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McLaren mysteries: Some things you might not know about the P1 and its maker

Fri, 03 May 2013

The McLaren P1 is one of the most spectacular supercars in the world, and it's been an object of fixation for enthusiasts since it debuted as a concept last fall in Paris. The basics are well known: a 903-hp hybrid powertrain, carbon-fiber for almost everything, and taut, curvaceous styling that introduces McLaren to a fresh generation.

The P1 grew out of a somewhat hokey mission statement that McLaren produced back in 2009. McLaren engineers were charged with creating a truly modern hyper-car to compete with the very best from Ferrari, Porsche, Bugatti and Lamborghini -- a heady task that required vast amounts of money, time and technological expertise -- McLaren leaned heavily on its Formula One team in Woking for its expertise.

But, the path to the P1's July 8 production date has had plenty of twists, and there are a few things that might surprise you. Here's a few of the more intriguing tidbits.

Engine options: McLaren admitted that its product guys considered V10 or V12 engines-. But ultimately, the 3.8-liter V8 in the 12C was deemed more than adequate, though it was given a thorough makeover. The twin-turbo pushes out 727 hp, up significantly from the 616 hp in the 12C. McLaren says that the P1's powerplant is about 90 percent different from the one in the 12C.

The decision was also a weighty one--quite literally--for McLaren. A larger engine would have added mass, possibly offsetting some of the weight-saving measures the firm took in building the machine.

Serious power: The company isn't shy about touting its F1 prowess, but in many ways, the Instant Power Assist System in the P1 is more advanced an F1 car's KERS setup. IPAS packs more than double the power of a KERS unit, and it's designed to be used more often. In simple terms, it's better and stronger than its track counterpart. While the FIA limits how long KERS can be used per lap, IPAS is set up to be used repeatedly if the driver chooses (even Bernie Ecclestone can't govern traffic laws for road cars).

The extra power is accessible via a button on the steering wheel, and extended usage is enabled in part by an enhanced cooling system. Interestingly, the electric unit is enough to propel the P1 farther than six miles in EV mode at speeds of up to 100 mph.

While IPAS is a bit like KERS, the brakes do not handle energy recuperation since McLaren wanted to avoid the often unpleasant feel of the regenerative brakes in some traditional hybrids.

More to come: McLaren plans to add more models -- a rather interesting prospect since it's never made an extensive line of products to this point. But, new vehicles will join it's portfolio in the 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately, the company didn't elaborate.

By Greg Migliore