The first in a range of high performance sports cars from McLaren has been unveiled.


The UK-based racing car company claims that the McLaren MP4-12C set to rewrite the rules of sports car design through Formula 1-inspired engineering, revolutionary chassis architecture, and an ‘absolute focus on efficiency’.


The McLaren MP4-12C is revealed as the first in a range of high-performance sports cars from McLaren Automotive, the independent car division based at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England.


“It is a long-held dream of mine to launch a range of high performance sports cars that set new standards in the industry,” said Ron Dennis, McLaren Automotive Chairman.


“We began designing and building cars for aficionados of thoroughbred sports cars almost 20 years ago. Incorporating the leading edge technologies that the McLaren Group has built up within its various companies, I believe we are now perfectly placed to open up this new chapter in McLaren’s history as well as play a part in the regeneration of high-tech manufacturing in the UK and global automotive environment,” he said.


The McLaren MP4-12C features a revolutionary carbon fibre chassis structure, the Carbon MonoCell. McLaren says it is the first time a car in this market segment has been based around such a strong and lightweight racing car engineering solution and the first time any car has ever featured a one-piece carbon fibre structure.


Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal of McLaren’s racing team said: “McLaren has for years offered a potent mix of race car and road car technologies. This combination of McLaren’s performance heritage, and future demands on what is expected of high performance sports cars in the 21st century, gave us a head-start when we embarked on this project. The 12C, and future variants, draws on the spirit of Formula 1 and delivers real-world technological advances.”


The first car from the new company, the McLaren MP4-12C, is a high performance two-seat mid-engine model in the ‘core’ sports car market segment for cars costing between GBP125,000 and GBP175,000. The 12C features no carryover parts from any other car, and will be produced by McLaren in the UK. It goes on sale through a dedicated, worldwide retailer network in early 2011.


“McLaren is already a car maker with maturity and experience, having produced iconic cars such as the F1,” said Antony Sheriff, McLaren Automotive Managing Director.


“The next step was to construct a range of pure McLaren high performance sports cars that are true to the company’s philosophy and reflect our position as an absolute technology and performance leader. So, when we embarked on the 12C project, we wanted to re-write the rules of sports car design. Indeed, the 12C offers performance and technology that exceeds that of the world’s most expensive and sophisticated supercars, while competing in a much more accessible market segment. And to achieve this result, we designed every component from scratch to meet the extreme goals of the 12C and avoid any compromise.


“A clear illustration of its special qualities is in the efficiency of its power delivery. With the 12C’s power output of around 600hp and its low CO2 emissions, it delivers the highest horsepower to CO2 ratio of any car on the market today with an internal combustion engine…and that includes petrol and diesel hybrids,” Sheriff said.


The McLaren MP4-12C is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.8 litre 90° V8 engine – the ‘M838T’. McLaren says this marks the start of a new era in ‘core’ segment sports cars – smaller capacity, lighter weight, higher efficiency and more economical power units. The engine has the highest specific power output in its segment which, when allied to its low weight carbon composite chassis, delivers exemplary power- and torque-to-weight ratios, the firm claims.


Ron Dennis is undaunted by the timing of the launch, coming as it does in the midst of the worst global economic recession since the 1930s.


“I am confident that now is the right time for McLaren Automotive to become a full line high performance sports car manufacturer,” Dennis maintains.


“Worldwide demand for high performance cars is strong, in large part because of great cars from great competitors. With McLaren joining that list, it will grow stronger still. What we are offering is a new approach to the market, through a skilled, solid, debt-free and risk-managed company. McLaren is right to take this step now and support future growth of high-technology manufacturing and engineering jobs in the UK,” Dennis declared.


Although the recent economic downturn has affected the performance car sector, just as it has the entire motor industry, McLaren Automotive believes that the ‘core’ segment’s growth from 8,000 sales in 2000 to more than 28,000 in 2007 highlights the potential that exists and that it will soon return to at least 2007 levels.


“By the time the 12C is launched in 2011 we expect the economic conditions to be much improved. We have already seen significant interest in the car and the supply of the 12C will be relatively scarce; in its first year we plan to produce just 1,000 cars which represents only 3.5 per cent of the ‘core’ market,” said Antony Sheriff.


“We have created ground-breaking new technology, lightweight engineering solutions, and harnessed real-world motor racing applications. It brings new levels of performance, fuel efficiency and practicality to the 12C’s segment. And it will be more exclusive than its principal competition with a price that reflects its lack of ubiquity,” he said.


McLaren Automotive will distribute the 12C and future models through a brand-new retail network in all global markets.


Oh, and that mixture of letters and numbers forming the model name? ‘MP4’ has been the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars since 1981. It stands for McLaren Project 4, resulting from the merger of Ron Dennis’ Project 4 organisation with McLaren. The ‘12’ refers to McLaren’s internal Vehicle Performance Index through which it rates key performance criteria both for competitors and for its own cars. The criteria combine power, weight, emissions, and aerodynamic efficiency. The coalition of all these values delivers an overall performance index that has been used as a benchmark throughout the car’s development. The ‘C’ refers to Carbon, highlighting the ‘unique application of carbon fibre technology to the future range of McLaren sports cars’.