Will Semi-Autonomous Features And Hybrid Power Ruin The Pleasure Of Driving A McLaren?
The supercar segment is doing quite well these days, with expanded offerings across the board, from hardcore track killers, to everyday sports cruisers. McLaren is staying active, with plans to hybridize its lineup and add new autonomous driving features. But is it the right move for the supercar maker?
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2014 McLaren P1
The McLaren P1 is a huge step forward for the company and for the hypercar game in general. It represents the pinnacle of McLaren’s knowledge in creating road cars that integrate the best Formula 1 technology to achieve searing performance on par with the best of the best from Ferrari and Pagani.
The P1 risked being overshadowed during its big debuts in Paris and Geneva, thanks to the concurrent reveals of LaFerrari and the Lamborghini Veneno, which both pack more styling drama and a more artful execution than the P1. Not one to shy away from competition, McLaren is ready for the sales brawl in the hypercar segment with their vision of the ultimate road car.
The difference for McLaren (versus Bugatti Veyron, for example) is that this is a make-or-break technical showcase whose failure could threaten the stability of the entire fledgling McLaren Automotive division. The Woking crew needs the P1 to be a real hero car in order for its marketing magic to trickle down to their 12C and upcoming 911-fighting P13 models.
Among the admirable traits of McLaren supremo Ron Dennis is his willingness to make running changes to the models. Following the 12C’s debut, the team bumped the power output, made the engine and exhaust much louder, and re-programmed the stability controls – all in the name of driving pleasure.
Will McLaren implement what they’ve learned from the 12C program to make the P1 a thrill to drive, or just a clenched-fist technical marvel?
Updated 07/06/2016: While the McLaren P1 is long time sold out, somewhere in Tokyo, Japan, one lucky guy uses the P1 for the daily commute and also takes it into the mountain passes at the weekend. Check him out in the new video released by McLaren!
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2017 McLaren P1 LM
Introduced in early 2013, the P1 was McLaren’s second production supercar and the spiritual successor to the iconic F1 of the 1990s. Arguably the quickest and most powerful road-going McLaren to date, the P1 was also the company’s first vehicle to use a hybrid drivetrain. Like its predecessor, it was built around a carbon-fiber monocoque and roof structure and employs various technologies that the British brand had developed for Formula One. Discontinued in 2016 after 375 units were built, the P1 spawned a race-only version named the P1 GTR. Developed at the request of P1 owners who wanted a more extreme version of the supercar, the GTR received a more powerful hybrid drivetrain and production was limited to only 35 examples, all of which were made available exclusively to P1 owners.
A little more than a year has passed since the P1 GTR made its official debut at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, and its owners are already enjoying its racing abilities on race tracks around the world. However, one certain rumor has been disturbing P1 owners and supercar enthusiasts alike since 2015: McLaren was secretly working on a street-legal GTR. Come 2016 and it’s no longer just hearsay. McLaren has revealed a road-going P1 GTR that will be showcased at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It goes by the name P1 LM — as a tribute to the iconic F1 LM and was conceived by Lanzante Limited, a British company that won the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans with a McLaren F1 GTR through its Motorsport division and later became a service center for road and race-spec McLarens.
Following the prototype’s introduction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, McLaren will build five production cars, a figure that matches the production run of the original F1 LM, also a road-legal version of a race car.
Updated 06/23/2016: McLaren dropped the official details on the P1 LM with just a few hours before its official debut at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
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McLaren Working On Next-Generation Carbon Tub; New Hybrid to Arrive by 2020
Although it launched its first road-going vehicle in 1992, McLaren didn’t have a proper automobile lineup until 2013, when the P1 supercar joined the existing MP4-12C that was introduced in 2011. Since then, McLaren’s sports car family expanded to include the Super Series (650S, 675LT, 625C) and the Sports Series (570S, 540C) with sales of more than 1,500 vehicles in 2015 and an estimated 3,000 units for 2016. Quite an achievement for a performance car maker of McLaren’s caliber.
But, McLaren doesn’t want to stop here. The Brits are gunning to sell around 5,000 cars per year by the end of the decade and want to get there by spending £1 billion (about $1.45 billion) on research and development to create 15 new products by 2022. That’s the word from McLaren boss Mike Flewitt, who told Automotive News that McLaren is already working on a new carbon-fiber tub, a new powertrain architecture, and new hybrid models.
