around 600 hp
157.9 hp per liter
(from McLaren Press
Release) McLaren Automotive Introduces the McLaren MP4-12C
The first in a range of high performance sports cars from the home
of the worlds most successful racing car company
McLaren MP4-12C set to re-write the rules of sports car design
through Formula 1-inspired engineering, revolutionary chassis
architecture, and absolute focus on efficiency
Legendary McLaren F1 inspires concept; 21st century demands drive
McLaren MP4-12C execution
McLaren MP4-12C represents pure McLaren; from unique engineering
to bespoke design where everything is for a reason
The McLaren MP4-12C is revealed as the first in a range of
high-performance sports cars from McLaren Automotive, the
independent car division based at the McLaren Technology Centre in
Woking, England. The 12C, and future models within the range, will
challenge the worlds best sports cars, benefiting from the
expertise and virtuosity of the McLaren Group.
Twenty years of sports car design, engineering and production
combined with inspirational success in Formula 1 have driven Ron
Dennis, McLaren Automotive Chairman, to announce his plans for the
ultimate line-up of technology-led and customer-focused performance
cars for the 21st century. The rules in the sports car world are
about to be re-written.
Through a rich modern history, McLarens automotive division has
already built the worlds most critically acclaimed supercar, the
McLaren F1 (1993-1998) and the worlds best-selling luxury supercar,
the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (2003-2009). McLaren Automotive now
looks to the future with a new range of revolutionary sports cars.
It is a long-held dream of mine to launch a range of high
performance sports cars that set new standards in the industry,
We began designing and building cars for aficionados of
thoroughbred sports cars almost 20 years ago. Incorporating the
leading edge technologies that the McLaren Group has built up within
its various companies, I believe we are now perfectly placed to open
up this new chapter in McLarens history as well as play a part in
the regeneration of high-tech manufacturing in the UK and global
automotive environment, he concluded.
At its heart, the McLaren MP4-12C features a revolutionary carbon
fibre chassis structure, the Carbon MonoCell: the first time a car
in this market segment is based around such a strong and lightweight
racing car engineering solution and the first time any car has ever
featured a one-piece carbon fibre structure.
This step change in sports car design means that the 12C introduces
new standards not just in handling, ride and outright performance,
but also safety, economy and practicality in an already competitive
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal of McLarens racing team
highlighted the integral part that McLarens motorsport and road car
experience played in developing the 12C: McLaren has for years
offered a potent mix of race car and road car technologies. This
combination of McLarens performance heritage, and future demands on
what is expected of high performance sports cars in the 21st
century, gave us a head-start when we embarked on this project. The
12C, and future variants, draws on the spirit of Formula 1 and
delivers real-world technological advances.
The first car from the new company, the McLaren MP4-12C, is a high
performance two-seat mid-engine model in the core sports car
market segment for cars costing between £125,000 and £175,000. The
12C is pure McLaren, featuring no carryover parts from any other
car, and will be produced by McLaren in the UK. It goes on sale
through a dedicated, worldwide retailer network in early 2011.
McLaren is already a car maker with maturity and experience, having
produced iconic cars such as the F1, said Antony Sheriff, McLaren
Automotive Managing Director.
The next step was to construct a range of pure McLaren high
performance sports cars that are true to the companys philosophy
and reflect our position as an absolute technology and performance
leader. So, when we embarked on the 12C project, we wanted to
re-write the rules of sports car design. Indeed, the 12C offers
performance and technology that exceeds that of the worlds most
expensive and sophisticated supercars, while competing in a much
more accessible market segment. And to achieve this result, we
designed every component from scratch to meet the extreme goals of
the 12C and avoid any compromise.
Forget what you know about sports car companies, McLaren is
different, he concluded.
The heart of the new car
is the Carbon MonoCell. McLaren pioneered the use of carbon
composite construction in the 1981 Formula 1 MP4/1 model and set a
trend that all Formula 1 teams have followed. The company brought
carbon fibre to road cars for the first time with the 1993 McLaren
F1 and then built on this experience with a carbon fibre chassis and
body on the SLR manufactured to the same exacting standards, but in
So, until now, carbon chassis have remained the preserve of the most
expensive exotic cars; a purchase for the super-rich where costs are
driven by the complexity of carbon fibre chassis design and build.
The 12C changes this by introducing the advantages of carbon
composite - light weight, high strength and torsional rigidity, and
longevity to a more affordable sector through its revolutionary
engineering as a one-piece moulding. Never before has a carbon fibre
chassis been produced this way.
The 12C MonoCell not only brings dynamic benefits, but also offers
fundamental engineering opportunities that form the basis of the
cars unique character. It has been designed to allow a much
narrower structure overall which in turn contributes to a more
compact car that is easier to position on the road and more
rewarding to drive.
Not only is the 12C unique in its class by offering carbon
technology, it also has the highest specific power output as well as
extraordinary power- and torque-to-weight ratios. Furthermore, the
Proactive Chassis Control system offers groundbreaking handling and
ride comfort while an intense focus on occupant packaging offers new
levels of comfort and everyday usability.
Antony Sheriff explained. With the 12C we are redefining the
relationship between performance and practicality, as well as
performance and efficiency, achieving leading positions in both. We
have designed this car from the inside out. We have a saying in
McLaren everything for a reason and the 12C will surprise people
in many ways.
A clear illustration of its special qualities is in the efficiency
of its power delivery. With the 12Cs power output of around 600hp
and its low CO2 emissions, it delivers the highest horsepower to CO2
ratio of any car on the market today with an internal combustion
engine...and that includes petrol and diesel hybrids, Sheriff
All the parts of the
McLaren MP4-12C are bespoke and unique to this car. Everything from
the engine right down to the tailor-made switches and buttons is
pure McLaren: nothing has come from another manufacturers parts
The 12C is powered by a bespoke McLaren M838T 3.8 litre, V8
twin-turbo engine producing around 600bhp, driving through a McLaren
seven speed Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox (SSG). It is
targeting not only new standards for power and performance in its
sector, but also class-leading fuel economy and CO2 emissions;
supported by McLarens experience of active aerodynamics to aid
cooling, grip, handling and road holding.
