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The P1, McLaren’s successor to the famed F1 sports car will sprint to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds and will continue pulling hard until it reaches its governed top speed of 217 mph. The remarkable thing about the P1, of which only 375 will be made, is its ability to corral a 727-hp twin-turbo V-8, a 177-hp electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery pack, and a mass of power electronics into a cohesive whole that manages to smoothly and easily deliver a uniquely extreme speed experience.
The air howls as it’s sucked into the roof snorkel, en route to meet its fate in the eight combustion chambers. The rage of the engine appeases the ears, which, even at idle, is incomparably loud for a street car. Pebbles kicked up from the surface ping when they hit the carbon-fiber wheel wells and underside with a crack. Even when left in automatic mode, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission pounds through the gears, firm and certain, a couple of milliseconds before you think about shifting.
But there is no perceptible change of pace when the big turbos get spinning in earnest. You do not notice the electric motor at work. There is a smooth, seamless, seemingly inexhaustible thrust. Any fears that a hybrid system would diminish the enjoyment of the hypercar have been proven to be unfounded at least in the case of the McLaren P1.
The P1 can be driven for six or so miles solely on electricity, the real purpose of the engine-mounted motor is to smooth the power delivery characteristics of the gasoline engine. McLaren started with a reengineered version of the 3.8-liter V-8 that powers the 650S. With bigger turbos strapped on, and running at 20.3 pounds of boost. The 727 horse power engine is tasked with moving only 4.5 of the P1’s 3300 pounds.
In addition to myriad driver-selectable programs (e-mode, normal, sport, track, and race), there’s a “boost” button that allows you to drive using just the power from the gas engine. In boost mode, the electric motor only contributes its torque when you press the IPAS (Instant Power Assist System) button on the right spoke of the steering wheel.
Race mode is the most anticipated setting. When selected, it drops the body down two inches on the car’s trick hydro-pneumatic suspension and powers the big scoop-shaped rear wing up almost a foot above the body. In this setting, the P1 is not street legal. It is in this mode that McLaren says the P1 makes 1323 pounds of downforce at 161 mph and can brake from high speed at 2.0 g’s.
The brake rotors, made specifically for McLaren by F1 partner Akebono, are coated with silicon carbide and have a mirror finish. The discs are pinched by six-piston front and four-piston rear monoblock calipers and provide a stopping force. They are commanded by a brake pedal that is linear in operation.
The steering offers no particular technical marvel. It is an electrohydraulically boosted system. The interior is crammed full of sophisticated rotary knobs and buttons and a big digital readout in place of gauges. It has a stereo and a nav system. The firm-but-not-constraining seats are manually adjusted. The view out the rear is by way of a carbon-fiber tunnel roughly the dimensions of a small box.
The P1 pulls strongly and without hesitation, even with less than 2000 rpm showing on the tach. The motor fills in any gaps as the turbochargers spool, but even the top inch of the long-travel throttle pedal produces a shocking level of acceleration. Upshifting at 6000 rpm feels daring, though it’s a full 2250 rpm shy of the limiter. Even on cold tires, it finds an impressive grip, but if you ask for too much (even with the powertrain switch in its safest “normal” mode and every safeguard in play), you can feel the back end struggling.
The ride quality is uncannily good. An interlinked hydro-pneumatic suspension deals with the ragged asphalt better than most. With the “handling” switch in either normal or sport mode, the car rides out bumps and fills in compressions with utter disdain. The transmission is effortless, the dual-clutch gearbox swapping ratios quickly. The steering is as thrilling on the road as it is on a track, and the carbon-ceramic brakes are progressive and instantly responsive, even with the minimal heat they get from road use.
Photo Credit: PurePowerPhotography
The NumbersVEHICLE TYPE:
mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve 3.8-liter V-8, 727 hp, 531 lb-ft; AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor, 177 hp, 96 lb-ft; combined system, 903 hp
7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 105.1 in
Length: 180.6 in
Width: 76.6 in Height: 44.8-46.8 in
Curb weight: 3300 lb
Zero to 60 mph: 2.7 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 5.1 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 10.0 sec @ 147 mph
Top speed: 217 mph
EPA city/highway: 16/21 mpg
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