McLaren MP4-12C

Production Cars 10 Sep 2009
McLaren MP4-12C

McLaren Automotive has unveiled the MP4-12C, a mid-engined sportscar that collects the heritage of the F1 supercar launched in 1993. It features a carbon fiber MonoCell structure and is powered by a 3.8 liter V8 engine with 600 hp. The design team was led by Frank Stephenson.


McLaren MP4 12CThe two-seater, mid-engined McLaren MP4-12C was inspired by the iconic F1 model (1993-1998) and by the Formula-One technology and experience.

The McLaren MP4-12C is powered by a 3.8 V8 turbocharged unit producing around 600bhp ansd is based on a revolutionary carbon fibre chassis structure, the Carbon MonoCell.

According to the carmaker the MP4-12C will be the first in a range of high-performance sports cars.

The will go on sale worldwide in early 2011 with prices ranging between £125,000 and £175,000.

Design

McLaren MP4 12C Design SketchThe McLaren MP4-12C design follows similar principles to McLaren’s Formula 1 cars, and the McLaren F1, where everything is for a reason .

Overall, the 12C is lower, shorter and narrower than key competitors, but has much shorter front and rear overhangs due to its longer wheelbase – a layout that promotes stability and assists handling response.

Frank Stephenson, McLaren Automotive Design Director, helped finalise the design: “Like most designers it’s a boyhood dream to work with high performance sports cars.

"They are the purest expression of speed and purpose and, with increased consumer demand in this market and environmental aims to the fore, offer designers the ultimate challenge. The 12C design was therefore led by aerodynamics.

"At McLaren we have been able to use the Formula 1 techniques and the huge expertise that the company has amassed at the pinnacle of the sport,” explained Stephenson.

McLaren MP4 12C Design Sketch McLaren MP4 12C Design Sketch

“All the fins, vents and the flat underbody are there for a reason. No styling addenda have been incorporated for appeal or style alone."

McLaren MP4 12C Design Sketch"This aerodynamic purity explains why this car can hit top speed with great stability without resorting to tea tray wings or deep front air dams. I really feel that the styling communicates the 12C’s engineering integrity and technical benefits and it is this purity that makes the design timeless.”

“Many sports cars and super cars present an ‘in-your-face’, ‘look-at-me’ image that can become wearing and boorish; the ultimate backhanded compliment becomes, “…it was of its time”.

"Great design, however, is timeless and looks relevant years later. Take the McLaren F1 as an example. I hope that with the 12C we have produced a car that looks great today and will still look great in years to come.”

The 12C’s body has been styled to support sector-leading levels of downforce; downforce that then subsequently contributes to sector-leading levels of lateral grip and stability. Air flow has been manically managed to support all performance figures and light weight targets.

McLaren MP4 12CFor example, placing the radiators adjacent to the engine keeps the car narrow and reduces weight. However, this results in a huge challenge of ensuring ample air flow to the radiators.

As a result, the large side air scoops and integrated turning vanes that are dramatic, but purely functional. No larger or smaller than required.

The designer’s challenge is to then take that styling purpose driven by engineering aspirations and add personality. That’s why the air scoops resemble the McLaren logo in form, as do other features around the car.

Just two ‘pure’ lines flow round the car and, when combined with the integration of several dramatic convex and concave surfaces, present a car that looks compact, low and well proportioned.

Interior Design

McLaren MP4 12C Interior SketchPackaging was fundamental to the McLaren MP4-12C design challenge.

Externally, the car had to be compact, yet internally it had to offer an unparalleled driver and passenger environment where comfort and driving enjoyment at all levels were not compromised.

“With the interior, we have created a real step forward in the packaging of a sports car.

"Moving the driver and passenger closer together improves driving control and moving the pedals improves the problem of wheel well intrusion.

"We also repackaged many of the major components that normally sit under the dashboard to allow for more space and a unique form. Packaging is one of the 12C’s really strong points,” said Frank Stephenson.

Technical Features

McLaren MP4 12C Carbon Mono CellThe 12C is powered by a bespoke McLaren ‘M838T’ 3.8 litre, V8 twin-turbo engine producing around 600bhp, driving through a McLaren seven speed Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox (SSG).

The 12C MonoCell carbon fibre chassis structure weighs less than 80 kg and provides the structural basis for the whole car. The tub’s torsional rigidity is considerably stiffer than a comparable alloy structure.

McLaren has pioneered a new carbon fibre production process that allows the MonoCell to be produced , in a single piece, in only four hours, compared to the dozens of carbon components (and dozens of production hours) that normally feature in a carbon fibre chassis structure.

