McLaren’s new MP4-12C sports car

McLaren Automotive launched its high-performance sports car today – publishing performance data from recent testing programmes, details of the car’s innovative construction, and new technologies inspired by Formula One.

They all say this but the 12C really is set to present new standards in the sports car market: 0–200 km/h in under 10 sec; 200– 0km/h in under 5 sec; and 100– 0km/h in under 3 sec/30m – less than seven car lengths.

The innovative one-piece moulded carbon-fibre chassis (referred to as the ‘MonoCell’) is the key to the 12C’s performance. It forms the structural heart of the car – the integrity that a carbon chassis offers allows McLaren Automotive the freedom to clothe the car with a combination of aluminium and low-density SMC (sheet moulding compounds) panels that, themselves, are ground-breaking: the SMC panels are 11% lighter than on any production car.

Not surprisingly perhaps, thanks to the company’s F1 pedigree, reducing weight is an obsession at McLaren. Recent developments have lowered the MonoCell’s weight further to below 80 kilos, whilst continued lightweight engineering supports McLaren Automotive’s plans to launch the 12C at a lighter dry weight than any competitor at around 1300 kilos.

The company wants the 12C to be at least 75 kilos lighter than its nearest competitor and a long list of further lightweight solutions highlights the 12C’s introduction as a new type of sports car. Examples include:

  • Standard composite brake system of forged aluminium and cast iron is lighter than the optional carbon-ceramic brake system, saving 5 kilos
  • Low-weight lithium-ion battery saves 10kgs
  • Lightweight magnesium structural beam supports the dashboard
  • Small, twin-turbocharged V8 engine delivers a quite staggering 600PS (German for horsepower) – or 592 bhp – from a 3.8-litre capacity
  • Rear mounted engine cooling radiators minimise the pipework, the fluids contained within them, and therefore weight. They were also mounted in car line to minimise vehicle width and weight
  • Hexagonal aluminium wiring saves 4 kilos over circular wiring.

The car uses a range of new technologies. All are unique to McLaren:

  • Brake Steer aids balance and grip through fast corners either acting as a safety control or an aid to performance on the track
  • The Airbrake increases downforce and therefore grip at speed and moves the centre of pressure rearwards under heavy braking
  • Proactive Chassis Control removes the need for mechanical anti-roll bars and distributes damper control hydraulically between wheels and axles – so, in normal-speak: minimal roll at high speed, a smoother ride under braking and over uneven road surfaces.

The McLaren MP4-12C goes on sale in spring 2011 in 19 countries. It sits in the market of ‘core’ sports cars that cost between £125,000 and £175,000. The car will be built initially at the Fosters+Partners-designed McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking. Construction will then switch to the new £40 million McLaren Production Centre next door.

I want one! The car that is, not the Production Centre.

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