McLaren Automotive has reached the final development stages of its new MP4-12C sports car after producing its first ever production unit, which now sits proudly in the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) General Assembly Hall in Woking, England.

The new £40m manufacturing facility, the McLaren Production Centre (MPC) remains under construction adjacent to the MTC site, and will open during the next few months. McLaren Automotive will then transfer production of the 12C from the existing MTC assembly line to the new MPC in April. All development processes have benefited from McLaren’s expertise in Formula 1, and constant integration with the racing team’s techniques and personnel will set new standards for such a road car.


McLaren Automotive’s vehicle development team has been testing prototype versions of the new McLaren MP4-12C around the world since 2007, and the development programme recently completed the car’s final ‘sign-off’ 1,000 mile development drive.

Four Production Prototype 12C’s (PP7, PP9, PP10, PP11) departed McLaren’s Woking headquarters for the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve race circuit in Portugal, on Wednesday 12 January, taking a detour en-route to a Spanish proving ground to log the car’s definitive performance times. All four PP 12C’s arrived in Portimão on the evening of Friday 14 January where they undertook further ‘sign-off’ tests.

Dick Glover, Technical Director at McLaren Automotive, said: “We use professional racing drivers in our development team. Throughout the real-world testing programme we continually schedule time for them in the simulator to fine tune the performance and driving characteristics of the 12C. This experience is then validated back against real-world conditions at one of the test facilities we use around the world. It is an ongoing, dynamic, feedback process that mixes the best of technology with the best hands-on track work.”

The 12C development team has taken simulation to a new level as they seek to ensure the fleet of prototypes are pushed to their absolute limits, reproducing the impact of the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife at a Spanish test facility that they’ve named the Idischleife.

The Nordschleife in Germany is regarded as the world’s ultimate test circuit due to its combination of challenging surfaces and 20.81km (12.93m) length. McLaren Automotive has visited the Nordschleife on several occasions for periods of sustained testing, but with the circuit being closed during winter months, the development team sought a way to recreate the extreme conditions found at the Nordschleife in a different environment.

The McLaren simulator is a software-based virtual environment which is able to accurately replicate the driving experience on any road or track surface in the world. McLaren describe it as the most advanced automotive simulator in the world, with engineers able to upload data including corner radii, gradient, track width and the 12C's performance parameters to achieve astonishingly accurate simulations.

Dick Glover said: “We have a permanent test base at the Applus IDIADA proving ground in Northern Spain. Our team of engineers has taken data from the Nordschleife circuit including lateral g performance, vertical road inputs, engine throttle position and gearing, and created a programme which can then be run at IDIADA, which we call the ‘Idischleife Concept’.

“This programme allows us to undertake challenging and aggressive testing to the level experienced at the Nordschleife but at a location where we can run testing literally twenty-four hours, seven days a week and quickly move the 12C closer to its development targets,” Glover concluded.

Performance and Efficiency

The unique new M838T engine powering the McLaren MP4-12C is a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, designed by McLaren Automotive.

Weighing 199kg (439lbs), the M838T features a dry sump lubrication system and a flat plane crankshaft, which has allowed McLaren Automotive’s engineers to place the engine extremely low in the chassis, lowering the 12C’s centre of gravity and in turn optimising the car’s handling responses. Mated to the M838T is a dual clutch, seven-speed ‘SSG’ transmission used to transfer the twin-turbo V8 engine’s 592 bhp to the tarmac via its 305/30 R20 Pirelli PZero rear tyres (235/35 R19 on the front).

The MP4-12C’s performance is a consequence of McLaren Automotive’s core objectives which were to achieve; the lowest CO2 output and best fuel consumption in its segment, highest power with fastest acceleration and braking across all typical benchmark speed and distance parameters and lightest weight, and therefore highest power to weight ratio of any high-performance sports car.

The results are unsurprisingly spectacular.

  • 0 – 200kph in 9.1s (8.9s on optional Corsa tyres)
  • CO2 emissions of 279g/km (equating to 24.2 EU mpg combined)
  • 0 – 100kph in 3.3s (3.1s with optional Corsa tyres)
  • top speed: 330kph (205mph)
  • 100 – 0 kph in 30.5 m (100 ft)
  • ¼ mile: 10.9s @ 135 mph
  • dry weight (with lightweight options): 1301kgs / 2868 lbs
  • carbon MonoCell chassis weight:  75kgs / 165 lbs
  • power: weight (lightweight options): 461PS / 455bhp per tonne.
  • power: 600PS (592bhp) at 7,000 rpm
  • torque: 600Nm between 3,000 – 7,000 rpm

Not bad eh? But this is from the company that gave us the McLaren F1, which held the ‘Fastest Production Car in the World’ title for over two decades. Rather than repeat this achievement, McLaren Automotive have adapted to the challenges of the 21st Century and created the World’s Most Efficient high-performance sports car.

The performance objectives of the MP4-12C were simple but incredibly challenging - lowest CO2 output, best fuel consumption, fastest acceleration and braking, lightest weight, and therefore highest power to weight ratio.

The 12C’s performance is clearly influenced by the McLaren F1 and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren road car projects. Most notably, in the competitive step-changes seen on the 12C through carbon composite engineering, packaging, and aerodynamics.

But the development and manufacturing teams are also peppered with technicians and engineers from iconic periods in McLaren’s motor racing history: people with priceless experience in challenging design target-setting and innovative engineering problem-solving. And with an inherent ambition to win.

Dick Glover said: “We’re intensely proud of the 12C and how it stands against its key competitors: cars that are, in their own rights, some of the best sports cars the world has ever seen. The really exciting challenge for us was that to set new performance benchmarks against these cars, we had to introduce innovative new technologies. In that respect, we have worked technically like a Formula 1 team, where you are constantly trying to improve performance not against fixed parameters, but to win against competitors who are also constantly developing and improving.

“The 12C is a huge technical accomplishment, but also a car filled with the passion and dedication that comes with working at McLaren. I am very proud of the team behind its development,” he concluded.

Final Steps

McLaren invited the world’s press along during mid-January to drive the MP4-12C for themselves during an event at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve race circuit in Portugal. The event coincided with the car’s final ‘sign-off’ 1,000 mile development drive from McLaren’s Woking headquarters in England to the Portimão event.

McLaren Automotive and Jenson Button presented the new McLaren MP4-12C for test driving by the international media in January 2011.

By the end of 2010, McLaren Automotive had received over 3,500 registrations of serious interest in the 12C through its website (, plus enough commitment from prospective customers to cover at least 2011’s production allocation.

At a proposed price of £168,500 (including VAT) the MP4-12C will be a very rare and exclusive sight on our roads, but it could be considered something of a bargain given the performance benchmarks it will surely set.

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