What is it?
What's special about it?
"Your car has to be a transformer." Dan Parry-Williams, chief design engineer at McLaren Automotive, drops this on us as we're discussing his new P1 supercar on the floor of the 2013 Geneva Auto Show. It's that, he says, or a car comfortable enough for the street has to be accompanied to the track by a big truck full of springs, dampers and tires.
And boy does this car transform.
Press the "Race" button and the McLaren P1 sucks itself to the ground. Final ground clearance in this mode is a cement-scraping 2.6 inches at both ends. This is compared to a normal ride height of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches front and rear. Accordingly, the rear wing goes into über-attack mode where it has 29 degrees of automatic articulation, roll stiffness increases by 350 percent (you remember McLaren's unique suspension from the MP4-12C suspension walkaround, right?) and the gas shocks triple their usual damping rate.
To keep all of this fanciness out of a ditch, Pirelli developed tires specifically for the P1's split personalities. The brakes, too, are proprietary to the P1. Developed by McLaren's F1 brake supplier Akebono, the carbon-ceramic rotors are coated in a gorgeously reflective and hard-as-nails silicon carbide. McLaren says one set of these rotors is good for nearly 25,000 miles of "advanced testing" (equivalent to nearly 50,000 "normal" miles), 15 percent of which were on a racetrack.
In Race mode, the McLaren P1 has "as much downforce as a GT3 car," Parry-Williams says. He also says that in this mode, the car is too low to be driven legally on the street. Standing next to it, we believe it. But there's no use in having all the downforce of a GT3 car if you don't have the engine to make it worthwhile, so we're pleased to report that the McLaren P1 has the engine (and a supplemental electric motor).
While the P1 uses the same displacement gas engine as the MP4-12C, Parry-Williams says that the two share very few parts. Even the crankshaft is new, as it's not been used before with the electric motor. Also new are the cylinder heads and the valvetrain components, which now have a high-temperature coating. Obviously, to get more power out of the same displacement, McLaren had to figure out a way to get more air and fuel into the engine.
This is accomplished with bigger turbos and new fuel injectors, though the P1, like the MP4-12C, lacks direct injection. Total combined output is 903 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, which should be sufficient in the 3,075-pound P1. Fitted downstream of both power plants is the same seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that does duty in the MP4-12C, which sends power to the rear wheels. "It was developed with a big brother in mind and gets off easy in the MP4-12C," Parry-Williams says.
Like the transmission, the carbon-fiber chassis in the MP4-12C was designed with the knowledge that it would need to serve a bigger purpose. The passenger tub here is built in the same facility as that of the MP4-12C and uses the lower half of the MP4-12C's structure. But unlike the lesser McLaren, the P1's roof is integrated into the carbon tub and you can have it finished in glorious raw carbon fiber. Alternatively, McLaren is glad to ruin it with paint.
The airbox and the battery box are molded into this structure as well. And in case you're wondering, yes, the McLaren P1 does have some gold in it. Underneath the titanium trellis that covers the exhaust (and directs air out the back, cooling the bodywork to a paint-safe temperature) is a 24k gold foil that further insulates carbon bodywork from heat damage. This bit of bling is one of the only options on the P1.
Expect the McLaren P1 to begin deliveries in Europe in the third quarter of this year, followed shortly by the U.S. But before that, expect to see a P1 officially lap the Nurburgring in less than 7 minutes.
Edmunds.com says: McLaren is only building 375 of these $1.15 million hyper hybrids. And if you're just finding that out, you're out of luck.
Base Price: $1,150,000
Engine: 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8
Gearbox: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power: 903 horsepower (726 from gasoline)/664 pound-feet of torque.
Length: 180 inches
Width: 76 inches
Height: 45 inches (43 in "Race")
Wheelbase: 104 inches
Weight: 3,075 pounds