Flewitt refrained from giving away too many details, but said that the new drivetrain will also motivate a mid-engined, two-seat sports car. The new powerplant, likely to be a turbocharged V-6 according to rumors, will be sold in parallel to the current 3.8-liter V-8. But unlike the V-8, it will have integrated hybrid technology from the very beginning. The model that will use the new engine will also get a carbon-fiber tub with aluminum frames that will be new, but not "radically different in concept" than the one shared by all McLaren sports cars as of 2016.
The Woking-based firm also wants to develop more hybrids. Having launched just one mild hybrid so far. McLaren says that more than half of its cars will be hybrid by 2022. McLaren also wants to increase the number of global dealers from 82 to around 100 over the next five years.
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Being connected is an important thing in the auto industry, especially if you’re trying to negotiate with three of the world’s most famous automakers to have them lend you their new hybrid hypercars so you can test out all three at the same time. Chris Harris is one of the most connected journos in the business and even he had some difficulty getting Porsche, McLaren, and Ferrari on board. Fortunately, his persistence paid off and the result is this.
This episode of “Chris Harris on Cars” runs 52 minutes long. It’s probably the longest episode of the show, but for good reason. In it, Harris finally got the opportunity to drive, compare, and analyze the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari, all together in one race track. An event of such magnitude deserves as much time as can be filmed and Harris even tapped into a few buddies of his to help him sort through all the awesomeness provided by the troika of hybrid hypercars. In case you spot fellow journo Tiff Needel and racer Marino Franchitti, they’re there to give Harris a helping hand.
Also in the episode are the engineers and mechanics of all three manufacturers. That pretty much tells you how seriously these companies are taking this test run. Engineers from McLaren and Ferrari even had a little argument on the tires the P1 and LaFerrari would run in, but as Harris himself pointed out, everything was smoothened out by Pirelli and all three cars eventually took their respective moments in the spotlight.
Since this is basically a whole hour’s worth of viewing, I’m not going to spoil everything that happened during Harris’ time with the three hypercars. There are just too many things that happened that it might be best if viewers just watch it themselves. So sit back and enjoy the ride. Chris Harris finally gets to have his party, with the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari all in attendance.
McLaren wants to bring performance hybrids to the masses, as long as the masses can afford to spend over $300,000 on a supercar. Speaking at a recent shareholders meeting, McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt said he wants to see 50 percent of McLaren models incorporate hybrid power with in the next 10 years. Of the three tiers that make up McLaren’s lineup, only the Ultimate Series cars, which include the $1 million-plus 2014 McLaren P1 and 2016 McLaren P1 GTR, use hybrid drivetrains. The new plan would likely see this technology extended to the Super Series 650S replacement, which is due in 2017.
“I have said in 10 years I expect half of our cars to be hybrids, but I actually think it will be faster. And I think it could be more than half,” Flewitt told Auto Express. “Will we put that on all vehicles? If I could get the cost and weight right I absolutely would. Our strategy is to use technology to produce the best driving cars.”
Currently in development and internally designated P16, the next Super Series cars will be entirely new from the ground up and will replace the 2015 McLaren 650S, 2015 McLaren 650S Spider and 2016 McLaren 675LT, all cars originally spawned from the 2011-2013 McLaren MP4-12C first introduced in 2011. Look for the 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-8 to be replaced with a new, downsized, twin-turbo V-6 coupled with a new hybrid system that will produce more than enough power to compensate for the smaller-displacement engine. Like the 650S, expect the P16 to be priced between $250,000 and $300,000, with drop-top Spider and lighter, more-powerful variants to be spun off as well.
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With the 675 LT recently launched, McLaren is developing even more models for the near future. Speaking with Car and Driver at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt spilled the beans on part of the plans, which include even lighter cars thanks to a decrease in carbon-fiber costs. Since its pockets are currently full, the British carmaker plans to reinvest almost all profits into R&D and next-generation powerplants.
When asked if McLaren will introduce a hybrid system into its upcoming less-expensive models, Flewitt surprisingly confirmed. "Definitely, yes," he told Car and Driver. "I’d struggle to give you a date right now, but we’ll see it coming soon. I would say that 10 years from now at least half our cars will be hybrids — I don’t see any other way of meeting the demands around emissions — and we also get some significant drivability benefits in terms of the character of the powertrain. The downside is that it adds weight and the systems are expensive, and putting weight into a sports car is the exact opposite of what we want. But you’ll see us conquer those challenges.”
