McLaren MP4-12C launched: The car

McLaren MP4-12C...

McLaren MP4-12C launched: The car

The fundamental principle behind the MP4-12C, as with a Formula One car, is efficiency. Primarily, that means lightness, since a light car needs less power to make it go and smaller brakes to stop it, and is more agile when it needs to change direction.

The car's dry weight (minus fluids and passengers) is expected to be around 1300kg. It will accelerate from 0-125mph in less then 10 seconds and come to a complete stop again in less than five seconds. Its carbon dioxide emissions are already below 300g/km, and executive chairman Ron Dennis wants that to come down even further before launch.

To keep the weight down, the car is built around an 80kg, one-piece carbonfibre passenger compartment called a monocell, onto which an aluminium crash structure is attached at the front and an aluminium fuel tank, engine cradle and suspension pick-up points at the rear. It's the same principle used for Formula One cars.

More photos of the McLaren MP4-12C
> McLaren MP4-12C picture 1
> McLaren MP4-12C picture 2
> McLaren MP4-12C picture 3
> McLaren MP4-12C picture 4
> McLaren MP4-12C picture 5
> McLaren MP4-12C picture 6That means the non-structural body panels can be made of light material and shaped purely for aesthetics and aerodynamics. A flat underbody and a large rear diffuser employ Formula One know-how to help suck the car to the road.

The use of a lithium-ion battery saves 10 kilos and hexagonal, instead of round, wiring saves another four kilos. Even the company logo is embedded into the cross-car strengthening beam rather than embossed on it to save a couple of grammes.

The engine
Power comes from a brand-new 3.8-litre turbocharged V8 engine developing 600bhp and 444lb ft of torque 370lb ft of which is available from 2000rpm to the redline at 8500.

It drives through a seven-speed, twin-clutch, robotised manual gearbox with a pre-cog function a gentle tap on one of the paddles primes the next gear for an instant shift when the paddle is tugged more firmly.

The chassis control system includes three handling modes and hydraulic inter-connectors on each axle in place of the usual anti-roll bar. These give the two-fold advantage of curtailing body roll in hard cornering while allowing each wheel to function independently in a straight line for a better ride.

Brake-steer, another idea borrowed from Formula One, helps the car tuck into corners, while the air brake is a movable wing that moves the centre of aerodynamic pressure rearwards when deployed for greater downforce.