Ask any enthusiast what the best hypercar of the past two decades is, and chances are that they'll tell you it’s the McLaren F1, which was the world's fastest car when it came out in 1994. Now, the British automaker is back in the hypercar game with the all-new P1.
The P1 is actually the second new McLaren in recent years – the first was the MP4-12C – but the P1 is a completely different animal. Where the MP4 is a competitor to the Ferrari 458 Italia, Porsche 911 GT3, and Lamborghini Gallardo, the P1 is looking to eat those car's upcoming bigger brothers for breakfast; it will vie for bragging rights with Ferrari's Enzo replacement (the LaFerrari), the Porsche 918, and the Aventador-based 50th anniversary Lamborghini (the Veneno).
Plug-In Hybrid Power
The P1 will use a modified version of the MP4's 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine. Changes to the V-8 help increase cooling and durability, as well as – most important – output. In the P1, the eight-cylinder will be good for 727 hp and 531 lb-ft of torque, up from the 617 hp and 440 lb-ft the MP4 is rated at. Better yet, P1 drivers will be able access the car's torque from 4500 rpm.
However, a big V-8 isn't all the P1 is packing. Between the mid-mounted engine and the passenger compartment resides a 212-pound battery pack that, when fully charged, can propel the P1 for up to 6.2 miles with the gas engine shut off. Combine the two power sources, and output comes to a massive 903 hp and 664 lb-ft.
McLaren is also taking advantage of the stored electric thrust by equipping the P1 with an Instant Power Assist System (IPAS) feature that instructs the car to direct all available battery power to the motor for a surge of extra boost. To recharge the battery pack, the P1 uses the electric motor as a generator during braking, or drivers can plug in at a high-voltage charger while parked. Charge times are either two hours on a normal charge, or just 10 minutes using a "pit lane charging quick charge" function. To put things in perspective, the next-most-powerful PHEV is the Ford Fusion Energi, which makes 715 fewer hp than the McLaren.
Both the P1's engine and motor route power to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. McLaren has also engineered the electric motor to slow down the gasoline engine during upshifts to drop engine revs more quickly and slightly increase shift times.
The McLaren P1's advanced powertrain setup pays off in performance stats. According to its automaker, the new range-topper will make the run to 62 mph in "less than three seconds" and rocket from 0 to 124 mph in seven seconds at most. McLaren also claims that, from a standstill, the P1 can hit 186 mph in "no more than 17 seconds." None of that is terribly surprising, given that the MP4-12C does the dash to 62 mph in just 3.1 seconds and will reach 124 mph in 8.8 seconds. The P1 also bests the MP4's top speed by 9 mph, as it will top out at 218 mph. McLaren says the P1 will stop at close to 2g thanks to an adjustable rear wing and will offer carbon ceramic brakes from Akebono, which uses unique carbon-fiber brake material infused with a surface layer of silicon-carbide on the 15.4-inch front and 15.0-inch rear discs.
The P1 also offers a fully-adjustable chassis with four different settings for the hydro-pneumatic suspension. The RaceActive Chassis Control (RCC) can lower the car by up to two inches and stiffen the spring rates by 300 percent, giving the flagship McLaren the organ-busting ability to corner at more than 2g. Three of the four settings – normal, sport, and track – are selected using the steering wheel-mounted rotary switch, while race mode is selected via a button on the center console.
Speed and dynamics isn't the only thing that defines cars that play in this realm of the automotive world: they're also exclusive. McLaren will adhere to this doctrine by offering only 375 P1s globally, not that many people will be able to afford its $1.15 million starting price in the U.S.
The initial P1 concept made its debut last fall at the Paris Motor Show and has changed little for production. The design is quite striking, from the smiling front diffuser to the contrasting side airflow cutout to the barely-there LED taillights. Up front, a wide carbon-fiber diffuser that stretches between the boomerang-shaped headlights dominates the fascia; the wide stance of the P1 combined with the subtle bend of the diffuser's shape makes the big McLaren look a little as if it's smiling. The shape of the headlights will look familiar to any McLaren aficionado – they echo the brand's logo and incorporate the same boomerang-shaped LED running lights as found on the MP4-12C.
Around back, an aggressively sculpted carbon-fiber diffuser sits below a mass of mesh venting. Mounted high in the center of the mesh is a giant, single exhaust outlet. The taillights are wisp-thin, outlining the corners of the vented area, each a line of barely visible LEDs. Mounted on the rear deck is the adjustable rear wing, which can work as an airbrake to help slow the car.
Inside, the P1's cabin is all business. Aggressive seats are upholstered in black leather with contrasting stitching, and the black interior is decked out in carbon-fiber accents. A slim, carbon-fiber center stack cascades down from the dash to the low center console and contains a touchscreen infotainment system (like in the MP4) and HVAC knobs. On the console are the push-button controls for the dual-clutch transmission. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is wrapped in charcoal Alcantara with contrasting stitching and contains controls for the IPAS and to toggle the P1's chassis settings. Behind the steering wheel are three TFT digital gauges– two 3.0-inch outer screens and a 6.8-inch central screen that shows four different displays, depending on driving mode.
McLaren's goal was to "produce the best driver's car in the world on road and track." With the P1, it may have achieved its goal.