How McLaren Became A Major Player In The Supercar Game

Bruce McLaren. Enzo Ferrari. Ferruccio Lamborghini. All of these men are absolute legends in the automotive world. Be it racing or road cars, each brand has had unequivocal success. One of the most recent successes however, has been McLaren’s rise in the supercar world. Considering that there is around a 40 year gap between when the automotive branches of Ferrari and Lamborghini started to when McLaren Automotive started, it is remarkable that McLaren has become such a competitor in a relatively short timeframe.

McLaren’s first foray into the road car world was with the McLaren F1 in 1992. Designed by Gordon Murray, the F1 was ahead of its time. First of all, the F1 featured three seats so that the driver is in the center of the car. It was the first car to have a complete carbon fiber monocoque chassis and, for the time, the BMW sourced engine produced an unthinkable 618 horsepower.

In 1998 it set the world record for worlds fastest production car with a top speed of 391 km/h. The F1 set the stage for the ultra fast mega and supercars of today such as the Bugatti Veyron and the Koenigsegg One:1. McLaren’s first attempt at a road car is a legend that has contributed to many automotive technologies today and set a strong foothold for them in the future.

Shortly after the F1 ceased production, McLaren partnered with Mercedes-Benz to create the SLR. A grand tourer, the SLR was designed to cruise to the track, put down a blistering lap, and then cruise home in comfort. This was a wondrous automobile, however this was technically a Mercedes branded car so McLaren did not showcase much of their in house talent the show today. For that we need to fast forward to 2011.

2011 was the year that McLaren started production of the MP4-12C. This was McLaren’s first total in house car since the F1. Designed to be a competitor to the Ferrari 458 Italia, the 12C definitely wasn’t shabby. With and engine producing 592 horsepower, and the looks suiting a car of that caliber, the 12C surprised many. Although the 12C was a supercar by performance, to many it did not have a certain “je ne sais quoi”. It just didn’t have the noise, passion, drama, and overall aura of the type of cars the Italians were making. McLarens began to be thought of as somewhat robotic. Not exactly what you want out of a supercar. As the years went on and the Spider version was released, McLaren improved issues brought up by customers and reviewers and the 12C emerged as something to behold. McLaren wasn’t done there however.

In 2013 they started producing their flagship car that has solidified their reputation as a star car manufacturer. This car is the McLaren P1. Restricted to a very exclusive 375 units, the P1 is something to behold. Designed with a hybrid powertrain, the P1 produces 903 horsepower and is considered a worthy successor to the F1. Drawing rave reviews from Top Gear, and almost every single source of car journalism out there, the P1 has quickly become a major part of supercar legend. With many high profile buyers such as F1 drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, as well as DJ Joel Zimmerman a.k.a Deadmau5, the P1 definitely solidifies a place for Mclaren in the history books.

A year later at the Geneva motor show, McLaren accounced it was going to revamp its model line up, and revealed the 650S. Hailed as a complete revamp of the 12C, the 650s definitely backs up that statement. Updated to 641 horespower, a revised suspension, and many other tweaks gives the 650S the quality to deliver where the 12C couldn’t. The 675LT was also introduced this year, which is meant to compete with the 458 Speciale. Given upgrades mostly in power and aerodynamics, the LT is restricted to 500 units making it even more desirable.

Most interestingly, McLaren introduced two new lower end models this year, the 570S and the 540C. These cars are meant to be more “affordable” in a McLaren sense, and are to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and the Porsche Turbo S. One of the first supercar companies to have these so called entry level models, McLaren hopes to boost profit and brand regognition.

With several new models that can be customized endlessly by McLaren Special Operations, McLaren is set up well for the future. One thing that will be said to be seen is if the new models dilute the brand. It is always special to see a car like a McLaren out on the street even if it is not very often. It would be a shame to have too many of these cars on the road because you would lose the sense of awe when seeing one. Other brands, such as Ferrari have a production cap per year on their cars so they keep their exclusivity. Never the less, McLaren has become a special brand that deserves respect and they can look back at their rich history and be proud of where they are today.