The suspension is based on double wishbones with coil springs. The dampers are interconnected hydraulically and provide adaptive responses depending on both road conditions and driver preference.

McLaren MP4 12C Engine McLaren MP4 12C Suspension

Additional highlights include the innovative Proactive Chassis Control system, which features adjustable roll control which replaces the conventional mechanical anti-roll bars.

Electronic aids include ABS, ESP, ASR traction control, Electronic Brake Distribution, Hill Hold and Brake Steer. The level of intervention varies according to the handling mode selected.

McLaren MP4 12C McLaren MP4 12C McLaren MP4 12C

Below we report additional details on the exterior and interior design of the MP4-12C, provided by McLaren’s official press release:

Exterior Design

The McLaren MP4-12C has been designed around a demanding mechanical package that puts emphasis on aerodynamics, compact dimensions, performance and efficiency.

The overall design theme supports engineering aerodynamic ambitions. McLaren’s styling team honed a mix of concave and convex surfaces that present balanced proportions and a feeling of lightness.

The surfaces interact smoothly and with purpose; surfaces that are integrated into the whole of the car along two continuous lines that flow round the body.

McLaren MP4 12CThe front is very low since it does not have to house large engine cooling radiators, two of which are mounted longitudinally at the sides. This offers the added benefit of segment-leading space for storage under the bonnet.

The 12C’s face is dominated by large and distinctive air intakes and bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights inspired by the form of the McLaren logo. The McLaren logo itself also graces the bonnet of a car for the first time.

Illumination from the running lights bleeds into three distinctive gills just above the headlamps. The windscreen is deep and low for superb forward visibility and redolent of the McLaren F1: in wet weather it is swept by a single weight-saving pantograph wiper blade, as was the F1.

Stephenson again: “The 12C does not reproduce the F1 design but it unashamedly builds on its functionally-driven engineering and design highlights such as the large, deep windscreen and the low cowl to give the driver good visibility for accurate placement on the road. Any similarities are there for a reason.”

McLaren MP4 12CFrom the side, the 12C cannot be mistaken for another sports car. The dominant side air inlets act as turning vanes and help direct cooling air over the side radiators.

This shape was designed and optimised using McLaren’s extensive computational fluid dynamics capability. Likewise, the scalloped shoulders drive airflow to the airbrake, thereby enhancing its effectiveness in the aerodynamic package.

The other prevailing design characteristics are the dihedral doors (a hereditary gene from the McLaren F1).

Their goal is to allow the driver and passenger to get into and out of the car as easily as possible as well as allowing a smaller door opening than would otherwise be necessary.

The simple act of moving the door forward and upwards invites the driver to step across the sill and sit in the car more easily. In tighter parking situations, dihedral doors allow ingress and egress in a situation where another car has parked too closely. In traditional door systems a huge parking space is necessary to permit the doors to open wide enough.

With its single hinge, the dihedral doors offer weight-saving features and are unique to the McLaren brand. As is the unique handle-free door entry system.

McLaren MP4 12CThe 12C’s rear has an aggressive, business-like appearance with its downforce-optimised rear diffuser.

The exhaust pipes exit high and in the centre of the car and the rear end is open to ensure efficient evacuation of hot air from the engine bay. The engine itself is visible through the top deck.

The LED tail light clusters do not dominate the rear and are hidden behind horizontal black bars. They are only visible when illuminated: the two upper bars light up as LED brake lights and turn indicators.

Aerodynamic efficiency drove the 12C’s design. The car has a completely flat underbody and smooth upper body surfaces to yield a highly effective drag coefficient and generate very high levels of balanced downforce at high speed.

A nose splitter gives more downforce at the front while guide vanes near the front and rear wheels help to increase downforce with minimal drag penalty and direct air towards the all-important diffuser at the rear.

The active Airbrake is another innovation that made its debut on the F1 supercar and was also incorporated into the SLR. It deploys hydraulically under braking, or when the driver wants to trim the car for increased downforce by using a switch on the Active Dynamics Panel.

Under braking, a piston operated by transmission hydraulics raises the Airbrake to a certain angle. Once a small amount of wing angle is pushed into the airflow, the centre of aerodynamic pressure forces the bottom of the ‘wing’ back. In this way, it raises the airbrake to maximum angle using the ‘free’ airflow rather than relying on another mechanical device.

The Airbrake moves the centre of pressure of the 12C rearwards, whereas it would normally move forward under braking. It improves yaw stability under braking and allows the brakes to work more effectively due to increased downforce. It is also a weight-saving solution that took almost 50 per cent of weight out of the mechanism.

