piston calipers, 380mm rotors r
Suspension RaceActive chassis control
Wheels & Tires 19x9" f, 20x11.5" r forged wheels, 245/35 ZR19 f, 315/30 ZR20 r Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires
Exterior carbon fiber MonoCage structure with aluminum subframes front and rear, active aerodynamics with Drag Reduction System and underbody flaps
V8 max power 727hp at 7300rpm
V8 max torque 530 lb-ft at 4000rpm
Electric max power 176hp
Electric max torque 96 lb-ft
Combined max power 903hp
Combined max torque 664 lb-ft
Top speed 217mph (limited)
Weight 3197 lb
Economy 28.3mpg combined (estimated)