Today we find ourselves in a unique situation as car fans. Usually, about once every decade, the big guns in performance cars decide the time has come to produce a halo car that embodies the latest technologies. These mythical beasts get us petrol heads all excited with the likes of Porsche Carrera GT and the Ferrari Enzo being pure dreams brought into the world of reality. But before those two, the biblical McLaren F1 was, and in some was remained, king of the hill. Porsche has now introduced the the 918 Spyder as the first of this new breed of hybrid “hyper car.” The Enzo has been succeeded by LaFerrari, quite the machine. Over 20 years after the F1 and McLaren has brought the P1 to the road. Never before have we seen such a royal selection of machines come to the frontline in such close proximity. Today we were lucky enough to explore the McLaren P1.
It is one of the worlds most unique objects to behold as your eyes become transfixed on this alien shape. Sculpted by the wind tunnel, the P1 may well be a case of form follows function but my god it looks great! In the metal, or in the case carbon, it is smaller than it appears in pictures. Every curve, contour and intake serves an aerodynamic or mechanical purpose. This car, number 001, was finished in an imperial white with contrasting black carbon detailing. Narrow headlights form a piercing stair analysing what may lay ahead. Bonnet nostrils prominently surround the black McLaren logo that sits like a jewel on its nose. Bright “McLaren orange” brake callipers hint at the past whilst drawing attention to the cars mirror finished brake discs. Apparently they are more than capable of withstanding the cars entire lifetime. Around the back the change in elevation for body panels is extreme. Its concave rear creates plenty of downforce even with the vast spoiler retracted. A single exhaust exit large enough to be mistaken for an artillery cannon dominates the rear aesthetic.
Opening the A-pillar hinged doors is reminiscent of a swan taking flight as this proud creature spreads its wings. Step over the high carbon fibre sill and feel the carbon race seats hug you tightly. For a car of this caliber visibility is excellent. Not only does the fighter jet-like canopy let plenty of light in, but it also allows for fantastic vision. Naked carbon fibre makes up the cockpit and McLaren signature centre console. A perfectly proportioned steering wheel plays home to the IPAS power boost and DRS drag reduction buttons. The seating position is spot on with the wheel aimed squarely at your chest whilst you sit low in the car.
Over your right shoulder, all McLaren P1’s are left hand drive, lives a twin-turbocharged 3.8 litre V8 engine. Paired with its electric motors the total output for the McLaren P1 is 903BHP and 722lb ft of torque. Actions speak louder than words and so this British masterpiece goes to work with a 0-62MPH time of 2.8 seconds, 0-124MPH in just 6.8 seconds and 0-186MPH in an almost unbelievable 16.5 seconds. Why did McLaren go hybrid? As Formula One has proven, there is indeed a performance gain to be had with an electric power boost. The immediate torque of an electric motor can fill the gap until the V8 comes into play. Turbo lag is nonexistent in this car. With battery power onboard the P1 can also run in an emissions free mode. Combined this car can achieve 34MPG.
The McLaren P1 has three modes; normal, sport and race. In normal the cars suspension is at its most compliant for everyday road use. Sport turns the wick up by lowing the ride hight and increasing throttle response. However, it is this cars race mode that separates it from not only its competitors, but also any other road car that has gone before it. Toggle race and the whole car drops by 50mm, the suspension is set to its most aggressive setting, the rear spoiler deploys and the whole engine is set to maximum attack. There is a race car rivalling 600KG of downforce on offer whilst the P1 is in this state. This mode transforms the car so dramatically that it is no longer road legal whilst in race.
This car is not only one of the greatest pieces of engineering in the automotive world, but a staggering achievement in what the human spirit is capable of when presented with a challenge. Its is a celebration, a blood sweat and tears achievement of overcoming the binds of physics. I am running out of words to describe this Earth shattering McLaren. It is a milestone moment in the automotive landscape and guess what… It’s built in Britain.