McLaren’s latest supercar has been met with mixed reviews since it first rolled off the Woking production line in 2011. On one side we had the McLaren fans, a group that had been pining for a thoroughbred speed machine ever since Gordon Murray dropped the silk sheet on his jaw-dropping F1. On the other side were the naysayers; a small collective of experts who believed the 12C lacked the visceral, white-knuckle driving experience of a true supercar. There’s only one way to settle this argument and that’s to drive the thing…

What is it?

It’s the £176,000, 616bhp performance machine that is manufactured and assembled in the same room as McLaren’s fearsome Formula 1 cars. The entire engineering process is breathtakingly clinical, with painstaking attention to detail lavished on every single car that passes along the production line. The recipe for a real spine-tingling supercar is here: a 3.8-litre turbocharged V8 engine that produces in excess of 600bhp, a 0-60mph sprint time of a smidgen over 3 seconds and a top speed of 204mph. It really is a beast of a machine, but one that has been domesticated so it can be wrangled through busy city centres on a daily basis.

What is it like to drive?

That fiery 3.8-litre V8 really has to be worked to get the most out of it. Slip the slick semi-automatic gearbox into manual mode, build some speed, drop it into seventh and it will happily cruise around town idling at little more than 1500rpm. But pull back on the left hand shifter paddle – that sits ergonomically positioned just behind the steering wheel – drop a couple of gears, nail the throttle and prepare yourself as the turbos spool up ready to unleash hell. The car is Biblically quick, if you ever get enough room to properly stretch its legs, but perhaps most impressive is that fact that it comfortably settles into an everyday drive with little complaints. The chassis is perfectly judged – not too taught as to shake spines over nasty potholes but ready to be driven hard should the mood take. The plethora of selectable driving modes also makes it easier for the driver to automatically set up the car for varying conditions at the flick of a switch.

What is it like inside?

This is where some will argue that the theatrics of a Ferrari or Lamborghini are missing, because although the McLaren’s interior is meticulously crafted from the finest materials and everything works perfectly, it doesn’t pack the same visual punch as its Italian rivals. The upside is that the polished aluminum switches won’t fall off, the sat-nav actually works and there is a home for your take-away Starbucks. The seats are sumptuously sculpted, the layout of the switchgear is entirely logical and the heaters blow warm air within seconds. It really is a supercar you could happily drive to work every day.

Is it practical?

Compared to a Lamborghini or Ferrari, yes. As mentioned previously, the lack of flair makes way for sensible thinking in every department. It is very apparent that every single part of the car, from the electronic air brake to the wing mirror adjustors, have been engineered and then re-engineered again and then engineered a bit more for precision. There’s little in the way of a boot and no rear seats but find us a proper performance machine that does and we’ll eat our proverbial hat (and don’t say a Porsche 911 Turbo, this thing will eat it alive given the room).

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for a car that turns heads no matter where you drive it, produces an exhaust note that can shatter glass, wheel-spins in every gear and boasts an interior that makes little sense, this is not the car for you. But, if you appreciate the performance potential yet wish to cruise to work in comfort, this car will provoke a Cheshire Cat grin from the day it is delivered to the day it is put into storage for the next generation.

Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used McLaren 12C in our classifieds here.

The facts


                           List Price                            Engine                            Power                            0-62mph                            Top Speed
                           £176,000                            3.8-litre V8                            616bhp                            3.1 seconds                            204mph