First Look: 2011 McLaren MP4-12C Supercar

A more conventional cabin
Unlike the F1, with its center-located driver's seat flanked by two passenger's chairs, the new car uses a standard, two-seat layout. But McLaren preserves a bit of the centered-driver feel by using a slim center console, allowing the two seats to sit closer to the center of the car -- and closer to each other -- than is normally the case. This arrangement demands that the touch screen be vertically, rather than horizontally, oriented; it also spurred the designers to relocate the climate controls to the door panels. The gauge cluster features a central tachometer, as in most Porsches, and a digital speedometer. In contrast to current practice, the steering wheel is free of buttons and switches.

How much and how many?
The company expects to build 1000 examples in the first year, with one-quarter of production heading to the United States. Eventually, the goal is to build 4000 cars annually, which will be accomplished by adding variants of the MP4 12C but also by introducing additional models. The price is expected to be in the range of 125,000-175,000 Euros (roughly $200,000), which is a fraction of what you would have paid for a McLaren F1 back in the day -- except that car wasn't even sold here. The MP4 12C will make it to the states; it should roll into U.S. dealerships (there will be 8 at launch) in May or June 2011.

Why a sports car?
The MP4 12C will be largely hand-assembled at the same high-tech facility that currently turns out the company's Formula 1 cars. But McLaren is building a new assembly facility on the same grounds, to support its plans for additional production. Dennis characterizes the move into street car production as one that will assure the company's long-term survival. He points out that since McLaren entered F1 racing in 1966, more than 100 of its one-time competitors have disappeared. "Staying exclusively an F1 team is, I believe, a sure road to extinction," he says. "Our pedigree and history and our brand can definitely support an entry into the sports car field. This is an essential next step to making McLaren a pure brand."

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