McLaren MP4-12C. Unchained. The Management Fleet

We’ve been getting lairy in our long-term McLaren MP4-12C. Eventually.

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I’ve been privileged to spend a lot of time behind the wheel of numerous McLaren MP4-12Cs since it burst onto the supercar scene a couple of years ago. During my various encounters I have grown increasingly fond of the car from Woking, but there has always been one thing that has stopped me from falling for it outright. The fact that I’ve never been able to switch off the traction control has always left me wondering what would be the outcome of 616bhp meeting rear wheels without the electronic nannies. Well, this month I finally got to find out.

After an email to Mclaren’s always helpful PR team enquiring how to disable the TC, to my surprise I got a reply with an instruction diagram attached. I knew it was a complicated procedure but I didn’t imagine it would need a set of illustrations. First you need to be stationary with your foot on the brake and the steering wheel centred. You then need to ensure that the toggles that control the Powertrain and Handling modes are both set to Track. Once that’s done you push and hold the Active button on the Dynamics Panel for ten seconds, which causes a message to pop up on the screen in the dash informing you that ESC is being switched off and asks you to confirm your selection. To verify that you do in fact want to get rid of the electronic safety net you then have to push and hold both the buttons that are on the Powertrain and Handling toggles simultaneously for another ten seconds, at which point a red graphic appears on the screen to let you know that you are now on your own and in extreme danger. I exaggerated the last bit, but that’s how the whole process makes you feel. It’s like Mclaren are asking whether you are really sure you want to do this? Are you positive? Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Now that all that dramatic build up is out of the way, the question that remains is what the MP4-12C is like to drive now that there is no longer an army of computers to stop you from throwing it off the road? The answer is that it’s actually very good. It’s not as instantly chuckable as a 458 but nowhere near as terrifying as something like a Porsche GT2; I feel it’s achieved the right balance between being entertaining yet challenging at the same time. It’s not a car that you can immediately explore the limits of, partly because it is a bit tricky but mainly because those limits are so insanely high. At the same time the more you lean on it, the more you begin to understand what it wants from you in terms of inputs. You very quickly realise that the pin sharp front-end requires minimal but decisive steering inputs, and once you do the MP4-12C becomes a very entertaining car indeed. Its turbocharged engine means that you have to be on your toes and quick with your reflexes, but you never feel like it has evil intentions.

As much as I am enjoying my new found freedom in the McLaren I am also finding the whole process required to kill the electronics pretty irritating. Once the novelty has worn off it becomes a bit of a nuisance. The biggest problem being that you have to be stationary while you do it, meaning you can’t see an entertaining sequence of corners coming up and switch off the TC for an impromptu bit of hooning. You actually have to pull over to the side of the road, follow the long-winded procedure and then get going again, which ruins the spontaneity of the moment. The other annoyance is that you have to have the Handling and Powertrain settings in the most aggressive Track mode if you want to shed the TC and that’s not always appropriate for the stretch of road you’re on. If the tarmac beneath you is bumpy then the most uncompromising suspension setting doesn’t work, likewise if you’re on a stretch of motorway, the Track setting is stiff enough to fuse your vertebrae.

Above niggles aside I have grown very attached to the MP4-12C and am already dreading the end of our loan period. It is an amazingly useable and practical everyday car that with the flick of a few switches transforms into as savage a supercar as you could wish for, all in a stylish yet understated body. The more time I spend driving the MP4-12C the more I realise it might just be the complete package.

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2013 McLaren MP4-12C
Engine: V8 Twin Turbo / 3799cc
Location: Mid / longitudinal
Power: 625hp @ 7500rpm
Torque: 442lb ft @ 3000-7000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed SSG / rear-wheel drive
Front suspension: ProActive chassis control
Rear suspension: ProActive chassis control
Brakes: Cast iron discs with forged aluminium fubs / 370mm (front) / 350mm (rear)
Wheels: 19-in x 8.5-in J (front) / 20-in x 11-in J (rear)
Tyres: 235/35 R19 (front) / 305/30 R20 (rear) / Pirelli P Zero
Weight (dry) 1336kg
0-100kph: 3.1 sec (claimed)
Top speed: 333kph (claimed)

Categories: Fast Fleet


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