McLaren P1 - The Next Generation Hypercar

McLaren Automotive is a British manufacturer of high-performance automobiles. Started in 1989, the research and development that went into the production of their cars stemmed directly from Formula One racing and technology. The most notable cars of its history is the McLaren F1, the first car the British power house ever built. 100 units were produced from 1992 to 1998, and it held the record for being the fastest production car until 2005 with a top speed of 243 mph.

Now, after more than 15 years, the successor is finally here: the McLaren P1. The concept of the P1 first debuted at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. McLaren did not offer the car for sale at their dealerships, and instead took direct orders from their customers. A limited run of 375 units were to be produced. After orders opened in October of 2013, all 375 units were accounted for in... November 2013. It took one month for McLaren to sell all of their P1's. 

What makes this car so special that, at $1.15 million USD, it would sell out in just one month? 

Well, let's go over the details. 

The McLaren P1 boasts an astronomical 903 crank horsepower that rockets it from 0 to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds. It also jets to 186 mph from a standstill in 16.5 seconds, making it almost 6 seconds faster than the F1, and the 1/4 mile zooms by in 9.8 seconds at 152 mph. It's top speed, however, is electronically limited to 217 mph. 

How does it achieve such shattering numbers? It employs the use of a hybrid powertrain, having both an electric and petrol motor. The petrol motor, a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8, delivers 727 hp at 7500 rpm and is combined with the electric motor producing 176 hp. The driver can control when the petrol motor turns on, so long as they decide to press the button before the 6 mile battery life of the electric motor depletes. The petrol motor acts as a generator for the electric motor, charging it while operating to move the P1 in the direction the driver desires. Power is delivered to the rear wheels only through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The electric motor effectively acts to "fill in the gaps" when the petrol motor is not operating at its peak. For example, it adds continuous torque to the wheels during gear changes and accounts for lag while the turbos spool up. What results is a savage amount of seemingly impossible power throughout the entire power band. 

The powertrain is just one of the reasons why the P1 is so spectacular. The entire body is made of five panels bolted and glued together to a carbon-fiber frame, which weighs less than 200 pounds. The wheels are made from military-grade aluminum. The two front racing seats, weighing 23 pounds each, are made of carbon fiber, and have minimal foam to provide a level of comfort as well as functionality. The electronic rear wing adjusts its height in order to produce downforce for increased traction at the rear wheels. It rises until 156 mph, and then it starts to go down at higher speeds. Otherwise, the weight of the air flowing over the car would destroy the suspension.  The Akebono brake system was developed specifically for the P1 using technology from Grand Prix racing. The brake discs are made of a special type of carbon ceramic material which has only been used in the Arian Space Program, and is coated with a substance harder than diamond called silicon carbide. The discs are able to dissipate heat more effectively and are also able to operate at much higher temperatures in extreme conditions. The tires were designed and produced by Pirelli. 

The result is a hypercar that weighs just 3,075 pounds, lighter than most roadcars today.

The P1 employs the use of hydro-pneumatic suspension, which is adjustable. Ride height, spring rates, roll control, pitch control, and dampening can all be tweaked to produce as much downforce as Le Mans GT3 race car in Race mode.

There are four settings the driver can put the P1 in - Normal, Sport, Track, and Race modes. The first three modes adjust stability control, adaptive dampening, and roll control systems for the desired driving experience. Normal mode offers a more comfortable ride and is typically used for public road cruising. Sport mode can also be used on the street, but it stiffens the suspension and shortens the gear changes in order to deliver a more responsive driving experience. Track mode stiffens it up even more, and also adjust stability control settings to allow for some slippage. Each mode adjusts the rear wing to suit the road conditions.

Race mode, taking about 40 seconds to fully initiate, transforms the P1 into a straight race car. Spring rates are stiffened by 300%, stability control is tweaked to allow maximum grip, and dampening and aerodynamics are tweaked to improve downforce and cornering, which it achieves at more than 2g. The P1 is lowered by 50 mm, and the rear wing is extended by 300 mm. Roll stiffness is changed by a factor of 3.5 over Normal, and heave and pitch stiffness increase by a factor of 1.4. 

It is said to have lapped the Nurburgring in less than 7 seconds, but no official time has been released from McLaren. 

McLaren is paving the way for the next generation of hypercars, along with the Porsche 918 and Ferrari's LaFerrari. Such technology is rumored to be employed in the new Acura NSX, but official news on that remains to be seen. We can expect to see other powerhouses, such as Koenigsegg and Pagani, follow suit in introducing a hybrid power system to their vehicles. 

In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, it is "a genuinely new chapter in the history of motoring."

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