The 12C is all about performance, said Sheriff. And in McLaren,
we have a very broad definition of performance. We dont just look
at the traditional one-dimensional parameters like top speed, we
focus equally on useable measures such as in-gear acceleration
times, braking performance in all conditions, and efficiency of
power delivery combined with the lowest possible fuel consumption
and CO2 emissions. Sure, 12C is very fast, but it is also the most
efficient, most driveable high-performance sports car in the world.
In the more subjective areas of road-holding, handling, comfort,
driver involvement and day-to-day usability, McLaren is achieving
new standards for a mid-engined high performance sports car in this
sector, he concluded.
Thorough engineering and market research led to concept development
and a clear decision in favour of a mid-engined two door high
performance sports car. Intensive work was carried out in the wind
tunnel and the driving simulator to ensure that the new car would
inherently have superb dynamic qualities.
Dick Glover, McLaren Automotive Technical Director, was closely
involved with the development of these invaluable tools during his
time with McLarens Formula 1 race team.
There are so many examples of race car process and technology
transfer in the 12C, claimed Glover. The car owes much to
McLarens experience and success in motor sport. The advantage of
technology transfer is only one element; speed of decision-making
and development, F1 processes and people all make an important
Brake Steer, for example, is a technology we pioneered on our
Formula 1 car back in 1997. It helps to dial out understeer on entry
to a corner and improves traction on the way out. Another is the
Pre-Cog function on the gearshift rocker that effectively primes the
gearbox ready for the next change, ensuring a more satisfying and
faster gearchange. This is a high performance sports car with race
car genes and teamwork at its heart.
Weight is the enemy of
performance in every area of car design. It affects acceleration,
speed, handling, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions everything.
McLaren Automotive engineers pursued weight saving obsessively. For
-- The Carbon
MonoCell not only reduces the weight of the structure but also
allows for the use of much lighter weight body panels.
-- The close position of the driver and passenger allows a
narrower, lighter body while giving improved visibility with a
clearer perception of the cars extremities.
-- Brakes with forged aluminium hubs save 8 kg and weigh less
than optional carbon ceramic brakes.
-- Lightweight exhaust pipes exit straight out the rear of the
car, minimizing their length and weight.
-- Airflow-assisted Airbrake deployment dramatically reduces
weight of the Airbrake activation system.
-- Small, compact downsized engine coupled to lightweight
compact SSG minimizes vehicle length, weight and polar moment of
-- Significant weight was pared off the alloy wheels through
intensive Finite Element Analysis of wall thicknesses.
The engine cooling
radiators were mounted at the rear, as close to the engine as
possible, to minimize the pipework, the fluids contained within
them, and therefore weight. They were also mounted in car line to
minimize vehicle width.
We have spent most of
the programme adding lightness, said Mark Vinnels, McLaren
Automotive Programme Director. If the cost of reducing weight
brought performance gains in speed, handling or economy, we did it.
However, if the expense could deliver improved performance elsewhere
we didnt pursue it. We never set weight targets as such; we set
cost-to-performance targets and examined everything in this way.
A good example of this philosophy is that we considered carbon
fibre body panels. They would have reduced weight but added little
benefit as the new one-piece Carbon MonoCell provides all of the
torsional strength the body needs. The costs saved were used
elsewhere for greater weight reduction and efficiencies overall.
This was the holistic approach to weight saving that we used all the
way through development, he concluded.
Design: everything for a reason
The McLaren MP4-12C
design follows similar principles to McLarens Formula 1 cars, and
the legendary McLaren F1, where everything is for a reason and all
lines, surfaces, and details are designed with a job in mind as much
as styled. This ensures that the 12C communicates its engineering
through its styling and will remain timeless as a piece of
Frank Stephenson, McLaren Automotive Design Director: Many sports
cars and super cars present an in-your-face, look-at-me image
that can become wearing and boorish; the ultimate backhanded
compliment becomes, it was of its time. Great design, however, is
timeless and looks relevant years later. Take the McLaren F1 as an
example. I hope that with the 12C we have produced a car that looks
great today and will still look great in years to come.
The 12Cs body has been styled to support sector-leading levels of
downforce; downforce that then subsequently contributes to
sector-leading levels of lateral grip and stability. Air flow has
been manically managed to support all performance figures and light
weight targets. For example, placing the radiators adjacent to the
engine keeps the car narrow and reduces weight. However, this
results in a huge challenge of ensuring ample air flow to the
radiators. The result? The large side air scoops and integrated
turning vanes that are dramatic, but purely functional. No larger or
smaller than required.
The designers challenge is to then take that styling purpose driven
by engineering aspirations and add personality. Thats why the air
scoops resemble the McLaren logo in form, as do other features
around the car.
Just two pure lines flow round the car and, when combined with the
integration of several dramatic convex and concave surfaces, present
a car that looks compact, low and well proportioned.
The market opportunity for McLaren
I am confident that now
is the right time for McLaren Automotive to become a full line high
performance sports car manufacturer, stated Ron Dennis.
Worldwide demand for high performance cars is strong, in large part
because of great cars from great competitors. With McLaren joining
that list, it will grow stronger still. What we are offering is a
new approach to the market, through a skilled, solid, debt-free and
risk-managed company. McLaren is right to take this step now and
support future growth of high-technology manufacturing and
engineering jobs in the UK, Dennis declared.
The market for high performance sports cars has grown substantially
since the turn of the century. McLaren divides the market into
segments that encompass both more comfortorientated GT cars and the
hard-edged supercars for road and track use.
