McLaren P1 design study - studio shot - front three-quarter view

Press days for the 2012 Paris Motor Show have yet to get underway, but Autoblog's European Editor, Matt Davis, has already gotten a good look at what is sure to be one of the exhibition's brightest stars, the McLaren P1.

While Davis was not permitted to take photographs of the new design study until its formal unveiling, our man received a walkaround with designer Frank Stephenson, and what he found was so compelling that he called us right from the show floor to file some notes. According to Davis, "The car is impressively compact – barely bigger than the MP4-12C, but all the comments that were negative about the 12C's design being somewhat basic and derivative should go away with this car." In contrast to most modern supercars that are surprisingly large (e.g. Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Aventador), the P1 follows in the footsteps of the legendary McLaren F1, which was a lot smaller than most people realized. The P1 is about the size of a Porsche 911 GT3, suggesting weight should be held in check.

Designer Stephenson calls the P1's form "shrink wrapped," yet there's still much more surface interest than with the company's MP4-12C. Davis notes that the design is "very organic in that almost all of the aero elements you see are designed into the body." Among the car's aero tricks, when the rear wing air brake rises to its 32-degree angle maximum, there are also hidden underbody Gurney flaps that open to level out the car.

Power estimates are still under wraps, and while the car seen here is still technically a concept, it is widely expected to spawn a near-identical production series sometime late next year.

We're looking forward to sharing more with you shortly, but for now, feast your eyes on the gallery.


UPDATE – Matt Davis has sent along some new notes:

  • The car as shown is 97-percent final and will be on delivery near the end of 2013.
  • Remember when we told you the P1 was small? It has the smallest frontal area of any car in its segment, yet it still has over 1,300 pounds of downforce up front at 125 mph (Cd is 0.34).
  • Hot air flow through the two hood nostrils is divided precisely between the door aero vents and the center roof snorkel.
  • The car shown here was photographed in the suspension's "race" stance, which is about 1.2-inches lower than normal. Program Director Paul McKenzie says this suspension is as notworthy as the 12c's solution but is goes"one step beyond."
Related GalleryMcLaren P1