The 12C is built around a lightweight carbon-fibre tub with aluminium structures fore and aft, to which the drivetrain and suspension are attached. The engine is McLaren’s own 3.8-litre, 32-valve V8 that has variable valve timing and a pair of turbochargers, but lacks some leading-edge technologies like direct fuel injection. Rated at 616 horsepower, it is not a rev-happy screamer like the 570-horsepower, 4.5-litre, non-turbocharged V8 in the 458 Italia. Rather, it pulls through its accompanying 7-speed, dual clutch transmission like a Pratt & Whitney fanjet. And as with the Ferrari, the 12C is rear-drive only.
Getting the most from that thrust is a computerised hydraulic double-wishbone suspension at each corner. There are three separate settings for the 12C’s suspension system – Normal, Sport and Track – featuring progressively higher hydraulic pressure. In daily use, the Normal setting provides a relatively cushy ride, while in Track mode there is almost no perceptible body roll. Dive into any corner, no matter how ridiculously off-cambre or bizarre in radius, and the 12C bites into the pavement like a cheetah into a gazelle’s femur.
Engage the 12C’s launch control system and the car lunges forward with what feels like a disdain for normal physics. With the computer doing the throttle and shifting work, the 12C is so quick you do not have time for your life to flash before you; a driver would be lucky to make out two years of pre-school. According to Edmunds.com, the McLaren moves from zero to 60mph in 3.2 seconds while obliterating the quarter-mile in 11 seconds flat with a trap speed of 131.5mph. It is simply one of the quickest cars ever built. That it is also incredibly civilised is brilliance defined.
Prices for the MP4-12C start at $229,000, and that, research reveals, is a lot. But it is slightly less expensive than the 458 Italia. For that money, however, the McLaren could stand to have more exciting looks and a less clumsy name. You might wait a few months, then, for the convertible, more concisely named 12C Spider, which happened to be James May of Top Gear’s car of the year.
And then, in only about two short years, you could trade it in for the eventual NSX.