First Drive: 2012 McLaren MP4-12C

Paul Barshon Patrick Gosling

With a "popular" price and a weight-to-power ratio of fewer than five pounds per horsepower, it is correct to assume that this car will compete with the fastest Aston Martins, Porsches, and all manner of exotica, but it is the 458, heretofore the best car in this segment, that strikes us as the obvious bogey, and McLaren doesn't deny it. "The Ferrari is wonderful, amazing," Sheriff said, leaving little doubt that there is another car he likes even better.

There is, too, some irony in the fact that McLaren is back to building road cars to augment an already diversified but still Formula 1-dependent business, but as Dennis has observed, "the economics of a Formula 1 team is precarious at best." But there is something appropriate, too. Since 1966, 109 teams have turned a wheel on an F1 track, but only two teams-Ferrari and McLaren-have competed in every single race. Now here they are, about to slug it out again, off the track, from the streets of Beverly Hills to Hong Kong to London to Moscow to Abu Dhabi and back again. Adventures on the racetrack will surely follow.

So whither the Ferrari 458 Italia? It is prettier than the 12C. Tending to the generic and looking more like a Saleen S7 than the late, great F1, the MP4-12C looks better in person than it does in pictures. Its makers take pains to remind us that its looks are driven by function and the massive role that aerodynamics play in its roadholding and cooling. Perhaps. But while looks mean a lot in this realm, the McLaren is hardly offensive to behold, and it will undoubtedly attract many with its airy cabin and dihedral doors, which are supercar cool. Better yet, they actually afford additional room for ingress and egress versus conventionally hung doors. Requiring only normal effort to close from inside the car, they pivot up and away from the curb and other cars and make getting in and out significantly easier.

So is this another super car not to be owned by the height advantaged?

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