McLaren MP4-12C Factory Visit

Bruce McLaren began his racing success in 1954 at the age of 15 in a modified 1936 Austin 7.

How could he have predicted the phenomenal success of the company that now bears his name?

And how proud would he have been to see his name applied to its latest product, the state of the art McLaren MP4-12C supercar?

In the modest words of McLaren chairman Ron Dennis, “We don’t win all the Grands Prix, but we do win a significant percentage.”

“We will bring the same level of commitment to our customers as we do in winning races.”

It’s not enough to talk of MP4-12C performance figures, staggering though they are:

  • 0-200kmh under 10 seconds
  • 200kmh-0 under 5 seconds
  • 100kmh-0 under 3 seconds and 30metres
  • Top speed over 200mph
  • ¼ mile around 11q seconds
  • CO2 under 300g/km
  • Dry weight around 1,300kg
  • Maximum power 600PS
  • Maximum torque 600Nm at 3,500rpm

In fact the McLaren MP4-12C develops more horsepower for CO2 emitted than any other internal combustion car, including hybrids.

These sort of figures are expected by the market from a company of the calibre of McLaren.

But to McLaren the focal point of all its effort is the customer. The McLaren MP4-12C is a clean sheet design, literally around the driver.

They began with a man, a seat and a steering wheel.

As with an F1 car, they built a carbon fibre tub to accommodate a driver and one passenger that weighs a mere 80kg.

An aluminium subframe behind carries the 3.8 litre twin turbo V8 engine, 7 speed, twin-clutch transmission and rear suspension.

Another subframe at the front carries the front suspension.

The clever part of that is the active hydraulic damping control that in ‘normal’ setting offers ride quality equivalent to a decent family saloon. Yet in Sport or Track settings provides the highest level of lateral grip of any road car. Those same hydraulics also apply the rear air brake, giving downforce to the back of the car so the rear brakes work effectively.

The brake discs themselves will be steel or carbo-ceramic. McLaren is testing both and deciding whether to make carbo ceramic brakes standard or optional.

The car is as small and light as possible. Every single component is evaluated and targeted for weight. Result, just 1,300 kilos.

The screen is deliberately deep, giving the driver an excellent view of the front wheelarches and enabling him to aim the car accurately.

Nothing is offset. The steering wheel and pedals are all inline with the driver. Switchgear all falls easily to hand. The whole point is to make the car unintimidating and accessible.

The cars are built by sophisticated hand craftsmanship. Any faults or problems are rectified in production as each car is assembled by the build team rather than rectified later after the car is complete. Many of the techs who build the cars are former F1 mechanics, but McLaren is running a sophisticated apprentice scheme and will need to employ 360 by the time the new McLaren factory is completed in 2011.

Production commences at 3 cars a day in the existing factory, rising to a maximum of 4,000 a year from 2012. Only 1,000 cars will be built for sale during 2011, the first reaching customers in Spring 2011.

The McLaren MP4-12C redefines what a supercar should be. But to match the car McLaren demands the highest level of customer service from its dealers, all carefully hand picked, and all supplied with 100% of the parts needed to completely rebuild an MP4-12C before the first customer cars arrive.

Onboard telemetry Bluetooths a message of any impending problem directly back to McLaren HQ, so in most cases the factory will know about it before the driver does.

Behind the operation, lies Ron Dennis obsession with perfection. Not only to redefine what a supercar should be, but to enhance the owning experience so the owner of an MP4-12C won’t just bring it out for the weekends.

He (or she) will use it every day.

More in the car by car review at: MP4-12C Car by Car Review.

See Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in other McLaren videos here: MP4-12C


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