They have been eyeballing each other for more than two years, but Ferrari and McLaren have sparked a full-scale hypercar war by rewriting what it means to be a supercar.
While the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 hybrid hypercars stole many of the 2013 Geneva Auto Show headlines, they weren't alone in overpowering press kits with sheer speed. Lamborghini, too, showed a redressed version of its Aventador. But it's the Ferrari and McLaren that have truly broken new ground in terms of power, drivetrains and cost. With the addition of Porsche's 918 Spyder later this year, this is a category of supercar the world has never before seen.
From Track to Showroom
For the Geneva show, though, the focus was with McLaren and Ferrari continuing their on-track rivalry with their hypercars. Both companies claim huge swathes of technology transfer from their racing teams, much of which has already been banned in Formula 1 for being too fast, such as active aerodynamics and McLaren's cornering braking system.
Unusually, both supplement gas power with electrons, taking the KERS (kinetic energy recovery systems) mandated in Formula 1 and adding electrical energy to the stupendous power already generated by their internal-combustion engines.
The core of Ferrari's 6,262cc V12 is the F12 Berlinetta's engine that has been reworked internally to generate 789 horsepower at 9,000 rpm: 250 rpm before the limiter. McLaren tweaked the 12C's 3.8-liter V8 by changing some vital internal bits and upgrading both of its turbochargers so that it now produces 730 hp.
Neither car will want for torque, with the Ferrari's V12 producing 516 pound-feet at 6,750 rpm while the McLaren just edges that with 531 pound-feet, but it brings it to bear at just 4,000 rpm.
Because 800 HP Just Won't Do
But the biggest difference between these two cars and their distinguished predecessors, the Enzo and the F1 respectively, is that they use electric motors to help drive the rear wheels.
In the case of Ferrari's HY-KERS system, it uses brake energy regeneration to charge its lithium-cobalt batteries, while its main electric motor sits behind its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It has another, smaller, electric motor that powers the gasoline engine's ancillaries and in total the full HY-KERS system adds around 309 pounds to the LaFerrari's total weight.
Surprisingly, the McLaren doesn't utilize brake energy regeneration, but has a different trick up its sleeve. The main difference, philosophically, between it and the Ferrari is that the McLaren can be charged like a plug-in hybrid to let its drivers have around 10 miles of zero-emissions driving if they need to. Or want to.
Its disc-shaped electric motor sits between the V8 engine and the dual-clutch seven-speed transmission, and it's so close to the engine that McLaren had to sand-cast a different crankcase to make it fit. While it doesn't regenerate energy from braking to top up its lithium-ion batteries, the P1 gets its on-the-fly energy any time its driver comes off the gas by turning the electric motor into a large generator.
Both cars will deploy their electrical energy straight into the rear-wheel-drive powertrain to provide extra acceleration, though McLaren will also use it to eradicate any turbo lag and to smooth out its gearchanges.
The numbers themselves are surprisingly close and look like this:
|Ferrari LaFerrari||McLaren P1|
|Gasoline engine||Naturally aspirated V12||Twin-turbo V8|
|Power||789 horsepower||730 horsepower|
|Torque||516 pound-feet||531 pound-feet|
|Electric power||161 hp||176 hp|
|Total system power||950 hp||903 hp|
|Total system torque||664 lb-ft||664 lb-ft|
Though McLaren claims a 217-mph top speed for the P1, Ferrari refuses to name a figure (its engineers insist it's still under development). Both companies claim remarkably similar acceleration figures. In both cases, they are talking about numbers that may finally put the Bugatti Veyron out to pasture.
|Ferrari LaFerrari||McLaren P1|
|0-62 mph||Sub-3 seconds||Sub-3 seconds|
|0-124 mph||Sub-7 seconds||Sub-7 seconds|
|0-186 mph||15.5 seconds||Sub 17 seconds|
Both cars are said to be track-day rockets, with the Ferrari slashing more than 5 seconds off the Enzo's lap time at its Fiorano test track, and Ferrari insists it has already gone sub-7 minutes around the Nürburgring's Nordschleife. McLaren is also estimating a sub-7-minute lap around the Green Hell.
Both will also be expensive, stupid expensive. McLaren says it will ask $1.15 million for U.S.-bound P1s, while Ferrari prefers its own euros and wants €1.3 million (the equivalent of $1.691 million). Expect a marginally lower price once the Ferrari hits the U.S. Both are limited editions (though plenty of these sorts of machines haven't hit their targets — even the McLaren F1). Ferrari will build 499 LaFerraris (which it claims are sold out), while McLaren is more modestly targeting 375 customers.
"LaFerrari" means "The Ferrari" in Italian, though it's not that simple, because "la" is the feminine version of "the" because Italians use the feminine tense when talking about cars. In fact, to say "The LaFerrari" in Italian, you would have to say "La LaFerrari." McLaren's "P1" is simply something they'd hope to put on a pit board, and follows logically from the classic F1.
|Ferrari LaFerrari||McLaren P1|
|Curb weight (pounds)||3,031 plus fuel||3,075|
Both cars use carbon-fiber tub-type chassis, with the McLaren chassis based heavily on its 12C tub, even though the P1 is 3.3 inches longer overall, 1.1 inches lower and 1.5 inches wider than its entry-level machine.
The McLaren is marginally heavier here, though the Ferrari's curb weight is yet to be finalized and will include a full tank of fuel (not included in this weight). Ferrari is yet to release the LaFerrari's fuel tank capacity so its final curb weight isn't available.
Ferrari uses four types of carbon-fiber thread to make the LaFerrari's tub, and it produces the chassis in-house at its F1 team's autoclave. It promises the tub will have 27 percent more torsional stiffness than the Enzo plus 22 percent more longitudinal stiffness.
Both dueling supercars will use movable aerodynamics, which have been banned from Formula 1 for years. The Ferrari will have its front splitter dangling from a single pylon, plus huge intakes at the front, and its entire aerodynamic profile will adjust automatically with speed, attitude and which of the five manettino drive setups have been chosen. The LaFerrari's rear wing has movable parts, its under-body guide vane moves and so does its rear diffuser.
The P1 automatically deploys its rear wing and adjusts its angle up to 29 degrees, and it also deploys two flaps ahead of the front wheels when it needs extra front downforce. It's said to be so effective that McLaren claims it generates 1,323 pounds of downforce well below its 217-mph top speed.
The Tame Bull
By comparison, Lamborghini's Veneno (named after a fighting bull from early last century) looks tame. Essentially a rebodied Aventador, it has slightly more power with 740 hp from the 6.5-liter V12, though the same torque level of 509 lb-ft.
It claims it will cut a tenth of a second from its sprint to 62 mph, now a 2.8-second exercise, with a top speed of 220 mph.
|Ferrari LaFerrari||McLaren P1||Lamborghini Veneno|
|Price||€1.3 million ($1.691 million)||$1.15 million||€3 million ($3.903 million)|
Lamborghini will build just four Venenos, including the Geneva showcar (which will become its test mule, then its museum version), with all three customer versions already sold. And sold at, wait for it, about $4 million each, with two of them said to be heading to the U.S., which is the same place you can plan on seeing the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 as early as 2014.