The core segment runs from around £125,000 to £175,000 featuring
such cars as the Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Gallardo, Porsche 911
Turbo, Bentley Continental GT and Aston Martin DB9. A second segment
is the high category with prices ranging from 175,000 to 250,000
and consists largely of front-engined GT cars such as Ferraris 599
GTB and 612, with just one mid-engined contender, the Lamborghini
The final segment is the ultimate group, a sector more or less
initiated by the McLaren F1 in 1993 and now populated by a select
group of cars including the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Bugatti
Veyron, and cars from the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg that
followed legends such as the Porsche Carrera GT and Ferrari Enzo. In
2011, McLaren will bring technology and performance exclusive to
this ultimate sector into the core segment.
Although the recent economic downturn has affected the performance
car sector, just as it has the entire motor industry, McLaren
Automotive believes that the core segments growth from 8,000
sales in 2000 to more than 28,000 in 2007 highlights the potential
that exists and that it will soon return to at least 2007 levels.
By the time the 12C is launched in 2011 we expect the economic
conditions to be much improved. We have already seen significant
interest in the car and the supply of the 12C will be relatively
scarce; in its first year we plan to produce just 1,000 cars which
represents only 3.5 per cent of the core market, explained Antony
We have created ground-breaking new technology, lightweight
engineering solutions, and harnessed real-world motor racing
applications. It brings new levels of performance, fuel efficiency
and practicality to the 12Cs segment. And it will be more exclusive
than its principal competition with a price that reflects its lack
of ubiquity, he said.
McLaren Automotive will distribute the 12C and future models through
a brand-new retail network in all global markets.
Exclusivity, exquisite design and a passionate focus on delivering a
wonderful ownership experience will ensure that the small number of
retailers around the world are taking on an attractive new brand.
This approach will drive excellent customer service and a virtuous
circle that retains McLaren customers and brings in new converts as
the range expands.
McLaren MP4-12C - whats in a
The name of the new
McLaren sports car is MP4-12C.
What does this signify? As one might expect at McLaren, everything
has a purpose and the nomenclature is no exception.
-- MP4 has been
the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars since
1981. It stands for McLaren Project 4, resulting from the merger
of Ron Dennis Project 4 organisation with McLaren.
-- The 12 refers to McLarens internal Vehicle Performance
Index through which it rates key performance criteria both for
competitors and for its own cars. The criteria combine power,
weight, emissions, and aerodynamic efficiency. The coalition of
all these values delivers an overall performance index that has
been used as a benchmark throughout the cars development.
-- The C refers to Carbon, highlighting the unique application
of carbon fibre technology to the future range of McLaren sports
The elements of this
name represent everything that the McLaren MP4-12C stands for:
-- MP4 represents
the racing bloodline
-- 12 represents the focus on complete performance and
-- C represents the revolutionary Carbon MonoCell
We are very proud of
the McLaren MP4-12C and all the teamwork, intelligent thought and
sheer effort that have gone into developing this car. What drives
people at McLaren is passion if you cut them, they bleed McLaren.
And there is no doubt in my mind that the 12C fully reflects that
focus, drive and determination in its performance, style and
ownership potential, said Ron Dennis, McLaren Automotive Chairman.
This is the start of an
exciting new chapter in McLarens history, in British
high-technology engineering and manufacturing, and in global sports
car design. We aim to be the best, but will leave that ultimate
judgement to our first customers in 2011. Until then, we will strive
to put one name at the top of the most wanted list for buyers of
high performance sports cars: McLaren, he concluded.
The McLaren MP4-12C: inside and
out, and in detail
A carbon fibre heart
Light weight and
performance are defining philosophies at McLaren. But outright power
alone is of little significance if a cars weight saps output or if
that power is unmanageable and compromises the driving experience or
results in unacceptable emissions.
Fundamentally, it is critical to keep weight as low as possible.
Increased customer demands for safety and advanced features all mean
that shaving weight is ever more difficult. However, at McLaren
saving weight remains a passion and at the heart of the McLaren
MP4-12C is a carbon fibre composite chassis: the Carbon MonoCell.
This revolutionary structure is the automotive version of a McLaren
innovation that started with Formula 1 back in 1981 and delivers
both weight savings and performance gains. It is a technology
cascade in which McLaren brought carbon composite technology from
the aerospace industry to make the MP4/1 F1 car, the first Formula 1
car to benefit from the strength, weight and safety of carbon fibre.
McLarens Formula 1 carbon fibre technology then offered the company
the opportunity of applying its expertise to road car applications.
The first ever road car to be constructed of this material was the
McLaren F1 produced in 1993, albeit in small numbers. The F1 was
followed by the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren that also shared this rare
Only a handful of other cars in the market offer such technology
today and all of them lie in the ultimate segment. No manufacturer
has brought the advantages of carbon composite technology to a more
affordable sector of the market. But the 12C does, through
engineering passion and a relentless pursuit of efficiency.
So, McLaren did it first with the F1, the worlds fastest car for
many years, then in the highest volume with SLR, which almost
doubled the volume of the next highest produced carbon fibre-based
high performance sports car by selling over 2,100 units. Now,
through revolutionary one-piece moulding of the MonoCell, McLaren
brings a carbon composite chassis down to the core category, where
currently only traditional metal structures are offered.
The advantages this technology brings are light weight, high
torsional rigidity, a very strong safety cell, low perishability,
ease of repair and extreme dimensional accuracy.
The 12C MonoCell weighs less than 80 kg. Carbon fibre contributes to
the cars low overall weight and it forms the structural basis for
the whole car. The tubs torsional rigidity is considerably stiffer
than a comparable alloy structure.
This inherent lack of flex means the unique front suspension system,
which is mounted directly onto the MonoCell, requires less
compromise for flex of the suspension itself. Therefore, it is
easier to develop the unique balance between fine ride and precise
handling that McLaren has targeted. The MonoCell also offers greater
occupant safety. It acts as a safety survival cell, as it does for a
Formula 1 car.
