Now, usually on The Master Cylinder, I try to only write about new cars as they tend to be more relevant in the world of automotive news. However, when the prospect of road testing a McLaren MP4-12C presented itself, there was no way I was going to turn it down. So, welcome to the first used car I have ever road-tested, and as far as used cars go, it’s no slouch.
Really, the question I want to answer with this particular road test is quite simple: used supercars, are they any good? Owning a McLaren sounds exciting, but would you be better off simply spending your money on a brand new car? By discussing the McLaren’s performance, styling, interior, and pricing, I will hopefully give you all a thorough answer to this question.
If you know anything about McLaren, you know that the basis of the brand can be found in performance. So I apologize if this section is a bit lengthy, but as you shall see, it is completely necessary.
The 12C has a surprisingly small 3.8L twin-turbo V8 engine mounted cozily behind the cockpit. This particular engine was initially developed by TWR for IndyCar, but once the engineers from McLaren got their hands on it they pretty much redesigned everything. While a power output in the neighborhood of 600 bhp is definitely nothing to turn your nose at, what I find most impressive about this engine is its delivery of torque. Official specs state that the 12C delivers 80% of its peak torque output at a mere 2000 rpms. This statistic along with an extensive use of carbon-fibre means that the McLaren can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. The 12C doesn’t go from point A to point B. Instead, when you stamp on the accelerator, you are really pressing a hyperspace button that propels you through a wormhole into an adjacent galaxy. I could literally feel the G-forces tearing at my neck as we sped down the open farm roads. Simply put, I have never ever felt anything that accelerates quite like the 12C. However, before I get too carried away let’s talk about why this car is so insanely quick.
The MP4-12C is built upon a carbon-fibre tub chassis. The proper name, actually, is the “Carbon MonoCell” and it is an obvious case of McLaren applying their Formula 1 technology to road cars. However, the suspension that pairs to this tub chassis is even more complicated and equally impressive. Now with normal suspension systems, manufacturers usually utlize coil springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars. McLaren, on the other hand, decided that the entire system should be controlled by hydraulics. All of these hydraulic valves are interconnected and when faced with high pressure under cornering, the fluid stiffens the suspension and counteracts the body roll extremely effectively. But enough with all this technical gander as I sense that your interest is starting wane. For now, let’s move to a topic that is much more interesting: styling.
Styling with the MP4-12C is a tricky subject. The car was really built as a Ferrari 458 basher, and while I think it gets the job done in the performance department, styling is another story. You might find the gray paint job to be a bit boring (to be fair to the owner, this particular 12C actually has an iridescent wrap that looks much better in the sunlight) but I think regardless of color, the design lacks a level of flair that many would expect from a supercar. Most reporters and journalists in the automotive industry have also generally held this philosophy that the MP4-12C lacks a certain panache compared to the Ferrari, but as I will further address in my conclusion, this difference in character isn’t entirely negative.
I suppose you could associate much of the interior with the same boring exterior, and while I agree that it’s nothing to really marvel at, I do like it in a weird way. It certainly feels a bit bare-boned when compared to other supercars, but I do like the simplistic center dash and how I’m not bombarded with useless buttons and gadgets. When you sit down in the tightly-hugging bucket seats and gaze at the carbon fibre accents littering the interior, you get the sense that you are sitting in a machine made with the express purpose of performance.
Now I’m not really sure if I’m allowed to state exactly how much this car costed its owner, but I will say that it was in the neighborhood of $100,000. Keep in mind that when the MP4-12C first came out it had an MSRP of over $200,000 so by the looks of it this might just be the bargain of the century. At this particular point in time, $100,000 does also seem to be a pretty fair price. I took the liberty to do some basic browsing on the internet and found many listings around this same price point on CARFAX and Car Gurus.
The character of the McLaren MP4-12C really boils down to three components: performance, performance, and performance. Also, did I happen to mention performance? Ignore my hopeless attempt at comedy, but with this car, McLaren has focused on the one aspect of design that mattered the most to them, and consequently chased perfection. In the modern automotive market, many manufacturers have tried to build cars that can do it all, and as we all know, when you try to multi-task you just end up half-assing everything. So who cares if the 12C isn’t as flashy as a Ferrari? The appeal of this car is that it’s something different. If you buy a Ferrari, you buy it to please others. When people see a Ferrari, it makes their day and you in turn enjoy being the subject of all this attention. On the other hand, when you buy a McLaren, you buy it for yourself. You don’t care that raised exhausts make the ass of the car look a like a vacuum cleaner. You don’t care that you look absolutely ridiculous trying to get in and out of the car. You don’t even care that you won’t be able to use it half of the year because it’s RWD only. Instead, you buy this because you care about going fast. It’s as simple as that. So, an used McLaren MP4-12C, is it still any good? Oh hell yes.
“Mclaren 12C”. En.Wikipedia.Org, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLaren_12C. Accessed 3 Oct 2020.
“2012 Mclaren MP4-12C”. Car And Driver, 2011, https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a15127176/2012-mclaren-mp4-12c-first-drive-review/. Accessed 3 Oct 2020.