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McLaren, Supercars

McLaren MP4-12C: Finally A Successor To The F1

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The successor to the McLaren F1 has finally arrived, and it looks like it will live up to the legacy of that iconic car.  McLaren is a big name in the auto enthusiast world, but most people will recognize them from their previous collaboration with Mercedes-Benz on the SLR McLaren Roadster.  After the release of the McLaren F1 way back in 1992, the company has been pretty quiet about their own production cars, focusing instead on Formula 1 racing.  With the MP4-12C, however, the English automaker is set to take the supercar world by storm.

Visually, the MP4-12C doesn’t seem all that unique, instead sticking to the tried and true supercar design trends that have been a staple of the industry since the F1′s time.  In fact, the MP4-12C looks pretty darn similar to the new Ferrari 458 that we looked at a couple days ago, though the 458 is prettier.  That’s just fine with McLaren fans, though, because the magic of the company has always been in their revolutionary manufacturing and engineering processes, and the new MP4-12C is no different.

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One of the most impressive aspects of the Mp4 is one that drivers will never see:  a carbon fiber tub.  Designing the cabins of supercars is always a tricky proposition; you want to cut out as much weight as possible, but you also need enough structural strength to protect passengers and provide rigidity to the car’s body to improve handling.  The use of carbon fiber as a cabin material isn’t new, but McLaren’s process is ingenious.  Utilizing a new molding process, McLaren is able to make the entire cabin tub out of one continuous piece of carbon fiber.  This has several benefits:  first, you don’t need to install fasteners and supports to connect multiple pieces, so that cuts weight; second, carbon fiber is an incredibly rigid material, more so than steel, and one-piece construction lends even more rigidity; third, the tub is interchangeable between models, so the only difference between right-hand drive and left-hand drive models is where the holes are drilled to install the steering column; and last, the entire tub only weighs 187 pounds, while a similar structure of steel would probably weigh about 3 times that.

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The carbon fiber tub is complemented with body panels made of the same material, making the car very light weight, and the trimming of pounds doesn’t stop there.  McLaren ran thorough simulations to determine exactly how much material they could shave off the alloy wheels, the brake hubs are made of aluminum, the radiators were positioned as close to the engine as possible to reduce pipework, and lots of other measures were take.  A driving inspiration to the designers was to “add lightness,” and they’ve succeeded.  The final weight of the car hasn’t yet been released, but it has been indicated that it will weigh less than its competitors, namely the Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, which weigh in at 3,042 pounds and 3,307 pounds, respectively.

Super light weight is the hallmark of a supercar, but it needs to be paired with a powerful engine in order to get the most benefit.  The new McLaren doesn’t disappoint in this respect, although the engine design does continue the “add lightness” commandment.  The MP4-12C is powered by a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8, which seems a bit small at first glance.  After all, the 458 Italia has a 4.5-liter V8 and the Gallardo has a 5.0-liter V10, so how can the McLaren measure up?  With precise engineering, of course.  The McLaren’s V8 pumps out 600 horsepower and 433 lb-ft of torque.  And, it does that will producing very lower carbon emissions (which is particularly important for European markets, which will be regulated by strict E.U. limits in the coming months).  In fact, when it comes to a power vs. emissions ratio, the MP4-12C is technically the cleanest car on the market, beating out conventional internal combustin engines, clean diesels, and even hybrids (this excludes electric cars, of course).

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All of that clean power is fed through a 7-speed DSG (dual-clutch sequential gearbox) transmission that promises some super-fast shifting.  This new DSG also has a unique feature called Pre-Cog.  By applying moderate pressure to one of the shifting paddles, the driver can make the gearbox pre load a specific gear for an expected shift.  Most DSGs will do this when anticipating an upshift at high RPMs, but the ability to manually pre-select a gear, especially for quick downshifts while rocketing through corners, will make the car quicker.  This new option is probably a bit over the top and unnecessary, but since supercars are all about being over the top and unnecessary, it’s perfectly welcome.

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The MP4-12C has just broken cover and will get its official unveiling at the Frankfurt Auto Show in the coming weeks, but what the company has released so far should have most auto enthusiasts salivating.  It’s been a long time coming, but after a 17-year hiatus, there is finally a new production McLaren.  So, start saving your money now so that you can have the $265,000 needed to buy one when it hits the market in a few months.

Pictures of the McLaren MP4-12C

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