Carbon composites do not degrade over time like metal structures
that fatigue. One is able to get into a 15-year-old McLaren F1 and
there is none of the tiredness or lack of structural integrity that
afflicts traditional cars that have suffered a hard life. The 12C
will feel as good as new in this respect for decades.
And in the event of an accident, the light weight aluminium alloy
front and rear structures are designed to absorb impact forces in a
crash and can be replaced relatively easily. Aluminium extrusions
and castings are jig welded into the finished assembly and bolted
directly to the MonoCell. Cars with full aluminium chassis use their
structure to absorb and crumple on impact, which implies more
fundamental damage (and expense) to the whole structure, including
the passenger cell, in a major accident.
McLaren has pioneered a new carbon fibre production process that
allows the MonoCell to be produced to exacting quality standards, in
a single piece, in only four hours, compared to the dozens of carbon
components (and dozens of production hours) that normally feature in
a carbon fibre chassis structure. This naturally brings huge
efficiency and quality benefits. The MonoCell project is managed by
Claudio Santoni, McLaren Automotive Body Structures Function
It was clear that we needed to develop a car with a carbon fibre
structure. After all, McLaren has never made a car with a metal
chassis! said Santoni.
The whole 12C project is based on the concept of the MonoCell. This
means that McLaren can launch into the market with greater
performance than our rivals and a safer structure. To put it into
perspective, if the costs and complexity of producing a McLaren F1
carbon fibre chassis are taken as a factor of 100, the 12C chassis
production costs are reduced to a factor of seven or eight, without
degrading the strength or quality of the carbon fibre structure. And
this step-change in technology could make its way into more
mainstream cars, he concluded.
Getting the production process right is the result of five years of
extensive research. Now that the process is perfected, it allows
McLaren to produce the MonoCell repeatedly at very high quality.
Not many people in the automobile world work to standards demanded
by the aerospace industry, claimed Mark Vinnels, McLaren Automotive
Our ability to analyse and predict the performance of carbon fibre
is in line with aerospace technology and is truly world class,
particularly in the sense of predicting failure, which is obviously
key in managing crash events and passive safety.
We can now predict failure levels at individual ply level in the
carbon composite and the results are absolutely correlating with
what we predicted, he concluded.
The finished MonoCell emerges in one piece and this new process
could revolutionise car design. It avoids the need to bond different
parts to make the whole structure, as with all other carbon fibre
cars. It is hollow, saving further weight, and the integrity of
production ensures the location of suspension and ancillaries is
accurate to the finest of tolerances.
Powertrain: pure McLaren
The McLaren MP4-12C is
powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.8 litre 90 V8 engine the
M838T. This marks the start of a new era in core segment sports
cars smaller capacity, lighter weight, higher efficiency and more
economical power units. The engine has the highest specific power
output in its segment which, when allied to its low weight carbon
composite chassis, delivers exemplary power- and torque-to-weight
M838T is a unique McLaren power unit, developed specifically for
the 12C. It is compact, lightweight, very stiff, and offers an
uncompromising combination of very high performance and good
driveability, with excellent economy and CO2 emission values.
Taking power and emissions in combination (measured by its
horsepower to CO2 ratio), the 12C delivers its power at greater
efficiency than any other car on the market with an internal
combustion engine, including hybrids.
M838T features dual variable valve timing and produces around
600bhp and 600Nm of torque. A dry sump and flat plane crankshaft
allow the engine to be placed extremely low in the chassis thereby
lowering the centre of gravity and improving handling responses. It
also features composite cam covers and intake manifolds, which
reduce weight and heat transmission into the charge air, as well as
Nikasil-coated aluminium liners for further weight reduction.
The McLaren engine revs to 8,500rpm, has quick transient throttle
response and delivers its abundant torque throughout the rev range.
A staggering 80 per cent of torque is available at below 2,000rpm,
ensuring great driveability and no need to floor the throttle to
And it delivers a great soundtrack to highlight the engines
performance, flexibility and driveability. The sound of the engine
has been thoroughly engineered through exhaust manifold design and
tuning of the exhaust and intake systems to deliver a unique engine
The high level exhaust pipes exit through a mixing box, rather than
a conventional and heavy silencer box. All parts of the exhaust
system up to the mixing box feature sandwich layer heat-shielding
that helps reduce heat from the engine bay. In just an 18mm gap,
exhaust gas temperatures reduce from 900C to 300C.
The engine drives the rear wheels through two wet clutches and a
McLaren-developed seven speed Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox (SSG).
The Seamless Shift technology offers variable programmes ranging
from normal for road use and sport for quicker changes still,
right up to a lightning quick high performance mode. In addition an
automatic mode, launch control and winter modes can be
selected, the latter changing all electronic functions to suit low
friction conditions and delivering maximum driver aid and support.
There is no traditional manual transmission offered; the two pedal
layout offered further scope to create a narrow, and therefore
The 12Cs SSG is a development on the automated and sequential
manual gearboxes with paddle shifts that proliferate in the car
market today. The character of the transmission will engage even
experienced drivers with its responsiveness and its contribution to
the whole dynamic package.
With minimal torque loss, there is none of the lurch, hesitation or
unpredictability that characterise traditional automated-manual
Design of the SSG system was driven by a demanding mechanical
package that not only reduced weight and improved dynamic control
for the entire vehicle, but also delivered driver benefits.
It is lightweight and compact in design and positioned in exactly
the best location. The input shaft lies very close to the output
shaft to help position the entire powertrain low in the vehicle.
Twin secondary shafts ensure any rear axle weight overhang is
minimised and rear crash performance is uncompromised. The bespoke
SSG is further complemented by an entirely new control system.
This obsessive attention to detail comes as second nature to McLaren,
but is not just there to satisfy the engineers passions. McLarens
designers have also engineered the system to work seamlessly with
The system reduces weight and benefits packaging targets, but also
ensures that driving programmes and shift strategies take the
drivers own inputs and uses them to directly control the engines
torque and speed to deliver performance, economy or comfort as
Gears are changed using a Formula 1 style rocker shift that pivots
in the centre of the steering wheel. It is actuated on either side
of the steering wheel (pulling right changes up, pulling left down).
