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Driven by the Love of the Drive
The MP4-12C: And Now We Get to the BUT…
February 16, 2011Posted by on
Lemme check, yup I am still in love with this car. But, there’s always a but…
The Mp4-12C is a collection of mind-numbing numbers and precision engineering. As a machine, it’s an absolute triumph of human ingenuity. But haven’t we heard this before? Oh yeah, three years ago when the Nissan GT-R rolled up to Mr. 911-Turbo out in Germany and smacked his Nurburgring time across the face. It was no secret that the GT-R was all about fast lap-times. It was built to be the fastest it could possibly be around a circuit and out on the occasional mountain road. Unfortunately a side-effect of this passion for performance led to many saying that the car lacked character, lacked soul. And unlike pretty much all the other cars I comment on, I can actually agree with that point, as I’ve actually driven one (hey, 35 seconds on an autocross course can tell you more about a car than a few hours on the road, I think anyway). It was an incredibly fast car, I’ve never felt thrust like that. But it feels a bit too serious, it never gives you that sense of fun. Whereas on the opposite end of the spectrum something like a Lamborghini Gallardo can make you grin like a fool just sitting behind the wheel making vroom-vroom noises. To some, speed is everything. Which is why car’s like the GT-R exist. But to others, myself included, what a car needs to truly be great is that sense of soul. That sense that the car has a personality. It doesn’t have to be Pagani levels of pantomime, but it needs an X-factor. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but I really believe that to be truth.
And so we get to the MP4-12C, a car which in a lot of ways reminds me of the GT-R. The McLaren guys put YEARS of research and development, and the end result speaks for itself as far as numbers go anyway. But in the same way I felt about the GT-R, I fear the MP4-12C may suffer a bit from over-engineering. The fact that so much science and tech went into building the car, that the end result is a cold, emotionless speed machine. And in the many online reviews I’ve been reading, some reviewers have pointed this out. To some, the McLaren might be taking itself a bit too seriously…
But after reading statements from the engineers at McLaren, and letting everything soak in, I’ve come to a personal conclusion. To me, it seems the McLaren guys weren’t out to build something that is just insanely fast. They set out to build a drivers car. Every computer assisted system, every little bit of tech, every little detail is there to not only make the car fast, but to enhance the driving experience. I mean just look at the cockpit (I provided a link to the Autoblog gallery from their review, because their pics are awesome). It’s simplistic, yet beautifully clean, and everything is laid out in a way as to not distract you from driving. When I hear that a car was engineered to enhance the experience of driving itself, well that’s something I can get behind. Sure, it may not create drama on its own like a Ferrari 458, but it seems that it encourages you to create your own drama behind the wheel. It’s not a car for show-offs like a Gallardo. And neither does it feel like a super-focused car like a GT-R. In a sense it reminds me of the 911 GT3, its main purpose is to enhance the experience of driving. And in the end, that’s the numero uno thing I like in a car.
So yes, for the moment, the McLaren MP4-12C is still my favorite car.