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2012 McLaren 12C

Ben Barry was present at the McLaren 12C’s launch. 15 years on, he revisits this game-changing supercar and discovers F1 performance for rather less than £17m.

Editor's comment
F1, round two
McLaren may have been swathed in some negative headlines and unwelcome speculation for quite a few years now, but it’s easy to forget that there was a time not so long ago when the company was not only unimpeachable but untouchable.
Its utter dominance of Formula 1 may have drawn to a close in 1990, but there were still spurts of brilliance, seemingly coming towards the end of each decade. And even when it wasn’t winning, McLaren was still always a contender, still a very big fish in the paddock. Then, after the turn of the millennium, design – especially British design – suddenly became a big deal, as the world’s purchasing ethos shifted from people only wanting everything as cheaply as possible to swathes of people being prepared to pay a premium for excellence built on flawless or innovative engineering. Especially if it was blue-blood British. Just ask James Dyson.
The time was ripe for McLaren to launch itself into road cars, the company image, the sterile headquarters in Woking (from which my rotten old nail was once evicted on aesthetic grounds, but that’s another story) all suggesting a laboratory from which only purity and genius could emerge.
Of course, there had been McLaren road cars before, but this was a whole different ballgame to the one-off M6GT that Bruce McLaren himself drove around Woking, or the F1, which will forever remain as much a high-volume science experiment as a low-volume car.
The acute singularity of purpose of McLaren’s previous road cars meant that, really, the MP4-12C was its first real ground-up production car, a high-performance supercar with its own singular purpose: to give a bloody nose to Ferrari. And it did. As you always knew it would, with Ron Dennis at the helm.
Not only that, though, the MP4-12C (or 12C as virtually everyone would have it) was the strategic foundation for everything that has come since, McLaren seamlessly melding its rich heritage with cutting-edge technology… and so much pace. Whatever McLaren’s current woes, the 12C was a high watermark for a remarkable company at the height of its powers. I’m not saying everything has gone downhill since, but even today the 12C is still the one I’d want, not just for what it can do, but also the enormity of what it represents.
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2023 McLaren’s electrified Artura supercar

A storm is gathering as we buckle into McLaren’s electrified Artura supercar

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300-mile Test 2023 McLaren Artura

McLaren’s next chapter opens with the clean-sheet Artura. New platform, new V6 plug-in hybrid powertrain, new… everything. How does it feel?

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1992 MCLaren F1

‘The original target had been for around 550bhp, but in its final form the astonishing BMW V12 made 627bhp

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2021 McLaren 620R

With the all-new Artura coming later this year, we wave goodbye to the McLaren Sports Series line up with a drive in the 620R.

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630bhp 2003/2021 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren by MSO C199

I’m kicking myself. The boys from McLaren Special Operations have just rocked up to the test track in a sun-bleached So-Cal VW ‘Squareback’ – the VW Variant, to us Brits – and I’m looking distinctly underdressed in my plain-Jane Volvo estate. If only I’d brought the Mustang instead.

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2022 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet 992 vs. 2021 McLaren 720S Spider

Convertibles add weight and reduce stiffness, though they can be undeniably seductive. But do they make any sense with supercar levels of performance? The McLaren 720S Spider and 911 Turbo S Cabrio 992 should provide the answer.

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1992 McLaren F1 vs. 1996 Porsche 911 GT1 and 1997 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR C297

Forget about hybrids, this is the true holy trinity. We gather the three iconic road-legal Le Mans legends… and drive them

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2022 McLaren Elva

This Ultimate Series speedster is the craziest and most fun model Woking has produced

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