As with the McLaren Formula 1 car, a shift can be actuated either by
pulling or by pushing on the rocker. The rocker moves with the
steering wheel, rather than being mounted on the steering column, so
that if a gearchange is needed while lock is being applied the
driver does not have to fumble around to change gear.
The rocker itself incorporates an innovative feature created by
McLaren engineers called Pre-Cog. The name stands for pre-cognition,
literally foreknowledge. The rocker on the 12C has two positions
with a slightly different haptic (or feel) for each. The driver
applies first pressure to the rocker and it informs the gearbox to
get ready to swap ratios, thereby saving time latency between
the message being sent and the gearbox being primed to act. The
second pressure confirms that the gear should be changed and the
torque handover is completed in milliseconds.
What Pre-Cog actually does is initiate the shift process by priming
the clutch and torque handover it takes significant time out of
the process, explained Dick Glover, Technical Director McLaren
Its a little bit like the first pressure on a camera shutter
button. Theres no requirement for the driver to use it but it is
more satisfying and engaging if you do. The SSG also promotes
seamless shifting in which the driver doesnt have to reduce engine
power at all rather than the gearshift slowing you down, it
actually speeds the car up by recovering the energy of the crank
spinning as it drops engine speed, he said.
In practice the latency of the shift is virtually zero, the actual
gear change time is very fast and the level of impulse can be varied
according to the gearbox mode. Considering that McLaren was the
first Formula 1 team to introduce seamless shift gearchanges into
motor racing, it was a natural step to develop such a bespoke
transmission to its sports car project.
Chassis: Proactive control
The suspension for the
McLaren MP4-12C breaks new ground, offering hitherto unseen levels
of roll control and grip (an almost flat cornering attitude,
depending on the programme selected).
Although such track-like responses would normally imply a rock-hard
ride, the 12C delivers compliance and ride comfort more akin to an
executive saloon car. The mix of occupant cosseting and sporting
potential is truly unique. The 12C offers the driver both
class-leading ride comfort and class-leading performance.
The whole chassis package produces not only a unique relationship
between ride and handling, but also astonishing lateral grip and
outstanding traction. The 12C is poised and balanced whether
negotiating high or low speed corners, during direction changes,
under heavy or light braking and on tightening or opening corners.
The trick behind blending such opposing objectives lies in the
innovative Proactive Chassis Control system, uncompromised geometry,
and weight distribution.
The suspension is based on double wishbones with coil springs. The
dampers are interconnected hydraulically and provide adaptive
responses depending on both road conditions and driver preference.
The Proactive system features adjustable roll control which replaces
the mechanical anti-roll bars that have been a standard feature of
road cars since time immemorial. It allows the car to maintain
precise roll control under heavy cornering while decoupling the
suspension in a straight line for excellent wheel articulation and
There are three suspension modes that are selected on the Active
Dynamics Panel. As with the powertrain adjustment, there is a
normal, a sport mode and a high performance mode which adjusts
numerous parameters in the system.
Not only is the Proactive suspension a unique application that
delivers absolute benefits to driver and passenger, but it is also
another example of McLarens drive to achieve all-round performance
goals from core engineering targets.
For example, the unique blend of a compliant ride with ultra-sharp
handling also delivers ownership benefits as it protects suspension
bushes from wear and tear, with McLarens research suggesting a
potential for up to ten times more mileage than on some competitor
cars. Also, the hydraulic pump that supports the dampers is the same
pump that supports the electro-hydraulic steering system. Why use
two pumps when one - small and lightweight - pump will do?
The powertrain packaging also contributes to the 12Cs handling
The engine is mounted low down in order to lower the centre of
gravity while the radiators are rear-mounted and reduce weight by
saving on long piping to and from the engine (and the fluids they
would hold). The value of rear-mounted radiators is key to the 12Cs
handling and balance. The more weight that can be concentrated
within the wheelbase and towards the centre of gravity, the lower
the polar moment of inertia, thereby improving corner turn in.
Another feature that helps the 12C to handle at a new level is a
development of an electronic system used by McLarens 1997 MP4/12
Formula 1 car, Brake Steer. In essence, it is a system that brakes
the inside rear wheel when the car is entering a corner too quickly
to make the desired radius. Under normal circumstances the front
would wash away wide of the apex the driver wants to touch: in other
words, the car is in a state of understeer.
Brake Steer manages the tendency of a car to wash out and brings its
nose back on line. It assesses the steering angle to determine the
drivers intended course and applies the inside rear brake to
increase yaw rate and resume the desired course.
The system also works on acceleration out of a corner when the
inside rear has a tendency to spin, allowing the driver to put power
down more quickly. It controls what a limited slip differential
would do and obviates the need for such a complex and heavy unit,
thus saving more valuable kilos.
The standard brakes for the 12C reduce overall vehicle and unsprung
mass. McLaren has developed a composite braking system that uses a
forged aluminium bell that attaches to the cast iron disc. This
solution maintained the excellent brake feel of a cast iron disc
while saving 8 kg. Carbon ceramic brakes will be available as an
option, offering fade-free braking performance during high
performance driving, but the standard composite brake system is
actually lighter than the larger carbon ceramic units.
The design of the standard cast alloy wheels (19 front, 20 rear)
was driven by McLarens light weight objectives: the light weight
styling was agreed in concept, then the wheel was tuned using Finite
Element Analysis to take a further 4 kg out of the wheels. Bespoke
Pirelli tyres have been developed in conjunction with McLaren
specifically for the 12C.
An array of electronic aids is fitted to the 12C that will assist
and protect the less-experienced driver, or when conditions
challenge even the best. These include ABS, ESP, ASR traction
control, Electronic Brake Distribution, Hill Hold and Brake Steer.
