"Winning isn't everything," the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi used to posit. "It's the only thing." A quotable quip from the stoic bard of the '60s gridiron-actually first uttered by UCLA Bruins football coach "Red" Sanders in 1950-it's been memorialized over the years as a uniquely American sentiment. But there's little doubt that it also translates well into the "English" English spoken around McLaren's headquarters in Surrey, England.
The McLaren Technology Centre may reside in a land where footballers run around in shorts and don't wear helmets, but an unyielding commitment to maximum success-a.k.a. winning-has long been the guiding principle here. We mention this early because the new McLaren MP4-12C is a car designed from the start with the supremely ambitious goal of taking on the world's greatest supercars and winning.
I traveled to Woking, in Surrey, to see the new McLaren being built before flying to Portugal with the very first wave of journalists invited to drive the car. And having now driven it on and off the track, I'm declaring the 12C a winner. Call back in a while-things change fast-but for now it's the greatest supercar I've ever driven.
Supercars are blindingly fast, by definition, and drivers of the new McLaren, with its 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 (code-named M838T) won't have any difficulty remembering what league they're playing in. Built in England by internal-combustion specialists Ricardo to a McLaren design, the engine is blessed with 443 lb-ft of easily accessed torque (all of it available between 3000 and 6500 rpm) effortlessly dispensed via a magical, paddleshifted, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic supplied by Italy's Graziano. According to McLaren, the 592-hp car will knock off 0-to-60-mph runs in 3.0 seconds when its cast-aluminum wheels-nineteen-inch front, twenty-inch rear-are clad in optional, high-traction Pirelli PZero Corsa tires. (On standard-issue PZeros, it makes the run in 3.2 seconds.) It will assassinate the quarter mile in a heart-stopping 10.9 seconds, by which time it will be traveling 135 mph on its way to a maximum velocity of 205 mph.
When it's time to haul the 12C back down, massive ventilated AP discs-plus a standard, hydraulically controlled air brake-ensure that you'll need but 100 feet to stop from 62 mph. Optional carbon-ceramic discs, likely to add plenty o' thousands to your bill, slow you no more quickly but resist fade better and so are useful for serious track duty and those seeking extreme bragging rights.