Tested : McLaren MP4-12C

Tested : McLaren MP4-12C

Posted On: September 14, 2012
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Can a supercar be comfortable? editor Jared Gall sets out on an OCD-infused, 1000-mile road trip from Colorado to the Hoover Dam to find out on the latest episode of Car and Driver: Tested.

People who don’t own supercars and have never driven one often wonder why owners don’t rack up tens of thousands of miles on them each year. We’ll agree, to an extent, that the defenses for not doing so sound an awful lot like whining. Too much traffic on your commute?

Buy a new commute. Clearly you have the means. Ditto for depreciation and high maintenance costs. Ride too abusive? C’mon, a little abuse can be fun. Just ask any sadomasochist or Jackass cast member. Still, those who aren’t into S&M (yet) and have never let baby alligators bite their nipples for laughs do have limits. Now and then, we want a little comfort.

When we first drove the McLaren MP4-12C, we were startled by the uncommon level of comfort this 593-hp supercar offers. It seemed like perhaps the best mix we’d ever encountered of everyday livability and mind-altering performance. Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised. Have you heard that McLaren chief Ron Dennis has the gravel from his driveway regularly scraped up, cleaned, and replaced?

This isn’t a man who tolerates imperfection. To see how completely the car measures up to Dennis’s exacting demands, we needed an extended road trip. This car being a most impressive feat of engineering, we aimed for another triumph of engineering, the Hoover Dam. (If, by the way, they’d called it the Hoover WC5-57L, we wouldn’t have had to put up with those stupid “dam tour” jokes.)

Backing up an appropriate distance from the WC5-57L put us in Colorado Springs, which sounds like another impressive engineering feat. It isn’t. Sitting at the foot of the Southern Rocky Mountains, it is, in a sense, bottomed out.

If you take the interstate, it’s just over 800 miles from A to B. To form a more perfect route, we instead bent and wound our path along mountain two-lanes that ricochet through the Rockies like an asphalt EKG. Our total distance was just shy of 1000 miles, an adequate road-trip trek. In honor of Dennis’s obsession with cleanliness—the factory in Woking, Surrey, ­England, is cleaner than the room in which your appendix found its second career in a jar of formaldehyde—we packed the MP4’s forward luggage hold with Windex and paper towels for cleaning bug splats from the car, trash bags for picking up litter, and other miscellany.

We even jammed a paintbrush next to the seat so that we could dust off our shoes before getting into the car. With a cooler (lunch would be every day from 1:27 to 1:48 p.m., followed by a 20-minute nap), a briefcase, and an overstuffed duffel bag taking up most of the space, we had to Tetris the smaller items to fit everything into our tightly packed frunk. (Note to self: Lobby Merriam-Webster to recognize “frunk” as a real word so we don’t have to use made-up ones.)

The key to the MP4-12C’s dual nature is its Proactive Chassis Control suspension, which allows it to be, in the words of the philosopher and noted thespian Ludacris, a “lady in the street but a freak in the bed.” Leave the switch in “normal,” and the car rides like any great sports sedan. Data streams up through the steering wheel and the seat, but it’s rarely intrusive and never abusive. Even after three consecutive 14-hour days, we were still perfectly comfortable inside.

It’s so smooth that one of our crew nodded off in the passenger seat and stayed asleep as the driver pushed the car well into triple digits.

Comfort is also a function of space, which the McLaren has in spades. Colleagues regularly laugh out loud watching your six-foot-seven author try to fit into some of the MP4’s competitors. A driver of this height has to slouch so much that the steering wheel is almost within reach of his tongue and his knees regularly activate turn signals and windshield wipers.

He might have more luck trying to get comfortable in the trunk of a Miata. After 1000 miles, though, we still don’t know what the McLaren’s steering wheel smells like—probably antiseptic.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the McLaren’s usability is that, with its comfortable ride and subdued engine note, it lets you forget you’re in a supercar. Forgetting seems like a shame, but it’s necessary if you want to drive something like this every day—and you do want to. Because when nobody’s looking, you can get just as raunchy as yesteryear’s prom queen after a second divorce and a few drinks.

McLaren’s prom queen will not only get as wild as anyone’s, but she’s just as happy turning it off for civilized school-board meetings and quiet nights watching Puss in Boots (the DreamWorks one) with the kids. A lady on the street but a freak in the bed—isn’t that The New American Dream? It’s ours.

Article adapted, courtesy of Car and Driver