The level of intervention varies according to the handling mode
Design: everything for a reason
The McLaren MP4-12C has
been designed around a demanding mechanical package that puts
emphasis on aerodynamics, compact dimensions, performance and
efficiency, practicality and comfort. Although the design of the 12C
was driven by aerodynamics, it aims to remain contemporary and
elegant throughout its lifetime as well as distinctive among its
Frank Stephenson, McLaren Automotive Design Director, helped
finalise the design: Like most designers its a boyhood dream to
work with high performance sports cars. They are the purest
expression of speed and purpose and, with increased consumer demand
in this market and environmental aims to the fore, offer designers
the ultimate challenge.
The 12C design was therefore led by aerodynamics. At McLaren we have
been able to use the Formula 1 techniques and the huge expertise
that the company has amassed at the pinnacle of the sport,
All the fins, vents and the flat underbody are there for a reason.
No styling addenda have been incorporated for appeal or style alone.
This aerodynamic purity explains why this car can hit top speed with
great stability without resorting to tea tray wings or deep front
air dams. I really feel that the styling communicates the 12Cs
engineering integrity and technical benefits and it is this purity
that makes the design timeless.
The overall design theme supports engineering aerodynamic ambitions.
Purity of lines then give the car its character. Successful car
design is based on proportions and McLarens styling team, whilst
driven by the demands of the purest airflow, honed a mix of concave
and convex surfaces that present balanced proportions and a feeling
of lightness. Nothing is out of place on the car and surfaces
interact smoothly and with purpose; surfaces that are integrated
into the whole of the car along two continuous lines that flow round
The front is very low since it does not have to house large engine
cooling radiators, two of which are mounted longitudinally at the
sides. This offers the added benefit of segment-leading space for
storage under the bonnet.
The 12Cs face is dominated by large and distinctive air intakes and
bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights inspired by the form of
the McLaren logo. The McLaren logo itself also graces the bonnet of
a car for the first time.
Illumination from the running lights bleeds into three distinctive
gills just above the headlamps. The windscreen is deep and low for
superb forward visibility and redolent of the McLaren F1: in wet
weather it is swept by a single weight-saving pantograph wiper
blade, as was the F1.
Stephenson again: The 12C does not reproduce the F1 design but it
unashamedly builds on its functionally-driven engineering and design
highlights such as the large, deep windscreen and the low cowl to
give the driver good visibility for accurate placement on the road.
Any similarities are there for a reason.
From the side, the 12C cannot be mistaken for another sports car.
The dominant side air inlets act as turning vanes and help direct
cooling air over the side radiators. This shape was designed and
optimised using McLarens extensive computational fluid dynamics
capability. Likewise, the scalloped shoulders drive airflow to the
airbrake, thereby enhancing its effectiveness in the aerodynamic
The other prevailing design characteristics are the dihedral doors
(a hereditary gene from the McLaren F1), which has a clear purpose,
like every other element of McLarens design ethos.
The concept of dihedral doors is simply to allow the driver and
passenger to get into and out of the car as easily as possible as
well as allowing a smaller door opening than would otherwise be
The simple act of moving the door forward and upwards invites the
driver to step across the sill and sit in the car more easily. In
tighter parking situations, dihedral doors allow ingress and egress
in a situation where another car has parked too closely. In
traditional door systems a huge parking space is necessary to permit
the doors to open wide enough.
With its single hinge, the dihedral doors offer weight-saving
features and are unique to the McLaren brand. As is the unique
handle-free door entry system.
The 12Cs rear is unique. It has an aggressive, business-like
appearance with its downforce-optimised rear diffuser. The exhaust
pipes exit high and in the centre of the car and the rear end is
open to ensure efficient evacuation of hot air from the engine bay.
The engine itself is visible through the top deck. The LED tail
light clusters do not dominate the rear and are hidden behind
horizontal black bars. They are only visible when illuminated: the
two upper bars light up as LED brake lights and turn indicators.
Aerodynamic efficiency drove the 12Cs design. High downforce helps
maintain traction, cornering ability and stability while low drag
aids top speed and acceleration. It has a completely flat underbody
and smooth upper body surfaces to yield a highly effective drag
coefficient and generate very high levels of balanced downforce at
A nose splitter gives more downforce at the front while guide vanes
near the front and rear wheels help to increase downforce with
minimal drag penalty and direct air towards the all-important
diffuser at the rear.
The active Airbrake is another innovation that made its debut on the
F1 supercar and was also incorporated into the SLR. It deploys
hydraulically under braking, or when the driver wants to trim the
car for increased downforce by using a switch on the Active Dynamics
Under braking, a piston operated by transmission hydraulics raises
the Airbrake to a certain angle. Once a small amount of wing angle
is pushed into the airflow, the centre of aerodynamic pressure
forces the bottom of the wing back. In this way, it raises the
airbrake to maximum angle using the free airflow rather than
relying on another mechanical device.
The Airbrake moves the centre of pressure of the 12C rearwards,
whereas it would normally move forward under braking. It improves
yaw stability under braking and allows the brakes to work more
effectively due to increased downforce. It is also a weight-saving
solution that took almost 50 per cent of weight out of the
Overall, the 12C is lower, shorter and narrower than key
competitors, but has much shorter front and rear overhangs due to
its longer wheelbase a layout that promotes stability and assists
Inside: it all starts with the
fundamental to the McLaren MP4-12C design challenge. Externally, the
car had to be compact, yet internally it had to offer an
unparalleled driver and passenger environment where comfort and
driving enjoyment at all levels were not compromised.
With the interior, we have created a real step forward in the
packaging of a sports car. Moving the driver and passenger closer
together improves driving control and moving the pedals improves the
problem of wheel well intrusion. We also repackaged many of the
major components that normally sit under the dashboard to allow for
more space and a unique form. Packaging is one of the 12Cs really
strong points, said Frank Stephenson.
