Phenomenal pace and exceptional handling mark the new McLaren firmly in the top echelon of supercars
The MP4-12C is a towering achievement, but it’s missing one vital commodity – the pure ability to thrill.
You get your kicks from the McLaren in a different way to the other cars in our line-up. Unlike the Ferrari, Mercedes or Jaguar, it’s not designed for the driver to switch off the electronic aids and play the hooligan on track. It only wants to be driven one way; smoothly and fast.
This single-minded pursuit of speed is understandable from a team that has made its name in Formula One, but in eking out the last one-hundredth of a second something has gone missing.The twin-clutch gearshift is one of the most rapid we’ve experienced, but you don’t get a satisfying blip of the throttle on downshifts.
Part of the blame lies with the engine. A V8 turbo is the pragmatic choice as it provides the best blend of performance and economy, but its uninspiring soundtrack simply doesn’t do the rest of the car justice. The chassis, meanwhile, is almost beyond criticism, as the amount of grip it generates is staggering.
However, the clever Brake Steer system (which applies the brakes to the inside rear wheel to prevent slip and contain understeer) detracts from the driving experience, rather than adding to it. And turnining it off isn't exactly encouraged by the complicated electronics.
If this all sounds a bit negative, that’s simply because expectations of the McLaren were so high. It has achieved what it set out to do, effectively matching the Ferrari 458 Italia for raw pace, so the MP4-12C really deserves plenty of praise.
Its phenomenal pace and exceptional handling rank it firmly in the top echelon of supercars. And it encourages you to drive neatly and precisely as you try to set the fastest lap time you can. We just wish it was a bit more fun while you did it.
- 1IntroductionOur annual fast car shoot-out tests and rates 30 of the most exciting models to drive in the world.
- 2Performance Car Of The Year 30-24We rate 30 of the year's greatest hot models, to name our Performance Car Of The Year 2011
- 3Performance Car Of The Year 23-17We rate 30 of the year's greatest hot models, to name our Performance Car Of The Year 2011
- 4Performance Car Of The Year 16-11We rate 30 of the year's greatest hot models, to name our Performance Car Of The Year 2011
- 5Audi RS3Imposing looks and quattro all-wheel drive make the Audi RS3 stand out.
- 6MINI Cooper SDMINI Cooper SD impresses on road, but there ’s more body roll than in hot petrol versions on track.
- 7Jaguar XKR-SThe hottest model in the range is more capable than before - and the wet conditions didn’t stop us enjoying the XKR-S
- 8Ford Fiesta MetalFor driving thrills on a budget, you can’t go far wrong with the fast Ford Fiesta Metal
- 9Renaultsport Megane 265 TrophyThe 265 Trophy redefines what a family hatchback can do by setting the fastest lap time of any front-wheel-drive-car
- 10McLaren MP4-12C - currently readingPhenomenal pace and exceptional handling mark the new McLaren firmly in the top echelon of supercars
- 11Aston Martin V8 Vantage SThis faster, lighter and better looking S version is the best Aston Martin Vantage yet
- 12Porsche Cayman RThe Cayman R's 325bhp engine delivers mighty performance and the drive is intoxicating
- 13Mercedes C63 AMG CoupeWith its sleek looks, spine-tingling soundtrack and nimble chassis, the C63 may be AMG’s best effort yet
- 14Ferrari 458 ItaliaThe glorious soundtrack of its V8, sharp responses and incredible gearbox help the 458 clinch its second consecutive PCOTY title
- 15The reader voteWe gave you the chance to vote for your favourite performance car and here's the results
- 16A decade of championsA run-through of our performance car champions from the last 10 years