Until then, McLaren is busy preparing to launch its entry-level "Sports Series" models, at least one of which is to be unveiled at the 2015 New York Auto Show. None of them will be hybrid though, as that type of powertrain is likely reserved for the next-generation McLaren sports cars.
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The 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari and the 2014 McLaren P1 make up two-thirds of the hybrid supercar trinity. When you have these two vehicles of mass destruction roaming around the streets, it’s natural to clamor for a review to see which of these two has the leg up over the other. CAR Magazine heard your calls for a dual review between the LaFerrari and P1 and has answered the bell. Sort of.
The review isn’t as comprehensive as we’d like. Actually, CAR editors-at-large Chris Chilton and Ben Barry spend the majority of the time chasing each other down in the mountains of Italy. No track test. No speed runs. No nothing. But hey, it still involves the LaFerrari and the P1 so it’s still worth something.
It’s also the first time — to our recollection, at least — that the two hybrid supercars have been pitted against one another. That track-day review will come soon enough, but for now, this is what we have.
If you’re not particularly adamant about watching a full-fledged review, this one should be a must-watch. There’s still something admittedly exciting about the LaFerrari and the P1 taking turns hunting each other down with two auto journalists giving their own play-by-play accounts.
Looking back on McLaren’s background with high-displacement engines for both race and road cars, it’s hard to believe the Brits have built an electric motor from scratch. We are talking, of course, about the unit used by the P1 hybrid supercar, which is identical to the power source motivating the entire Formula E grid. The motor generates up to 225 horsepower in a Formula E, as opposed to the 176 ponies delivered in the P1, but that’s just one of its outstanding properties.
Making the power unit that much more special is its size. This thing is downright tiny. It’s smaller than the transmission it mates to and weighs only 57.3 pounds, making it the smallest and the most power-dense electric motor ever built. The small size and low weight aren’t at all surprising. These specifications are what make it perfect for the P1, a supercar that needed a compact and light electric motor to go with its lightweight nature. And this compactness is exactly what made it suitable for Formula E where a low curb weight is essential to performance.
"We couldn’t find a motor in the marketplace that was good enough and small enough for what we wanted to achieve," says Peter van Manen, vice president of McLaren Applied Technologies. Hard to believe McLaren built its first engine — the 3.8-liter V-8 M838T — for road applications only five years ago. Hit the play button to learn more about the company’s first production electric motor.
One would think that after the MP4-12C and a future convertible version, McLaren would sit back for a little while and enjoy the pleasant view from the big seats. Wait, what are we thinking? Automakers want to ride the wave as long as it brings in the big bucks, and McLaren is now going to be riding on the hybrid surge as the company has announced plans for a future hybrid sports car. The company is rumored to be working on a "concept, design and development of the electrical package and wiring system for a hybrid electric vehicle," and a McLaren spokesman said: "Hybrid technology is something that we are looking at and assessing. It is something we are interested in."
This means that McLaren will develop its own full hybrid powertrains, that will include more than a "start-stop system", in order to compete with Ferrari and Lamborghini (whom have both confirmed hybrid powertrains are in development).
Currently, McLaren is working on a new factory where it will build a new model each year for the next five years (a convertible version of the MP4-12C, a baby sports car, and a successor for the F1 are just few of them). The company’s target is to hit a total of 4000 cars a year by 2015.
You may have known that McLaren was preparing the P11 supercar, but what you may not have known is that the company also plans to use hybrid technology for its future road going super cars. A McLaren spokesman said: "It (hybrid technology) is something we want as a forward-thinking, technology-driven company. We have been considering it for future projects. All the advert means is that we are looking for a senior engineer in power train hybrid technology. Read into it what you will."
Until then the high performance automaker is preparing to unveil the P11 supercar at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The car will go on sale in 2011 and compete with the upcoming Ferrari F-450 and Lamborghini Gallardo. McLaren has a sales target of 5000 units by 2015. If they succeed, this could mean that all future McLaren models would feature some sort of hybrid technology. Stay tuned to Top Sped for future details about this and other exciting 21st century super cars.