It’s a UFO on the street. Its acceleration literally jerks your head back and then makes your stomach get light. It’s so absurdly quick, it makes you giggle. This is the 2015 McLaren P1, a carbon fiber road rocket that is as quick as a superbike.
Thanks to an automotive enthusiast in the tech field and no stranger to the track, including multiple plans for this hypercar, I was able to experience the ferocity multiple times first hand. The P1 is a mind-blowing, 903hp, 664lbs ft. torque, 3300lb g-force experience that is powered by a 3.8 liter twin-turbo V-8 producing 727 horsepower and a 177 horsepower electric motor that masks any turbo lag. Combined with the 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, Motor Trend tested the car at 2.6 seconds 0-60mph and 9.8 @ 148.9 mph quarter mile. The top speed is 217mph which was decided as the limit by McLaren supposedly. This car can race superbikes and just maybe, beat them on the track. I’d put money on it every time from a stoplight or Christmas tree with the traction provided by the mid-engine weight distribution.
It has more numbers than that. It produces 1,323 lbs. of downforce at 161 mph. The turbos reportedly produce 20.3 psi, very high for a street car. The windshield saves 8 lbs. over the 12C model and does have some detectable waviness at a certain angle. The carbon fiber occupant tub weighs just 198 lbs. The exhaust system is made from iconel (Forumula 1 stuff as well) and weighs just 37lbs. The race mode lowers the car 2” and raises the rear wing up to 11.8”. The brakes are not from the company that starts with a “B”. Rather, they are from Akebono, without slots or holes, with a shiny mirror-like finish and coated with silicon carbide. Only 375 P1s will be made and the MSRP is $1,150,000 before options.
When asked about the P1 choice versus the other hypercar notables, the Porsche 918 is a heavier car with a more hybrid oriented powertrain, the Bugatti Veyron is very expensive to maintain and definitely not track oriented and the Pagani and Koenigsegg don’t have a nearby dealer along with the concern of having a not fully sorted car. The LaFerrari…well that remains to be seen.
Pedestrians stop and stare. People in cars smile and take pictures, thumbs up are common. The metallic Volcanic Orange combined with the black wheels and exposed carbon fiber make for a perfect color combination and contrast. It was chosen with classic McLaren orange in mind as well as the launch color for this model.
Hidden door buttons and a pull brings the gullwing doors swinging up. A wide, gloss finished carbon fiber sill requires a first-time passenger to sit butt first, and then swing your feet into the foot well. The seat is properly snug, and the outward view is excellent with a low, exposed carbon fiber dashboard. The ventilation pathways are seen in the contours of the dash.
It’s a small cockpit but not claustrophobic. There is a small view out the back window and a very driver oriented display and controls. Not luxurious by any means, but certainly purpose built and very high quality. With a push of the start button and “Whoomph! Whirr…” the mechanical soundtrack is immediately prominent behind you. Somewhat reminiscent of the Ultima GTR I reviewed a few years back.
The ride is quite firm, but not harsh or crashes. Gravel is clearly heard when picked up by the soft tires and thrown in the wheel wells. The short wheelbase will experience some resonant frequency bumping on inferior pavement. It probably had a radio, but I didn’t notice. This was an event, not a cruise. Entering an on-ramp at such a speed immediately produced giggles normally reserved for the race track. The 7-speed dual clutch transmission is very responsive with only paddles on the steering wheel and a reverse button on the center console.
It’s the acceleration that literally hits so hard. The owner, no stranger to ultra-high horsepower and extreme power-to-weight ratios reported that 80mph tends to be the starting point for being able to go full-throttle without wheel spin. One must watch for traffic far ahead due to the extreme rate of closing the distance.
A couple of launches without launch control hit 60mph in what seemed under 3 seconds. By the time the brain processed the acceleration, the target speed was reached. At 70mph, getting to 100mph was hit just breathing on the throttle. The car is nuts. On rough concrete at low speed, the car hooked up unexpectedly and rocketed forward, causing stomach churn. When traction control engages, it is a rapid fire stutter while still maintaining an extreme accelerative rate. Far different than the boring cars everyone else drives whose traction control is so intrusive, it causes a major slow-down and big torque dips.
Having experienced previous McLarens and really liking them, some issues were expected but the car was perfect when delivered. It was a low-key delivery and arrived at the dealer in “body glove”. The manual also states, no break-in required. So at 350 miles, the test ride had no mechanical limitations other than not using race mode due to the excessively low ground clearance. Also, the lack of turbo lag because of the hybrid assist makes it more enjoyable than the previous McLarens, per the owner . This one is rolling on Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires but when a couple of track sessions are planned, it will be on Trofeo R track oriented rubber.
The P1 has all of the extreme functional styling elements of a an ultra-exotic; swoopy lines reminiscent of closed-cockpit prototype race cars, a huge adjustable rear spoiler, functional roof scoop, a pronounced rear diffuser and gullwing doors. The rear mesh grill allows a special look at the power train. Interestingly, the rear hatch is bolted in place, likely for weight savings but if hinged would add even more appeal when being shown. Expanding the theme further, if McLaren made a larger, albeit heavier version with a luxurious interior and more room, it would be the ultimate grand tourer.
But the P1, along with the Porsche 918 and LaFerrari, add another element to the term, “Driver’s car” because their limits and capabilities are so high, it takes a skilled and practiced driver to harness the power and exploit the limits. Luckily this one will be exploited, and we may hear some more details about it in the near future.
Footnote: This very car lapped Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1:30.72 seconds by champion race car driver Randy Pobst, nearly three seconds quicker than the previous production car record.