2011 McLaren MP4-12C.
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Ultimate car for the core market.
The McLaren MP4-12C is a high performance two-seat mid-engine model in the ‘core’ sports car market sector for cars costing between £125,000 and £175,000.
“Worldwide demand for high performance cars is strong, in large part because of great cars from great competitors. With McLaren joining that list, it will grow stronger still. What we are offering is a new approach to the market,” said Ron Dennis, McLaren Automotive Chairman.
The market for high performance sports cars has grown substantially since the turn of the century. McLaren divides the market into segments that encompass both comfort–orientated GT cars and the hard-edged supercars for road and track use.
The ‘core’ segment runs from around £125,000 to £175,000 featuring the Ferrari F458, Lamborghini Gallardo, Porsche 911 Turbo, Bentley Continental GT and Aston Martin DB9.
A second segment is the ‘high’ category with prices ranging from £175,000 to £250,000 and consists largely of front-engined GT cars such as Ferrari’s 599GT and 612, with just one mid-engined contender, the Lamborghini Murcielago.
The final segment is the ‘ultimate’ group, a sector initiated by the McLaren F1 in 1993 and now populated by a select group of cars including the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Bugatti Veyron, and cars from the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg that followed legends such as the Porsche Carrera GT and Ferrari Enzo. In 2011, McLaren will bring technology and performance exclusive to this ‘ultimate’ sector into the ‘core’ segment.
Light weight and performance are defining philosophies at McLaren. But outright power alone is of little significance if a car’s weight saps output or if that power is unmanageable and compromises the driving experience or results in unacceptable emissions.
Fundamentally, it is critical to keep weight as low as possible. Increased customer demands for safety and advanced features all mean that shaving weight is difficult. However, at McLaren saving weight remains a passion and at the heart of the McLaren MP4−12C is a carbon fibre composite chassis: the Carbon MonoCell.
This revolutionary structure is the automotive version of a McLaren motor racing innovation from the 1981 MP4/1 Formula 1 car. It is not only the nucleus of a fast, safe, clean and light car, but through its revolutionary one-piece moulding manufacturing technique, also presents a unique structure that allows greater freedom for innovative packaging and interior design.
The MonoCell allows for a creativity of interior design that sets new standards. The whole focus is on making the 12C cockpit uniquely spacious and functional – in car that is actually narrower than competitors. The interior styling then offers a symmetry that wraps around the occupants and makes them feel physically and emotionally comfortable.
The interior uses space well and is designed to accommodate 98thpercentile adults in comfort. This has been partly achieved by the touch screen telematics system oriented in ‘portrait’ mode. This is a first for the car industry and is more logical - we read down a page and our mobile telephones and other personal information devices are configured this way.
This is one reason why the 12C design is able to buck the trend towards ever wider sporting cars. The innovative information centre provides all normal telematics functions such as audio, navigation and telephony, while providing some new features never before seen in a car. Meridian, the renowned producer of state-of-the-art sound systems, is developing its first ever in car system for the 12C.
The McLaren MP4-12C MonoCell, or 'tub', 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.
This is the first time a car in this market segment has been 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 economy and practicality in an already very competitive sector.
The 12C MonoCell also offers greater occupant safety because it acts as a safety survival cell, as it does for a Formula 1 car.
“The whole 12C project is based on the concept of the MonoCell. This means that McLaren can launch into the market with greater performance than our rivals and a safer structure, said Claudio Santoni, McLaren Automotive Body Structures Function Manager.
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.
Frank Stephenson, McLaren Automotive Design Director, explained: “Many sports cars and super cars present an ‘in-your-face’, ‘look-at-me’ image that can become wearing and boorish; the ultimate backhanded compliment becomes, “…it was of its time”. Great design, however, is timeless and looks relevant years later. With the 12C we have produced a car that looks great today and will still look great in years to come.”
The 12C’s body has been styled to support sector-leading levels of downforce. This downforce 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.
The designers’ challenge is to then take that styling purpose driven by engineering aspirations and add personality. That’s why the air scoops resemble the McLaren logo in form, as do other features around the car.
Unique power unit.
The McLaren MP4-12C is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.8 litre 90⁰ V8 engine - the ‘M838T’. This marks the start of a new era in ‘core’ segment sports cars - smaller capacity, lighter weight, higher efficiency and more economical power units. The engine has the highest specific power output in its segment which, when allied to its low weight carbon composite chassis, delivers exemplary power- and torque- to weight ratios.
‘M838T’ is a unique McLaren power unit, developed specifically for the 12C. It is compact, lightweight, very stiff, and offers an uncompromising combination of high performance and good driveability with excellent economy and CO2 emission values.
Taking power and emissions in combination the 12C delivers its power at greater efficiency than any other car on the market with an internal combustion engine, including hybrids.
‘M838T’ features dual variable valve timing and produces around 600bhp and 600Nm of torque. A dry sump and flat plane crankshaft allow the engine to be placed extremely low in the chassis thereby lowering the centre of gravity and improving handling responses. It also features composite cam covers and intake manifolds, which reduce weight and heat transmission into the charge air.
The engine revs to 8,500rpm, has quick transient throttle response and delivers its abundant torque throughout the rev range. A staggering 80 per cent of torque is available at below 2,000rpm, ensuring great driveability and no need to floor the throttle to deliver performance.
Proactive chassis control.
The suspension for the McLaren MP4-12C breaks new ground, offering hitherto unseen levels of roll control and grip.
The car's extreme levels of dynamic handling performance would normally imply a rock-hard ride, but the 12C delivers compliance and ride comfort more akin to an executive saloon car. The mix of occupant cosseting and sporting potential is truly unique. The 12C offers the driver both class-leading ride comfort and class-leading performance.
The 12C is poised and balanced whether negotiating high or low speed corners, during direction changes, under heavy or light braking and on tightening or opening corners.
The suspension is based on double wishbones with coil springs. The dampers are interconnected hydraulically and provide adaptive responses depending on both road conditions and driver preference.
The system features adjustable roll control which replaces the mechanical anti-roll bars that have been a standard feature of road cars since time immemorial. It allows the car to maintain precise roll control under heavy cornering while decoupling the suspension in a straight line for excellent wheel articulation and compliance.
Another feature that helps the 12C to handle at a new level is a development of an electronic system used by McLaren’s 1997 MP4/12 Formula 1 car, – Brake-Steer. In essence it is a system that brakes the inside rear wheel when the car is entering a corner too quickly to make the desired radius.
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