The UK has always been home to specialist car manufacturers: the late, lamented Bristol produced some wild and wacky models across the years, not least the stunning Bristol Fighter, and like it or not, Morgan continues to sell its hand built models to a loyal band of enthusiasts. When it comes to 21st century design and technology, however, it is difficult to beat McLaren. Emerging from the success of the McLaren Formula One team – 50 years old next year – McLaren Automotive changed the world of supercars with the revelation of the still sensational McLaren F1 in 1992. It is hoping to do so again with this, the McLaren P1, a car that promises to take things to another level entirely. Since Lamborghini arguably started the ball rolling with the first ‘real’ supercar – the glorious if ultimately flawed Miura from 1966 – automobile manufacturers have continually pushed the boundaries in the search for more performance. The benchmark, in terms of numbers, is clearly the Bugatti Veyron, but it is arguable that the McLaren F1 is a more revered proposition. So how is McLaren intending to improve on what is widely regarded as a masterpiece?
McLaren P1 – A Concept Looking for Production
The P1 will make its world debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show. It is interesting to note that this is the first time McLaren Automotive has taken a stand at a major international show. Officially, the McLaren P1 remains a design study, but unlike the one off McLaren X-1, it is no secret that the intention is to take the P1 into full production. Rumours suggest that a target of 500 cars is the intended production run, but it is worth bearing in mind that just over 100 F1’s made up the total production run of that model. McLaren has revealed little about the car, instead relying on drip-feeding the press with snippets of information, but there is much that we can say about the machine from what we already know. The car is not, we are told, intended to be faster than a Veyron, but to be ‘the best driver’s car in the world on road and track’. At a projected £800,000 ($1,300,000 at the time of writing) that is no less than one should expect.
McLaren P1 – Dramatic Scene Stealer
One thing is for certain: the McLaren P1 will turn heads wherever it goes. Reading comments on the pictures so far released it is easy to say that the styling has divided opinion. Something as dramatic and outlandish as this was always going to do so. There are hints of the F1 in the side profile, and many styling cues taken from the McLaren MP4-12C, but the rear end treatment is as wild and sensational as any current supercar, and heavily influenced – as is expected from McLaren – by aerodynamics. The show car – at least the one in the pictures – is in two tone orange (McLaren’s traditional launch colour) and black; the black areas are those dictated by the aerodynamic needs, the orange as designed by Frank Stephenson, who has gone for a fluid and surprisingly organic design. Is it beautiful? That’s a matter of opinion: in the images provided it looks purposeful and aggressive, and while the McLaren F1 was certainly a beautiful car, the P1 is clearly more influenced by technology than styling. Still, it is better looking than a Pagani Zonda, and – to the eyes of this writer – much more so than the Bugatti Veyron.
McLaren P1 – Technologically Advanced
McLaren is not a company to shy away from advances in technology: its racing arm has helped develop some innovative systems over the years. Indeed, McLaren boss Ron Dennis says that the P1 is ‘the result of 50 years of racing and road car heritage. Twenty years ago, we raised the supercar performance bar with the McLaren F1 and our goal with P1 is to redefine it once again.’ It is a bold claim, but not one that is without foundation. If anyone can take the supercar to a new level, it is McLaren. Details are sketchy, but we do know the following: the McLaren P1 will use a version of the carbon-fibre Monocell that is a key to the MP4-12c’s design. It is said to weigh less than 1300kg, and features advanced side skirts and a rear diffuser for aerodynamic efficiency, advanced damping and active ride control systems, and we expect many more innovative and advanced technological systems to form part of this cars armoury. It is, quite simply, one of the most futuristic vehicles ever made.
McLaren P1 – The Ultimate Supercar?
A few words from Andrew Sheriff, the managing director of the project: “Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed but to be the quickest and most rewarding series-production road car on a circuit. It is the true test of a supercar’s all-around ability and a much more important technical statement. It will be the most exciting, most capable, most technologically advanced and most dynamically accomplished supercar ever made.” With the engine expected to be a version of the V8 found in the MP4-12C, twin turbocharged and providing around 800bhp, the McLaren P1 is rumoured to have smashed the lap record at Silverstone for a road-legal car. The power will be augmented by an advanced KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) as used in F1, providing an extra 160bhp for short periods. Figures being bandied about are a top speed of 239mph (384km/h) and a 0-60mph (100km/h) time of less than three seconds. These are all impressive figures that any road car would be proud of. There is also the rumour about the windows, which are said to be made from a specially developed acrylic material rather than glass. The idea is that rain will simply roll of, negating the need for windscreen wipers. We suspect that this may be illegal in most markets but still, only McLaren would go to that much detail. So, is the McLaren P1 the ultimate supercar? As it is, in pre-production form, it’s not fair to say, but if this machine does go into production, and if all the stories about it are true, it will most certainly be the most advanced and outrageous supercar in the world.