I hate to do something "news-ey" since that's not really what I'm about but something happened and I wanted to comment on it. Today, one of the most anticipated cars, with perhaps the highest-ever expectations for a supercar, was unveiled: the McLaren P1. Or, at least, it's "design study." So let's do our own design study.
I have some brief thoughts on the features that are presented here themselves:
–There is a lot of glass. The cabin looks immense, perhaps it's hiding three seats like the F1? Or perhaps not — McLaren considers outward visibility to be first-priority, and the vast windshield is certainly in keeping with that.
– The side profile initially looked Koenigseggian, or Carrera GT-ish — completely flat, with a superficial cutout vent/scoop. Disappointing. But that side opening seems to reveal the carbon tub structure. Which I like quite a bit. It almost incorporates some of the modern spartan spirit (no, not the SNL sketch!) of the KTM X-Bow and Ariel Atom by revealing it's structure.
– Those front vents in the hood? What are those? They're tiny. Why the split? A single gaping opening would be more dramatic, and certainly no worse. A clean, unadorned 'bonnet' with no vents would have been even more dramatic.
– Also up front are McLaren logo-shaped headlights. That's a bit much. The way the front bumper/splitter/headlights interact is complex.
–The rear is wonderful. I like the low, low rear deck height, sunken in beneath the rear fenders. I also like how it has 'openings' for taillights which aren't there, like empty, gaping eye sockets.
Overall I'm impressed. I was expecting an MP4-12C Longtail, or at least an MP4-12C with stuff added on. This isn't that, it's a 12C with stuff taken away.
That's it for the visual cues, but there's more. Foremost, I'm biased because I don't particularly think this car needs to exist. The less-expensive MP4-12C was launched, not to exceed the otherworldly F1, but to bring the fantastically space-age technology of the F1 to a wider audience. This car... is built to exceed the otherworldly F1. Good luck. Being 'the fastest and most expensive' is a far less interesting story these days. Especially when it's a car that isn't designed by Gordon Murray.
Personally, I think it should have waited. 'McLaren Automotive' is a reinvented, new company that essentially starts fresh with the MP4-12C, which has been in production for one year. Why not wait and see where the motorsports development takes it? Why not see what could be learned from the all-new McLaren sales centers around the world? Learn what McLaren means to people and how it can be made even better. To have access to that information and ignore it (I base this on the timing, nothing else), and design a flagship in a vacuum seems foolish.
What does the P1 stand for? (note: think less literally.)
When the McLaren F1 was built, it was designed to be the very best driver's car in the world. The goal was the be the purist car, not the fastest car — that was just a happy accident. I'm pretty optimistic, so I like to believe that the F1 was built in a time where that idealistic sentiment wasn't bullshit. But when McLaren says they strived to make " the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit,” as they have today, it probably is.
Rewarding? With hybrid stuff powering the front wheels? [unconfirmed]
So if the 'rewarding' aspect is bullshit, what does this car stand for?
1. Lap times?
2. Top speed?
Or, 3. Basically just a lot of horsepower.
There's nothing wrong with #3, it's just not very interesting. And if that's this car's M.O., it should flaunt it more. It should be a wild, uncompromised, unlivable design statement with tandem seating. Not just a kinda-sorta lightweight [unconfirmed] car with a lot of horsepower.
For me, it doesn't go far enough. This doesn't need to be a grand tourer. McLaren already builds a car with two doors that can drive across Europe comfortably.
McLaren will sell every one of them that they build -- look at prices of the original F1, or look at the sold out, largely-unappealing Aston Martin One-77. Everyone rattles on about 'no-compromises', and this is the greatest chance of ever making a no-compromise vehicle. This will be no one's daily driver.
I've oft been called out on lamenting that every new car doesn't look like the Maserati Birdcage 75 concept, but really, this is one of those cars that would do well to look and like the Maserati Birdcage 75 concept. Look at it.
Whether its visually extreme enough is debatable, but uninteresting. It's not philosophically extreme enough. McLaren's F1 successor deserves to be something new, not something rehashed. This is the same idea as the F1, except crushed under the weight of 20 years of emissions, safety regulations and a ballooning list of modern-day luxury conveniences. Having turbos turned up to 1,000 horsepower might not be enough to overcome the inherent deficiencies.
Oh, and I'm predicting the P1 will weight 3,100 lbs. A good 600-700lbs more than the F1 seems like a safe bet, so I'm not exactly going out on a limb here.
Friend-of-friends Will Pierce added some excellent insights! Click the images for higher resolution images to read the annotated thoughts written across.