McLaren MP4-12C: Best Sports Car in the World?

There have been a number of blog pieces comparing the MP4-12C to the Ferrari 458 Italia, including this one, and most give the edge to the McLaren. A lot depends on who’s doing the comparing, of course.

McLaren gave the car to some media folks to drive at the great Autodromo circuit in Portugal, and we’ll show you the video after the break. Interesting to watch their facial expressions. Jenson Button, a great F1 driver, also demonstrates.

We’ve written a lot (here and here) about the McLaren, because it’s a car with enormous potential and a great developmental history. It’s also going to be sold in the U.S. at the end of this summer for a sticker price of $231,400, which makes it a clear bargain in the rarefied world of highest-performing sportscars.

What do you get for that kind of bread? Well, first year’s production will be limited to 1,000 cars, so that gives you some exclusivity. The MP4-12C will get you to 60 mph in about 3 seconds and to 120 mph in 9. If you keep pushing with your right foot, the car will reach 205 mph.

By all reports, it is an outstanding handler, featuring something called

Brake Steer, which applies a discerning brake selection system, and an electro-hydraulic anti-roll system, which allows the car to comfortably maintain a balanced and flat ride while taking sharp corners or absorbing minor bumps along the road. Finally, the McLaren’s Active Dynamics Panel allows the driver to select among three suspension modes, depending on driving situations.

Jenson Button handling oversteer

The chassis is largely carbon-fiber, as in F1 machines, and it’s very strong and light in weight. A good description of how carbon-fiber is made and used in this car is here.

McLaren was formed as a racing venture, and the company continues in that vein. The racing equivalent of the 12C is the new MP4-12C GT3 Porsche-killer, recently unveiled testing in Spain.

Okay, hot shoes: Which would you prefer—the 458 Italia or the MP4-12C? You already know how we would vote.


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  1. tgriffith, why would slightly better performance from the McLaren be noticable if you can’t find anywhere to drive it to that level or don’t have near pro race driver skills to achieve that level of performance? In such a case, go for the brand legacy as you note.

  2. I’d take the Ferrari too. Even if the 458 is slightly out-performed by the McLaren, at least it looks good and has a strong brand legacy. But, like Randy, the roads in my city consist of pitted asphalt and rutted concrete so I couldn’t drive either here.

  3. I’ll take the Ferrari any day. Face it, the vast majority of people who would see me driving the car don’t know what a McLaren is anyway, but can recognize the Ferrari logo. Besides, such a car is undrivable on Michigan’s simply stone-age roads (not really roads, mind you, but road-shaped strips of miscellaneous patching material) so I’d have to pull the car around on a trailer behind my Trailblazer. In such a case, I think I’d get bigger crowds if I owned the Batmobile.

  4. Oh, no!! Not you too!! Both of you have gone to the Dark Side. The auto news cycle must be at its nadir. Oh, WOE is me!!

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