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Design: Form Follows Function
The McLaren MP4-12C design
follows similar principles to McLaren's Formula 1 cars, and the legendary
McLaren F1, where everything is for a reason and all lines, surfaces, and
details are designed with a job in mind as much as styled. This ensures that the
12C communicates its engineering through its styling and will remain timeless as
a piece of automotive design.
The 12C's body has been styled to support
sector-leading levels of downforce; downforce that then subsequently contributes
to sector-leading levels of lateral grip and stability. Air flow has been
manically managed to support all performance figures and light weight targets.
For example, placing the radiators adjacent to the engine keeps the car narrow
and reduces weight. However, this results in a huge challenge of ensuring ample
air flow to the radiators. The result? The large side air scoops and integrated
turning vanes that are dramatic, but purely functional. No larger or smaller
The designer's challenge is to then take that styling
purpose driven by engineering aspirations and add personality. That's why the
air scoops resemble the McLaren logo in form, as do other features around the
Carbon MonoCell Chassis
The heart of the new car is the Carbon
MonoCell. McLaren pioneered the use of carbon composite construction in the 1981
Formula 1 MP4/1 model and set a trend that all Formula 1 teams have followed.
The company brought carbon fiber to road cars for the first time with the 1993
McLaren F1 and then built on this experience with a carbon fiber chassis and
body on the SLR manufactured to the same exacting standards, but in higher
So, until now, carbon chassis have remained the preserve of the
most expensive exotic cars; a purchase for the super-rich where costs are driven
by the complexity of carbon fiber chassis design and build.
changes this by introducing the advantages of carbon composite - light weight,
high strength and torsional rigidity, and longevity - to a more affordable
sector through its revolutionary engineering as a one-piece moulding. Never
before has a carbon fiber chassis been produced this way.
Not only is the
12C unique in its class by offering carbon technology, it also has the highest
specific power output as well as extraordinary power- and torque-to-weight
ratios. Furthermore, the Proactive Chassis Control system offers groundbreaking
handling and ride comfort while an intense focus on occupant packaging offers
new levels of comfort and everyday usability.
Starting from a clean sheet of paper, the 12C is the first 'pure McLaren'. From
its conception, the 12C has been designed around the driver with a carbon
chassis. Every one of the 12C's components is bespoke, and there to either
enhance performance or contribute to the unmatched driving experience.
12C is powered by a bespoke McLaren 'M838T' 3.8 liter, V8 twin-turbo engine
producing 592 hp, driving through a McLaren seven speed Seamless Shift
dual clutch gearbox (SSG).
The Seamless Shift technology offers variable
programs ranging from 'normal' for road use and 'sport' for quicker changes
still, right up to a lightning quick high performance mode. In addition an
'automatic' mode, 'launch control' and 'winter' modes can be selected, the
latter changing all electronic functions to suit low friction conditions and
delivering maximum driver aid and support. There is no traditional manual
transmission offered; the two pedal layout offered further scope to create a
narrow, and therefore light, car.
Thorough engineering and market
research led to concept development and a clear decision in favor of a mid-engined
two door high performance sports car. Intensive work was carried out in the wind
tunnel and the driving simulator to ensure that the new car would inherently
have superb dynamic qualities.
Dick Glover, McLaren Automotive Technical
Director, was closely involved with the development of these invaluable tools
during his time with McLaren's Formula 1 race team.
"There are so many
examples of race car process and technology transfer in the 12C," claimed
Glover. "The car owes much to McLaren's experience and success in motor sport.
The advantage of technology transfer is only one element; speed of
decision-making and development, F1 processes and people all make an important
"Brake Steer, for example, is a technology we pioneered on
our Formula 1 car back in 1997. It helps to dial out understeer on entry to a
corner and improves traction on the way out. Another is the Pre-Cog function on
the gearshift rocker that effectively primes the gearbox ready for the next
change, ensuring a more satisfying and faster gearchange. This is a high
performance sports car with race car genes and teamwork at its heart."
Adding Lightness to the MP4-12C
Weight is the enemy of performance
in every area of car design. It affects acceleration, speed, handling, fuel
consumption and CO2 emissions - everything. McLaren Automotive engineers pursued
weight saving obsessively. For example:
- The Carbon MonoCell not only reduces the weight of the structure but
also allows for the use of much lighter weight body panels.
- The close position of the driver and passenger allows a narrower,
lighter body while giving improved visibility with a clearer perception of
the car's extremities.
- Brakes with forged aluminum hubs save 8 kg and weigh less than
optional carbon ceramic brakes.
- Lightweight exhaust pipes exit straight out the rear of the car,
minimizing their length and weight.
- Airflow-assisted Airbrake deployment dramatically reduces weight
of the Airbrake activation system.
- Small, compact downsized engine coupled to lightweight compact SSG
minimizes vehicle length, weight and polar moment of inertia.
- Significant weight was pared off the alloy wheels through
intensive Finite Element Analysis of wall thicknesses.
- The engine cooling radiators were mounted at the rear, as close to
the engine as possible, to minimize the pipework, the fluids contained
within them, and therefore weight. They were also mounted in car line to
minimize vehicle width.
McLaren MP4-12C - What's in a Name?
The name of the new McLaren sports car is MP4-12C.
What does this
signify? As one might expect at McLaren, everything has a purpose and the
nomenclature is no exception.
- 'MP4' has been the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars
since 1981. It stands for McLaren Project 4, resulting from the merger of
Ron Dennis' Project 4 organization with McLaren.
- The '12' refers to McLaren's internal Vehicle Performance Index
through which it rates key performance criteria both for competitors and for
its own cars. The criteria combine power, weight, emissions, and aerodynamic
efficiency. The coalition of all these values delivers an overall
performance index that has been used as a benchmark throughout the car's
- The 'C' refers to Carbon, highlighting the unique application of
carbon fiber technology to the future range of McLaren sports cars.
"We are very proud of the McLaren MP4-12C and all the teamwork, intelligent
thought and sheer effort that have gone into developing this car. What drives
people at McLaren is passion - if you cut them, they bleed McLaren. And there is
no doubt in my mind that the 12C fully reflects that focus, drive and
determination in its performance, style and ownership potential," said Ron
Dennis, McLaren Automotive Chairman.
McLaren MP4-12C: Photo Gallery, Review (1/2) and Specifications