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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 world’s 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, McLaren’s automotive division has already built the world’s most critically acclaimed supercar, the McLaren F1 (1993-1998) and the world’s 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.

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 sector.

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.

Inside out
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 higher volumes.

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 car’s 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.

Pure McLaren
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 manufacturer’s parts bin.

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 McLaren’s experience of active aerodynamics to aid cooling, grip, handling and road holding.

Adding lightness
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.

Design: everything for a reason
The McLaren MP4-12C design follows similar principles to McLaren’s 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 automotive design.

The 12C’s 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.

Text and Pictures: McLaren

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