At the beginning of the decade, McLaren started to become a volume sports car manufacturer with models like the MP4-12C and has since expanded its range to include several distinct but conceptually similar models. Before that, it had been all racing and only racing for McLaren, with the exception of the all-conquering F1 hypercar of the 1990s and the Mercedes-Belz SLR McLaren of the early 2000s. Then, 10 years after the SLR and 10 years after the introduction of both the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT, al three companies came out with their latest and greatest. Interestingly, all three of these hypercars of the 2010s utilize gasoline-hybrid electric power. Whereas most hybrids use electric power with the goal of added fuel efficiency, these hypercars use it to augment the performance of their already potent and cutting edge internal combustion engines.
The P1 is built around a carbon monocoque chassis that weighs just 90kg. McLaren calls it the MonoCage. On top is a carbon fiber body shell with adjustable front and rear wings, and the P1 rides on aluminum wheels that measure 19 inches up front and 20 inches wheels in the back. The brakes are carbon infused with silicon-carbide, which dissipates heat and absorbs more energy. The whole car weighs under 1,400 kg, and it can develop 600 kg of downforce at 160 mph.
In addition to the downforce, handling is aided by a Brake Steer system, which puts on the brake for the inside rear wheel in the middle of a corner, and the Race Active Chassis Control system.
Behind the driver sits a V-8 that is the same 3.8-liter displacement as the engines used across the McLaren model range. It’s a different beast in the P1, however, and with two turbochargers and dry-sump lubrication it puts out 727 bhp and 531 lb-ft of torque. The P1’s electric motor’s purpose is to fill in for the gas engine when it isn’t at peak power, such as at lower rpms or during gearshift. By itself, the electric motor makes 176 hp, so the total system output is a whopping 903. The sprint to 60 mph takes less than three seconds, and the quarter-mile comes in less than 10. Top speed is limited to 217 mph. Despite the absolutely savage performance and incredible power, the P1 is also drivable around town and will even return 34 mpg.
While it isn’t the same world-beater as the F1 that came before it, the P1 represents a serious leap forward in performance among the world’s top-tier manufacturers, and according to Car and Driver, it is “lithe and alert and…every bit as great to drive as you might hope it to be.”