We can officially consider this drive of the McLaren MP4-12C our second go at it. In brief, Mother Nature conspired with UK tradition and made our second crack at this British super coupe pretty much a total wash. It didn't matter how many times the McLaren folks reminded us just how "perfect" and "dry" the previous two days had been; we were swimming and freezing, but the proceedings forced us to switch quickly from crybaby into lemonade-from-lemons mode.

One big attraction was conducting our drive on a circuit laid out on the World War II-era Canadian Air Force field at Dunsfold Park, better known as the Top Gear test track – The Stig's stomping grounds.

Given all of our potential excitement threatening to poop out on us, we cajoled McLaren's crew into handing over every bit of photo and video from the day in order to mash together something for your viewing enjoyment, and we insisted on the eminently photogenic McLaren Orange car (known in Bruce's day as Papaya Orange) with the lightweight package.

Still, it was McLaren's 592-horsepower Great Orange Hope, it was the 1.75-mile Dunsfold Park figure-eight circuit, and we managed to get everything as loosey-goosey as was safely possible in the standing water.
McLaren MP4-12C at Top Gear Test TrackMcLaren MP4-12C at Top Gear Test TrackMcLaren MP4-12C at Top Gear Test Track

Despite the Ark-worthy weather, we don't regret our day, as the Mac was still good fun on the wide-open tarmac. All of the standing water and the glaring reflection of breaks in the (cruelly far away from us) clouds made it nearly impossible to see the several points where the circuit was demarcated with little more than painted-on red and white rumble strips.

Our MP4-12C for this (smaller-than-planned) story came, as mentioned, with the lightweight package that includes the biting carbon-ceramic brake discs, carbon fiber shell seats, carbon fiber front splitter and rear diffuser, lithium-ion racing battery as standard and lighter wheels. This brought curb weight down to around 3,085 pounds from the usual 3,160 lbs.



Whereas the conditions gave us little sense of the benefits of the stabilizer-bar-free ProActive Chassis Control setup that everyone's been talking about, the MP4-12C proved remarkable in the mega-wet. It would have been a slightly different story had the car been wearing the optional Pirelli P Zero Corsa treads, but our car was wisely outfitted with standard P Zeros (235/35 19-inch front and 305/30 20-inch rear).

On one of those perfect dry days we weren't benefiting from, the Mac at its quickest can almost certainly hit 60 mph from a standstill in 2.9 seconds with some regularity. We weren't doing those numbers today, but we did play with the various ProActive chassis/stability control modes and powertrain modes while dicing between second, third and fourth gears of the Seamless Shift Gearbox using the McLaren's unique pre-cogging paddles.



In those slippery moments (both naturally occurring and induced) requiring quick recovery via throttle and steering, the McLaren is, to its credit, our supercar of choice versus the Ferrari 458 Italia, at least in the ridiculous wetness. The coupe proved to be clinically smooth and sweat-free through the track's potentially dramatic bits while peeling away a minimum of speed. It got to the point where we were inducing a whole lot of silly mistakes just to see how it recovered. The recovery was always complete and quick, losing little of our line through the circuit. Would a Porsche 911 Turbo, GT2, or Lamborghini LPWhatever be better in these conditions? It'd be a great comparo.


McLaren has delivered 180 examples of the MP4-12C throughout the UK and mainland Europe, with 100 of those being customer cars and the rest demo units. To the company's credit, there's a sort of real-world testing loop happening with these cars: McLaren has been getting massive owner feedback that has resulted in several software tweaks that have been implemented since our prototype drive in Portugal six months back.

These tweaks include making some warning lights that are less sensitive to react to fluid temperatures, an ECU that is quicker to boot up and shut down so as to spare battery energy, and a more infinitesimally precise fuel gauge. All delivered cars have been upgraded to reflect all of these advancements, and officials say that its early-adopter clients very much dig being this involved. McLaren just wants these things to be perfect by the time the wider waiting world of paying clients gets their units. North American MP4-12Cs start arriving in garages this January, while U.S. dealer demo cars with all tweaks tweaked began arriving in November.



An important last tweak to mention. The only criticism regarding the bi-turbo 3.8-liter V8 engine has been its less-than-thrilling exhaust sound. Across the board, journalists and early owners simply wanted more audible passion bursting forth from the 12C, especially when on the circuit. In Track mode now, the valves of the dual exhaust stay fairly wide open from zero rpm instead of waiting until 4,000 rpm to yell a bit. Inside the cabin, we totally felt the difference and the sensations are fantastic now. If you haven't yet, watch the Short Cut video to hear what we mean. Outside the car, those two turbos are still muffling their song a bit.

But fast and glorious she is, this MP4-12C. Even in the wet.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      Brad Buhrkuhl
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have those Pirelli P Zero Corsa on my S4 and they are great in the dry, warm (80+ track temp) conditions. But put them in the cool, wet and they are near dangerous. It feels like ice, even on the highway trying to drive straight. I cannot stay in the grooves of the tire tracks on flat ground without hydroplaning.
      Firefly
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am pained when I see reviewers elsewhere comment that this car is not as good as a Ferrari 458 Italia. On the Top Gear test track, it posted the 2nd fastest lap time. Fifth Gear (and I asked myself "why" already) said that it doesn't drive as good as a 458. So Tiff Nedell (sorry if I misspelled it) actually thinks the better car is the one that: (a) handles worse (b) accelerates slower (c) has a lower top speed (d) gets worse fuel mileage ...but the 458 can go sideways a lot - something not really conducive to a good lap time. Mp4-12c over a 458 any day. Magnificent car and I bet it would make one hell of a fax machine!
      Occams_Cat
      • 3 Years Ago
      Almost...it's called Dunsfold Park Aerodrome :) Loved the front facing interior POV. Shame the weather was so pants for you, Dunsfold Aerodrome usually has it's own little mysterious micro climate that's not too bad, if changeable.
      BLSully
      • 3 Years Ago
      This article is worthless without your wet lap time in the reasonably priced car. just sayin... =0D
        Goahead
        • 3 Years Ago
        @BLSully
        I agree. That was a boring video on such an awesome car!
      Notorius Biv
      • 3 Years Ago
      Kills me to see a guy in my grandfathers sweater driving that car...
      frostedman2
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is the worst commentator I have have seen. And enough with the cockpit view, show the car!
      Jason Allen
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am so impressed with this car that I feel jealous of those who will make this awesome machine their everyday car! I would buy this in a heartbeat if I played and won a big lottory. I know it isn't a dramatic or particularly showy car but it looks fine, good enough to do what it was created for. Aren't Mclarens about the function not the form? I don't want my everyday car to be garish or gaudy, nor do I want to see Mclarens all dolled up like some pagani (or lambo's). I'd take mine in white thank you, with windows and wheels as black as night.
      mark_m
      • 3 Years Ago
      This car is so awesome, love the gaps between the back of the rear glass and the rear deck. I could also put my take-out McDonalds in that area under the center console so it doesn't fall over!
      Du K
      • 3 Years Ago
      Moar!!
      paul.kalenian
      • 3 Years Ago
      I test drove one in Dallas yesterday. More nimble than expected, petit outside, ample power and brakes. Body formed by function, not fashion, l look forward to delivery