McLaren MP4-12C Review

We all love supercars for their power, style and presence. We’ve all dreamed of driving at speed through the scenic countryside, but it’s time for a reality check. What is a supercar like to own on a daily basis? This is the fastest, most powerful and most expensive car to feature on

McLaren technology

Forget how fast (very fast) it goes and how it looks (gorgeous) for a moment. This car is about the incredible engineering and technology from Formula One racing cleverly placed into a road car. The body is made from a combination of carbon fiber, aluminium and magnesium.

This means it’s exceptionally light and when placed on the scales, weighs about the same as a Toyota Yaris. My personal favourite bit of tech has to be the airbrake. When you brake hard, the wing rises up by 70 degrees which helps slow the car down and it looks brilliant in your rearview mirror. Another feature worth mentioning is the hydraulic lift. You no longer need to worry about steep driveways or speedbumps because you can raise the front of the car a few centimetres. It may not sound like much, but in most cases that’s all you need to avoid scraping the nose.

Simple to drive

The McLaren MP4-12C is amazingly easy to drive. I’m not a professional driver, but after the first few hundred metres it felt very straightforward to drive. It’s calm and sedate, which is a pleasant alternative to the average supercar which lunges around like a caged animal trying to escape. The suspension is something of a masterpiece. Yes it is firm, but at no point did I feel like my back was suffering any damage and even on the bumpier sections of tarmac, the car’s ride felt great. I found it very composed and gentle in peak hour traffic too, something which McLaren can be proud of.

Once that traffic clears, you can start squeezing that throttle and seeing what sort of entertainment the 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 can dish up. With 460kW and 600Nm, the McLaren is a stupidly fast machine. I’ve been in quick cars before, but the way this accelerates even with just 70% throttle applied is dizzying. Yes, dizzying in the way it blurs your vision.

There’s a slight pause as the turbos spool up, and then full power comes in at around 3 000rpm. By that time you should already have your right index finger resting on the gearshift paddle in anticipation of the change… Words cannot really describe how fast the MP4-12C is. Top speed is rated at 333km/h and it’ll hit 100km/h in 3.1 seconds… It even sounds aggressive, with the turbos whooshing and whistling as you drive along. It may not have the vocals of a screaming V12, but I quite liked the character of the engine. Accelerate hard and the cabin fills with an angry noise as if you’ve awoken a monster.

Inside you’d expect it to be quite bare, but in fact it’s quite the opposite. There’s a McLaren-designed satnav/infotainment system complete with Bluetooth connectivity. A USB port and an aux jack rounds off the sound system. I didn’t try it out as I was too busy enjoying the burbling V8 located behind me. There is climate control and cruise control as well.

The supportive seats are made from leather and on longer journeys were surprisingly comfortable. From a quick glance you can see the carbon-fibre cabin is aimed at being functional with a strong focus on ergonomics. A prime example here would be the ventilation controls being located in the doors. Speaking of doors, did I mention they open upwards? The engine is located behind you, so there’s no boot. Instead there is a small compartment at the front of the vehicle which has enough space for two small suitcases or four bags of shopping.

McLaren MP4-12C price in South Africa

The McLaren MP4-12C is priced at R3.5-million

McLaren MP4-12C review conclusion

The McLaren’s critics complain that it doesn’t look outrageous enough, nor does it sound dramatic. Those people are liars and clearly need their heads checked. Nearly every millionaire has a Ferrari or Lamborghini, and in my opinion, those brands have lost some exclusivity. McLaren on the other hand, isn’t trying too hard nor is it creating brand-building nonsense like laptop bags, iPhone covers or amusement parks.

This is a driving machine which has been designed from scratch as the company hasn’t really ventured into the everyday supercar arena. The best part is you don’t need to be an F1 driver or have an engineering degree to appreciate how superb a vehicle this is. It’s brutally fast, yet simple enough to use on a daily basis. This is how all supercars should be.

Why you should: a smart alternative to the Ferrari/Lamborghini/Porsche Turbo brigade, brutally fast, excellent ride quality, effortlessly simple to drive, quite light on petrol when driven gently.

Why you shouldn’t: This is the real deal. If you’re in the market for a high-performance vehicle, you shouldn’t overlook the MP4-12C.

It would be better if: The name wasn’t just a series of letters and numbers.

Competitors worth checking out: Ferrari 458 Italia, Audi R8 V10, Nissan GT-R, Lamborghini Gallardo/Aventador, Mercedes-Benz SLS.

McLaren MP4-12C gallery