After finishing the 2012 Sport Auto High Performance Days as the fastest car in the street-legal supercar class, we decided to take a closer look at both the MTM McLaren MP4-12C in particular, and MP4 tuning in general.
The tuning scene for this British sports car is relatively new, and yet anybody who attended this year’s Geneva Auto Show would be very aware the most popular tuned cars were the new Porsche 911 Carrera and the McLaren.
Although new to the scene, the turbocharged MP4-12C is the more likely candidate, and all examples on display had ECU and exhaust upgrades claimed to contribute a further 70-80hp to the head count.
The MTM version we’re driving uses the company’s M-Cantronic system plus a larger downpipe with 200-cell metal cat. Together, they boost output to 680hp at 7500rpm, with 480 lb-ft of torque from 3100-6500rpm. This represents a significant increase over the stock motor that has 592hp at 7000rpm and 440 lb-ft from 3000-7000rpm.
“The ECU remapping is done with our Cantronic piggyback ECU,” Roland Mayer from MTM explained. “It transmits the right signals to the McLaren ECU so it thinks everything is normal and won’t throw any engine check lights or go into limp mode.
“We experimented with 100 and 200-cell metal cats, settling on the latter to achieve the emissions target. The reduced back pressure from our new downpipe and catalytic converter mean the turbo doesn’t spin as fast, reducing the boost pressure.”
“To compensate, we increase boost on the inlet side to achieve the same turbocharger speed as before,” he continued. “Combined with changes to the fuel and ignition maps, the extra boost gave us the power and torque improvement we were looking for. And because the turbo isn’t actually spinning faster, there’s not much extra stress on the components.”
It wasn’t long ago that any road car that could reach 100mph in under 20sec was considered quick, but on a warm summer’s day in Germany we recorded 0-62mph in 3.2sec, with 124mph coming up in 9.3sec in the MTM MP4-12C.
Predictably, traction was an issue when attempting full-bore standing starts and these drag race numbers are similar to the stock cars. But the real improvement is on the fly, where numbers struggle to describe how this car performs when you plant your right foot deep into the carpet.
We had driven a pre-production MP4-12C on a test track more than a year ago and it was quick, but with the wick turned up by MTM, the twin- turbo V8 produces sensational thrust in every gear.
Acceleration from town speeds in second gear is strong, smooth and relentless. And it’s maintained in the successive two gears, where you’re able to exploit the higher 8500rpm rev limit as the engine soars past its peak power at 7500rpm.
Other than its wider wheels, MTM’s McLaren chassis was stock when it ran in the Tuner GP (see report in this issue) but was wearing the tuner’s same lightweight forged wheels that were fitted when we drove it on the road two days before the event.
The staggered set-up used 19x8.5" front and 20x11" rear wheels, wrapped in 235/35 ZR19 and 305/30 ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Despite the car’s success in this guise, the forged wheels were actually a temporary measure until specific forged wheels can be manufactured by BBS.
They might be wider but fortunately the big wheels don’t erode the sedan levels of primary and secondary ride that make the new McLaren sufficiently civilised for daily use.
Despite the wide rubber, we experienced wheelspin in second gear on a dry road under full throttle from 20mph, underlining the exuberant delivery of the mid-range torque.
“We didn’t originally plan to include the McLaren as one of our entries in the Tuner Grand Prix,” said, Roland Mayer. “The car arrived later than expected, and after getting the engine remapped and downpipe fitted, we had no time to optimize the suspension geometry or go testing.
“Unlike a 911 GT3, which allows negative camber adjustment with shims in the lower suspension arms, the McLaren requires about seven hours to change the front camber settings,” Roland explained. “We were surprised to learn this during our discussion with our McLaren dealer, and by the time we finished the engine work and fitted the wider wheels, we’d run out of time.