But the creativity of the interior design itself aimed to set new
standards. The whole focus is on making the 12C cockpit a uniquely
comfortable and functional space. The design offers a symmetry that
wraps around the occupants and makes them feel not only physically,
but also emotionally comfortable.
The interior is extremely space efficient and is designed to
accommodate 98th percentile adults in comfort. This has been partly
achieved by the 7 inch touch screen telematics system oriented in
portrait mode. This is a first for the automotive industry and is
more intuitive than landscape orientation we read down a page
and our mobile telephones and other personal information devices are
configured this way.
This is one of the many reasons the 12C design is able to buck the
trend towards ever wider sporting cars. The innovative information
centre provides all normal telematics functions such as audio,
navigation and telephony, while providing some new features never
before seen in a car. Meridian, the renowned producer of
state-of-the-art sound systems, is developing its first ever in-car
system for the 12C.
McLaren designers paid great attention to all-round visibility for
both safety and driving precision.
The low cowl gives a full six degrees downward vision from eye
height and, importantly, allows the driver a clear view of the front
of the car. The view of the top of the front wings, with the highest
point positioned directly above the centre of the wheel, also
facilitates perfect placement of the 12C in a corner. Rear vision is
excellent too and an internal buttress with a rear three-quarter
glass provides a clear rearward view.
The steering wheel is probably the most important sensory item for
any driver. Apart from the feel and feedback from the front wheels,
the actual grip and design of the wheel itself is paramount. The
steering wheel is clean there are no buttons to distract the
driver. It also needs to be small and very tactile.
McLaren designers and engineers found the solution to the steering
wheel design challenge under their own roof. Having employed an
advanced and compact airbag, the steering wheel design was then
inspired by McLarens racing expertise.
The steering wheel grip of the 12C is as technically precise as a
McLaren racing drivers wheel.
This is because past Formula 1 championship-winning drivers grips
were modelled and scanned and the most effective feel and thickness
of their wheels was replicated for a high performance road car.
Such attention to detail is to be found throughout the McLaren 12Cs
interior and the car does not suffer an over abundance of switches,
knobs and dials.
The layout and ergonomics of the interior are aided by the 12Cs
packaging. The driver and passenger sit closer together, giving the
driver a better feeling of control for placing the car on the road
accurately as well as leaving more room between the driver and the
door panel. This allows not only more space for arm movements during
hard driving, but also provides space for an additional door
Like the McLaren F1, the driver has controls on both sides, which
allows for a rational positioning of switches:
-- Climate controls
on each door console
-- Telematics on the upper centre console
-- Active Dynamics Panel on the middle centre console
-- Transmission and minor controls on the tunnel console
-- Trip computer and cruise controls on steering column
As such, all groups of
controls have their own place and are accessible within a hands
distance from the steering wheel. The instrument cluster has a large
central tachometer and digital speed readout. Behind the steering
wheel (and moving with it) is a Formula 1-inspired rocker for
changing gears. It has been engineered to deliver a Formula 1 haptic.
The science of haptics has been applied to all the controls in order
to generate a consistent and high quality feel. All the controls are
bespoke, designed exclusively by McLaren, and not a single one has
come from the parts bin of another manufacturer.
The Active Dynamics Panel provides two rotary switches and four push
--Active activates all the dynamic controls.
--Winter sets powertrain, suspension and electronic aids to
maximum driver support.
--Launch initiates the launch control system.
--The two rotary switches control powertrain and handling,
each having three position settings for normal, sport and high
performance driving modes.
--Powertrain changes throttle response, gearbox strategy,
shift times and impulse (how much one can feel the gearchange).
The coaxial Manual button controls use of manual gearbox
--Handling changes stability control, steering weight,
suspension firmness and roll stiffness. The coaxial Aero
button allows the driver to deploy the airbrake for increased
The supportive, light
weight seat is comfortable and electrically-adjustable for height.
There is plenty of stowage space in the car with a shelf behind the
seats big enough for small bags and a floating centre console that
leaves space beneath for a large storage container.
The interiors simplicity belies a world-class level of comfort and
safety features that will include a full quota of airbags, fully
automatic dual zone climate control, sophisticated telematics and
audio systems, parking sensors, trip computer, cruise control and
electric memory seats.
Testing and simulation
McLaren has developed
one of the most sophisticated driving simulators in the world. It is
an immensely powerful tool that can be used to predict handling,
performance, and a multitude of other dynamic properties.
The simulator was initially designed to improve the performance of
the Formula 1 cars. But it has also been used intensively in the
design and development process for the 12C, where modelling offers
the opportunity to test likely outcomes without having to build a
component that might turn out to be inadequate. It saves both money
and time and it is perhaps the most effective technology transfer
from Formula 1 to road cars; the handling and suspension of the
McLaren MP4-12C was developed using exactly the same tools and
techniques as the McLaren Formula 1 cars.
The crash test requirements are a good example of how simulation
helps speed up development. Long before the first Carbon MonoCell
had been constructed, the design had been through hundreds of
passive crash test simulations. When the time came to submit a real
world crash test, the 12C passed with flying colours.
Outside of McLaren, it is almost unknown to meet our standards out
of the box, said Dick Glover, but simulation worked out perfectly
for us. It is difficult enough to achieve first time success like
this with just a relatively predictable, ductile aluminium structure
yet McLaren managed first time out with its MonoCell and added
aluminium structures. We are very proud of that.
Simulation didnt stop at the design stage. Although over 20
prototypes have been built for an exhaustive test programme around
the globe, the simulator remains a key tool and a differentiator
from most competitors.
Different engineering teams have cars undergoing specialized testing
including hot weather in Bahrain in the height of the 2009 summer,
cold weather testing in the Arctic, engine development, gearbox
calibration, electrical testing and ride, handling and durability
Before the first prototype was available, the dynamic test team,
aided by professional racing driver and McLaren test driver Chris
Goodwin, tested early parts on the simulator as well as a
development chassis and various engine mules. When dynamic testing
started, development and constant refinement of engine, gearbox,
tyres, aerodynamics, braking, steering and suspension began in
earnest to match all projected values and targets.