Interior Design

McLaren MP4 12C InteriorThe whole focus is on making the 12C cockpit a uniquely comfortable and functional space. The design offers a symmetry that wraps around the occupants and makes them feel not only physically, but also emotionally comfortable.

The interior is extremely space efficient and is designed to accommodate 98thpercentile adults in comfort. This has been partly achieved by the 7 inch touch screen telematics system oriented in ‘portrait’ mode.

This is a first for the automotive industry and is more intuitive than ‘landscape’ orientation – we read down a page and our mobile telephones and other personal information devices are configured this way.

This is one of the many reasons the 12C design is able to buck the trend towards ever wider sporting cars. The information centre – produced by Meridian – provides all normal telematics functions such as audio, navigation and telephony.

McLaren designers paid great attention to all-round visibility for both safety and driving precision.

The low cowl gives a full six degrees downward vision from eye height and, importantly, allows the driver a clear view of the front of the car.

The view of the top of the front wings, with the highest point positioned directly above the centre of the wheel, also facilitates perfect placement of the 12C in a corner. Rear vision is excellent too and an internal buttress with a rear three-quarter glass provides a clear rearward view.

McLaren MP4 12C InteriorThe steering wheel is probably the most important sensory item for any driver.

Apart from the feel and feedback from the front wheels, the actual grip and design of the wheel itself is paramount. The steering wheel is ‘clean’ – there are no buttons to distract the driver. It also needs to be small and very tactile.

McLaren designers and engineers found the solution to the steering wheel design challenge under their own roof. Having employed an advanced and compact airbag, the steering wheel design was then inspired by McLaren’s racing expertise.

The steering wheel grip of the 12C is as technically precise as a McLaren racing driver’s wheel.

This is because past Formula 1 championship-winning drivers’ grips were modelled and scanned and the most effective feel and thickness of their wheels was replicated for a high performance road car.

Such attention to detail is to be found throughout the McLaren 12C’s interior and the car does not suffer an over abundance of switches, knobs and dials.

The layout and ergonomics of the interior are aided by the 12C’s packaging. The driver and passenger sit closer together, giving the driver a better feeling of control for placing the car on the road accurately as well as leaving more room between the driver and the door panel. This allows not only more space for arm movements during hard driving, but also provides space for an additional ‘door console’.

Like the McLaren F1, the driver has controls on both sides, which allows for a rational positioning of switches.

As such, all groups of controls have their own place and are accessible within a hand’s distance from the steering wheel. The instrument cluster has a large central tachometer and digital speed readout. Behind the steering wheel (and moving with it) is a Formula 1-inspired rocker for changing gears. It has been engineered to deliver a Formula 1 haptic. The science of haptics has been applied to all the controls in order to generate a consistent and high quality feel. All the controls are bespoke, designed exclusively by McLaren, and not a single one has come from the parts bin of another manufacturer.

The Active Dynamics Panel provides two rotary switches and four push buttons:

The supportive, light weight seat is comfortable and electrically-adjustable for height. There is plenty of stowage space in the car with a shelf behind the seats big enough for small bags and a ‘floating’ centre console that leaves space beneath for a large storage container.

The interior’s simplicity belies a world-class level of comfort and safety features that will include a full quota of airbags, fully automatic dual zone climate control, sophisticated telematics and audio systems, parking sensors, trip computer, cruise control and electric memory seats.

About McLaren Automotive

McLaren Automotive – the independent car division based at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England – has already built the McLaren F1 (1993-1998) and the the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (2003-2009).

McLaren MP4 12C McLaren MP4 12C McLaren MP4 12C

The name of the new McLaren sports car is MP4-12C where ‘MP4’ has been the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars since 1981; the ‘12’ refers to McLaren’s internal Vehicle Performance Index ; and the ‘C’ refers to Carbon, highlighting the revolutionary Carbon MonoCell.

McLaren pioneered the use of carbon composite construction in the 1981 Formula 1 MP4/1 model and set a trend that all Formula 1 teams have followed. The company brought carbon fibre to road cars for the first time with the 1993 McLaren F1 and then built on this experience with a carbon fibre chassis and body on the SLR manufactured to the same exacting standards, but in higher volumes.

McLaren MP4 12CRon Dennis, McLaren Automotive Chairman, to announce his plans for the ultimate line-up of technology-led and customer-focused performance cars for the 21st century.

“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 Dennis.

“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 concluded.

(Source: McLaren Automotive)

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