"The best driver’s car in the world on road and track"—a bold, not to mention subjective, claim. But the McLaren P1 brings a pedigree like few other cars on Earth. The successor to McLaren's infamous F1, the P1 is the automaker's latest halo supercar. McLaren has released the first pictures and details a little more than a week before the official world premiere.
The McLaren F1 was not only the one-time fastest car in the world, it was an icon that stood head and shoulders above its contemporaries. In a world where the word "supercar" was on its way to dilution, it was the supercar: a fast, 240-mph (386-km/h) machine with a distinctive 1 + 2 layout that left the competition in the dust.
Given the F1's legendary status in the automotive world, its successor, which finds the spotlight 20 years after the F1's launch, has been a point of considerable interest; interest that McLaren has begun to satisfy with the first photos and official acknowledgement of the P1.
We had heard that the P1 would break away from the MP4-12C's design language, earning itself a more aggressive, extreme suit of armor. Those rumors are correct, as the bulging curves, fang-like headlamps and pen-stroke tail-lamps show that McLaren cut the leash and let its designers run wild. The car should stick to the track like commercial vacuum thanks to a Botoxed front lip, massive rear diffuser and skirts running along the flanks. It gives a nod to the F1 in its cabin design and rooftop air intake.
"Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit," explains McLaren Automotive Managing Director Antony Sheriff, foreshadowing the unannounced spec sheet. "It is the true test of a supercar’s all round ability and a much more important technical statement. Our goal is to make the McLaren P1 the most exciting, most capable, most technologically advanced and most dynamically accomplished supercar ever made."
Unfortunately, that's about as much as McLaren is willing to divulge in terms of the P1's performance, outside of mentioning that the car is inspired by McLaren's racing division (surprise, surprise). Reports suggest that the car will receive primary power from an 800-hp V8 engine, with a boost of up to 200 horses coming from a KERS system.
Sheriff's statement about acceleration over top speed means that the P1 may come ready to best the Bugatti Veyron's 2.5-second 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) time but will be unwilling to battle its 267.8 mph (431.0 km/h) world record speed. That may be a bit disappointing to record watchers mindful of the F1's former world record, but the average P1 owner should be more than happy to trade a virtually inaccessible top speed for lightning-quick acceleration and on-dime track handling.
McLaren plans to begin production on the P1 in late 2013. The car will serve as its flagship, sitting above the MP4-12C. We'll get more details on the car when McLaren unveils it before the world on September 27, the first media day of the 2012 Paris Motor Show.
If the P1 isn't winning you over, there is still hope. The version that you're looking at is a design study; the production model won't debut until next year and may feature updated or overhauled styling. McLaren will certainly gauge the public reaction to the car and move forward from there.