The testing programme moved into a more aggressive phase following
the principles of Formula 1 testing where a car and dozens of people
maximise track time during the day and work on improvements
overnight. The principle is why test one thing when you can do
ten. Prototypes went to a test track for six weeks with all the
experts and suppliers. The car followed a rigorous regime of testing
almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week for six weeks. This
turbocharged programme accelerated the development time.
The production process
for the McLaren MP4-12C will enable McLaren to build on its recent
success of record production volumes and quality for a luxury
supercar with the SLR.
The McLaren Production System brings a large scale lean production
mentality into a small-scale, flexible operation. The process is
championed by Production Director, Alan Fosters experiences at
Japanese and European car manufacturers.
Quality is the most important thing to customers, said Foster,
and quality management is a fundamental part of building a McLaren.
For my team it is an absolute passion. It doesnt matter whether a
customer is spending ten thousand pounds or a million, it is their
money and they rightly expect to have pride in their purchase and be
satisfied with it. Our goal is to ensure that we exceed customers
expectations, he concluded.
12C volumes will remain low, but will require a change of mindset
for McLarens production line teams as the company moves to higher
volumes. But the build process will still focus on craftsmanship, a
hand-built philosophy but with a lot of science behind it. Quality
gates will ensure that a car cannot leave a work station until
everything is completed perfectly.
McLaren will maintain its high standards of final approval before a
car can be released.
The build of prototypes has already proven the robustness of this
approach because investment in the manufacturing assembly fixtures
that will actually be used in production has already prepared the
team and shown the build process to be on track. The 12C station
cycle times have already been reduced by almost a further 20 per
cent through knowledge gained from building the prototypes. In
short, the risk has been removed from the production process so that
final production quality will be guaranteed.
Aftersales, retail distribution,
Not only is McLaren
establishing a new company, a new production plant, an all-new high
performance sports car engineered and developed in house... it is
also building a global network of retail distribution partners.
This small number of super operators will deliver the dedication and
purposefulness necessary to ensure an ownership experience for the
12C that is as good as the car itself.
Ease of repairability, low-cost of servicing and maintenance, and
availability of parts are of paramount importance to this customer
relationship and have been key targets since the beginning of the
12C project. McLaren aims to offer segment leading performance here
too. The principle being that a high performance sports car should
not just be a pleasure to drive, but also to own; a car that is
efficient to run and own retains its residual value and ensures its
owner becomes a repeat purchaser.
Early planning indicates that 25 per cent of sales will be made in
the UK, 25 per cent in the USA and the remainder to the rest of the
world, notably Germany and mainland Europe, the Middle East and some
Far Eastern countries. Although the McLaren MP4-12C has a
comprehensive standard specification, customers for such an
exclusive car want to have the ability to specify bespoke items,
interiors and special equipment for their own car. McLaren has
extensive experience of meeting these needs for McLaren F1 and SLR
For example, the 12C will be available in a broad range of exterior
paint colours and interior colours and configurations, while carbon
fibre components and lightweight forged wheels will reduce weight
Motor racing began the
McLaren story, but the latest chapter sees the company take that
inspiration and develop it further on the road and track.
McLaren has a heritage that spans 45 years during which time it has
won 163 Grands Prix, 12 F1 World Championship Drivers titles and
eight Constructors titles.
McLaren achieved the most dominant season ever in F1 (15 wins out of
16 races in 1988) just as it dominated the Can-Am championship
winning five titles in the late 1960s and early 1970s. McLaren has
also won three Indianapolis 500 races and the prestigious Le Mans 24
Hours at its first attempt in 1995.
McLaren remains the only manufacturer to win the F1 World
Championship, the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans the triple crown
of the motor sport world.
On top of McLarens racing record it can lay claim to a road car
heritage spanning 20 years, having produced the fastest production
road car in history, the McLaren F1. Success does indeed breed
success and McLaren intends to continue in this vein.
McLaren Automotive is well on the way to offering not only an
extraordinary new sports car but also to building an innovative new
company, explained Antony Sheriff, McLaren Automotive Managing
It is an exciting time for all of us at McLaren. We have built a
new company, we are constructing a new global dealer network and a
purpose-built production plant and, of course we are launching the
first pure McLaren car for more than a decade. The best way I can
describe the McLaren MP4-12C is to say it is not a but car, it is
an and car:
-- It offers
class-leading performance and class-leading economy and CO2
-- It has small dimensions and great packaging
-- It is well-equipped with high safety standards and is
-- It has dramatic dynamic potential and the ride quality of an
executive saloon car
When we embarked on the
12C project, we set ourselves ambitious targets. After all, building
a car that matches the performance of competitors is not good enough
for us. With a McLaren badge on the front, it needs to be the best.
So we developed
everything from scratch because it was the only way we could ensure
we met our ambitious goals and did not compromise the car a new
chassis concept, new engine, new gearbox, new suspension system, new
telematics system; everything is new. As exciting as it has been for
us, we hope the 12C will prove even more exciting for our
customers, Sheriff concluded.
I am really proud of what the whole McLaren Automotive team has
achieved with the 12C, said Ron Dennis, McLaren Automotive
We respect and admire our competitors in the high performance
sports car market, just as we do in the world of Formula 1, but I
also believe that fierce competition drives technology and
innovation and produces ever better products.
With the McLaren MP4-12C we are determined to deliver the best car
in its sector by almost any measure. It is our philosophy to push
what is possible in car design and engineering and bring innovation
and engineering excellence to the performance car world. We have an
incredibly dedicated team at McLaren who continue to drive this
company to ever greater achievements, and the 12C represents the
passion within, as the first of this new range of performance cars
from McLaren, he concluded.