McLaren MP4-12C. Ousting Ferrari and Lamborghini from the garage?

In their latest instalment, the guys at XCARfilms ask an interesting question: has the McLaren MP4-12C pushed the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini off the must own list? Or for those of us with bank managers looking cynically out our monthly statements, out of the fantasy garage?

You could immediately argue that no, it hasn’t. So subtle was the MP4-12C’s design when launched that compared to the rival Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Aventador, Woking’s latest was almost anonymous. And boy did McLaren receive some flack for that: why spend a cool quarter mill on a model that was clean-cut and looked ‘nice’ when others on the market were bright orange, boasted panels so sharp you could shave with them, and had exhaust soundtracks that arguably kicked the McLaren’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 straight out the park. Supercars scream “look at me!”. The McLaren didn’t, the MP4-12C being marketed staunchly as a ‘sportscar’. Not for them the pomp and ceremony of supercar statue.

Then there was the badge. Infused as the prancing horse and raging bull are with pulsating testosterone, the McLaren tick agrees with Nike and just does it, but loses metaphors that include stallions and china shops. A tidy design – one they sculpted into the 12C’s air intakes – but lacking emotion. This despite the British marque having obliterated its Formula 1 rivals during the late 1980s/early 1990s, and won 12 Drivers’ Championships and 8 Constructors’ Championships. Only Ferrari has more of both championships, another accolade that dents Woking.

But there’s equal reason to say yes, in fact the McLaren does push Ferrari and Lamborghini out of the fantasy garage. As a ‘sportscar’, the MP4-12C does all its talking on the road/track, and it’s a philosophy that has traction. The Porsche 911 is as desirable as ever, despite the six-cylinder beetle being 50 years old. The company has certainly been in no rush to replace the aged Carrera GT with the new 918 Spyder.

Flamboyancy only buys so much enthusiasm too. Don’t get me wrong, I find the sheer insanity of supercar design utterly superb, and necessary. To a point. Take most 1980s/1990s supercars: it’s all well and good being extrovert but doesn’t make an overheating engine, a soon-to-be knackered gearbox and the occasional raging inferno any less irritating to live with. It’s even caught McLaren itself out once or twice.

The F1 – the Gordon Murray designed legend – was the fastest production car of its generation, and considered brilliant on pretty much every level. It could hit just shy of 400kph, but did so without ABS or traction control: if you wanted to drive one – seriously drive one – you needed some steroid-injected cajones. It cost almost $1 million dollars to buy, and even more to repair if you stacked it. The centre-mounted driver’s seat was also so far ahead of its time that getting customers to take it seriously took some effort. Hence they didn’t actually sell that many and shut the production down early.

Then came the SLR, a McLaren-Mercedes collaboration that looked the absolute nuts (it’s still up there with the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari F40 as one of my favourite supercars) but was so brutal under acceleration and braking that chiropractor bills alone would leave its owner in financial ruin.

With the MP4-12C then McLaren took a different approach, an uncompromised design philosophy that created the ‘and’ car: it is lighter ‘and’ stronger than its nearest rivals, thanks to a unique carbon fibre MonoCell; smaller on the outside ‘and’ spacious inside thanks to fully-developed aerodynamics, which simultaneously aided performance ‘and’ fuel efficiency claims. In short, as we’ve found out many times with our Management Fleet model, you can hoon the bollocks off a 12C, head back to town with just enough fuel left to cruise down the boulevard in relative obscurity, ‘and’ hit your favourite restaurant without so much as creasing your shirt. Even issues such as cabin noise levels and inoperable door handles/buttons were dealt with quickly, being showcased with pride on the 2013MY variant alongside a revamped V8 and a new 625hp power figure.

It proved a massive step for supercars/’sportscars’, and petrolheads the world over quickly took notice. As the XCAR guys mention, as well as being ‘one hell of an achievement’, the MP4-12C is also a supercar ‘that even mere mortals can just about approach’. Now you can barely hit the Middle East highways without a 12C rolling past.

Some five years ago you couldn’t really have imagined the McLaren MP4-12C rivalling the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of this world for garage space, fantasy or otherwise. It makes you wonder then what on earth the McLaren P1 – apparently due to boast F1 levels of performance, SLR looks and MP4-12C practicality – will have to offer. It may already have its garage slot booked for most of us.

- Shots courtesy of M7M Photography.