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McLaren unveils new supercar

Tue, 08 Sep 2009

After years of spy shots and speculation, McLaren Automotive finally took the wraps off its latest supercar, the MP4-12C.

The MP4-12C follows the McLaren F1 (1993-1998) and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (2003-2009). McLaren Automotive says the MP4-12C is the first in a line of new sports cars it will produce, but won't say when or how many more will come.

The company says the new car follows the McLaren philosophy of keeping things simple, with everything on the car having a specific purpose. At its heart, the new car features a one-piece molded carbon fiber chassis structure, which McLaren calls the Carbon MonoCell. The 12C is powered by an in-house built 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 the company calls the M838T, developed specifically for this car. The engine produces around 600 hp (final figures are still being worked out), driving through a McLaren seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. All of the 12C's parts are made for this car, from the engine to the tailor-made switches and buttons -- nothing has come from another manufacturer's parts bin.

Weight savings was a big priority. The goal is to have the car, which is slightly shorter, narrower and lower than a Ferrari F430, come in at less than 3,000 pounds. The MonoCell not only reduces weight but also allows for the use of much lighter weight body panels. McLaren also saved weight by closely positioning the driver and passenger for a narrower body; brakes with forged aluminum hubs saved weight and are lighter than optional carbon ceramic brakes; lightweight exhaust pipes exit straight out the rear of the car, minimizing length and weight; even the radiators were mounted in the rear of the car as close to the engine as possible, to minimize the cooling pipes, the fluids contained in them, and therefore weight.

The interior on the prototype we saw looked logically laid out with a Recaro bucket seats, a digital speedometer and a large center tachometer. There are separate heat/vent controls on each door, while the center console houses navigation and audio controls.

The two-seat mid-engine car should cost around $230,000, right in line with the Lamborghini Gallardo and Ferrari F430. McLaren will build the car at its Woking, U.K., facility. The 12C goes on sale through a dedicated, worldwide dealer network (fewer than 20 dealers in the U.S.) in early 2011. The company hopes to sell 1,000 cars the first year and eventually get to 4,000 cars a year.

By Wes Raynal