McLaren Working on Four New Models
Company Planning to Take on Ferrari on the Street
The MP4-12C is the latest and greatest supercar from McLaren, makers of the legendary F1.
McLaren Automotive could hardly be more different from your usual men-in-a-shed supercar start-up. Okay, the name isn't new, and Formula One racing gets it out there in front of millions of fans every two weeks. But the road car company itself is new: new engine, new chassis, new car, new factory, new dealer network.
The company plans a full model range. There are already at least four more models in the design and development pipeline. McLaren plans to follow a three-tier range, with variants such as cabrios in each tier. The MP4-12C (codename P11) is the middle tier, going against the Ferrari 458 and Lamborghini Gallardo.
The next car up is codenamed P12, a hypercar rival at the Lamborghini Aventador level, and a successor to the benchmark McLaren F1. There will also be a cheaper range, codenamed P13, a non-turbo Porsche 911 alternative. Until now, McLaren has built 73 MP4-12C prototypes, covered 625,000 development miles, and spent some £250 million ($400 million).
"And that doesn't include the factory," adds American-born managing director Antony Sheriff. The soon-to-open plant cost £40m ($63 million).
All the new range will be "true McLarens," Sheriff says. "Whatever we do will be based on carbon. It will have performance and handling that's the best of its segment." The company has the capacity to make 4000 cars a year.
What this means, other sources say, is that in each segment it will build fewer cars than the competition. The MP4-12C is planned at 1300 cars a year; this leaves roughly 2500 of the P13 and no more than 200 of the P12.
McLaren's plan is to use the MP4-12C's carbon-fiber monocell tub for all models. This piece forms the central structure of the car-the front bulkhead, sills, floor, and rear bulkhead. It's made by a process that holds some 25 pieces of dry carbon-fiber matting in a single large tool while resin is injected. This is far cheaper and faster than laying up pre-impregnated sheets of carbon fiber and curing them in an autoclave.
McLaren built eight crash prototypes of the MP4-12C to ensure the monocell is able to pass all global standards. Developing future cars using the same monocell will be quicker and cheaper because redesigning, retooling, or retesting won't be required. Even with that shared basis, the other cars can have different wheelbase and track dimensions and different engines, though they'll always be mid-mounted.
While McLaren likes to paint the MP4-12C as a carbon supercar, the monocell is the only significant carbon part. Front and rear frames and crash structures are aluminum, as is the roof frame (with steel reinforcement in the A-posts). The roof, front fenders, and hood are aluminum, while other parts are various composites.
What does this mean for future models? After the recently revealed GT3 racing MP4-12C, there will be a softtop version of the road car. The fact that so much structural strength resides in the tub is an obvious advantage-you can expect the roadster to be more rigid than its rivals, as well as lighter. (The coupe weighs at least 150 pounds less than a Ferrari 458.)
The next model is the P12. This will be the top expression of McLaren's motorsport-engineering philosophy. Despite running 800 horsepower or more, its weight shouldn't be vastly different from the 12C's because it will use more carbon fiber, including the crash structures and body panels. Active aero, Brake-Steer, and ProActive chassis might not be allowed in sport, but they follow the philosophy, because they allow faster lap times with less weight than conventional solutions.
Design director Frank Stephenson says the P12 and P13 won't look like different-sized replicas of the 12C. But there will be certain McLaren design cues: the dihedral door hinges, which aid entry; the glasshouse; a very low cowl for good forward visibility; the hidden rear lamps; even more detailed headlamp units compared with the 12C's; and an overall simplicity of design. Stephenson says the 12C's twin-blade side air intakes are probably not the most successful part of its styling-they were needed for functional reasons to turn the cooling air inwards toward the radiators.
The P12 will be shown within a year and a half; the P13, which has already passed design signoff, will be seen a year after that. This is one busy start-up.