“So the idea was for our test driver, Florian Gruber, to set a lap time at Hockenheim we could use as a benchmark for later suspension tweaks,” he continued. “This was to be done during practice on Friday, and then the car would simply be displayed in the paddock during the Tuner GP on Saturday. However, the car was lapping fast enough to be a contender in the competition, despite too much understeer on tighter bends like the Sachs Curve.”
After consulting with Florian and the mechanics, the decision was made to enter the McLaren. The officials were notified, paperwork filed, entrance fee paid and the MTM McLaren MP4-12C was allotted starting number 64.
Entered into Class C15 for supercars (forced induction, under 5.0L), the McLaren turned an average lap of 1 min 08.979sec, winning its category and beating the Gumpert Apollo – one of MTM’s main objectives.
Other than a menacing trio of massively powerful supercharged Corvette ZR1s, the MTM McLaren was the fastest street-legal car in the contest; its stock suspension and lack of testing making the class win even more satisfying.
A talented mechanic and professional driver, Gruber reckoned there was another 1.5sec be found with the correct chassis set-up, putting it on pace with the fastest Vette, whose larger capacity put it in a higher class.
Roland admitted the MTM McLaren MP4-12C is in its early stages and that there is more to come. Yet this initial outing has shown the huge potential of the overall package.
The most discreet of the tuned McLarens at Geneva 2012 was the Gemballa GT, which appeared to be the one McLaren representatives were most impressed by…
Its aerodynamic package included a new front bumper with integrated spoiler and larger intakes. As well as side skirts it also had a revised rear panel that radically changed the look of the car – its matte-black center section linking the tail lights and exhaust to the diffuser.
The conversion created a more purposeful car while improving high-speed stability, and all use the factory mounting points.
The Gemballa forged wheels were an inch larger than factory, 20x8.5" front and 21x11" rear, wrapped in 245/30 and 305/25 tires respectively.
When we previously visited Gemballa in early June, engineers were still testing engine upgrades and hadn’t announced any definitive numbers as we went to press. (gemballa.com)
You need to recover from the shock of Sunfire Orange paint before you can appreciate the fender flares plus the carbon front splitter, side skirts, air intake fins, mirrors, roof panel, rear deck and wing.
The fenders are 2.5" wider and accommodate 20x9" and 21x11" ten-spoke forged wheels with 245/30 and 305/25 rubber.
The carbon fiber continues inside, with it decorating the instrument cowl, door pulls, steering wheel and paddle shifters. The orange exterior is echoed by highlights on the seats, dashboard, doors and mats.
Mansory reported ECU and exhaust mods were producing 670hp at 7100rpm with 500 lb-ft from 3000-6500rpm. Top speed is claimed to be 219mph, which is more than adequate for almost any occasion. (rtwmotoring.com)
Company boss Roland Rysanek called his McLaren “Terso”, meaning “clear” in Latin or “smooth” in Spanish. We’re unsure which he intended but the rakish lines are currently the most radical.
The new front and rear sections allow larger intakes and outlets, while the carbon wing is claimed to provide downforce, although a unique mounting system allows rapid removal.
Sized 20x10" and 20x12", FAB Design’s forged wheels are the widest fitted so far and don’t use a staggered diameter. However, they wear enormous 275/25 and 325/30 Dunlop SportMaxx tires.
A stainless steel exhaust and ECU remap is reported to release 680hp and 525 lb-ft, resulting in a claimed 0-62mph time in 3sec with a 213mph top speed. (fab-design.com)
MTM 2012 McLaren MP4-12C
3.8L 32v V8 twin-turbo with MTM M-Cantronic ECU and large-diameter downpipe with 200-cell metal cat
680hp at 7500rpm, 480 lb-ft at 3100-6500rpm
0-62mph 3.2sec, 0-124mph 9.3sec
Drivetrain, Brakes, Suspension
Wheels & Tires
19x8.5" front, 20x11" rear MTM Bimoto forged wheels, 235/35 ZR19 front, 305/30 ZR20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport tires
MTM US importers (mtm-us.com, hoppenmotorsport.com)