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Few cars have been more keenly anticipated than McLaren's MP4-12C. Designed to compete with Lamborghini and Ferrari, the MP4-12C takes a unique approach, with minimalist design and a carbon-fiber chassis tub that is built in record time, lowering the car's cost. Drive columnist Peter Cheney takes you under the skin of the British supercar.

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Few cars have been more keenly anticipated than McLaren's MP4-12C. Designed to compete with Lamborghini and Ferrari, the MP4-12C takes a unique approach, with minimalist design and a carbon-fiber chassis tub that is built in record time, lowering the car's cost. Globe and Mail columnist Peter Cheney takes you under the skin of the British supercar.

Peter Cheney

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Although it has genetic links to McLaren's legendary F1 road car, the MP4-12C is designed to be more accessible and affordable. (The limited-production F1 cost over $1 million.) The MP4-12C starts at $246,000 in Canada, and uses side-by-side seating instead of the unusual centre-mounted driver's position featured in the F1.

George Pimentel

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The core of the MP4-12C chassis is a carbon-fibre tub called a Monocell. The Monocell weighs only 178 pounds, and is produced with patented processes that allow it to be manufactured in a fraction of the time that carbon tubs usually take, dramatically reducing the car's cost compared to competitors.

George Pimentel

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Twin exhaust pipes are flanked by metal grilles that allow hot air to escape from the engine compartment. The corrugated black piece below the license plate is a diffuser panel that accelerates the air that flows beneath the car. This lowers the airstream's pressure, pulling the car down onto the road.

George Pimentel

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The engine disappears beneath specially-molded carbon fiber covers.

Peter Cheney

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Massive brakes with ceramic rotors improve handling by reducing unsprung weight, and allow the MP4-12C to stop from 100 km/hr in only 30.5 metres.

George Pimentel

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McLaren CEO Ron Dennis at Pfafff Motors, selected as the Canadian dealer for the MP4-12C.

George Pimentel

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The MP4-12C's interior uses digital technology to eliminate control clutter by integrating multiple functions into each switch and knob. The car's advanced software created ongoing nightmares for McLaren engineers. "The hardest part was making the entertainment system work properly," McLaren CEO Ron Dennis said in an interview. "It gave us fits for a while."

Peter Cheney

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Steering wheel design involves a tug-of-war between performance and safety - a small wheel gives quicker steering response, but airbag packaging calls for larger diameters. McLaren engineers used a vacuum-packed airbag to keep the wheel as small as possible.

Peter Cheney

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This exposed chassis shows the bolted connection between the MP4-12C's carbon central tub and the aluminum substructure that carries the engine, transmission and rear suspension.

Peter Cheney

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The MP4-12C's "dihedral" doors swing up and out like bird wings. The rear spoiler tilts upward under braking, increasing downforce and traction on the rear wheels

George Pimentel

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Wide, low-profile Pirelli P-Zero tires offer optimum traction. Note the multiple hydraulic lines that run to each wheel - they control the brakes and suspension.

Peter Cheney

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The MP4-12C uses a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine. To reduce internal friction and increase power, the motor uses a dry-sump lubrication system - instead of collecting in a pan below the crankshaft, engine oil is scavenged by a high pressure pump and recirculated. The engine produces 616 horsepower.

Peter Cheney

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Seen below the MP4-12C's twin exhaust pipes is the seven-speed transaxle.

Peter Cheney

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The modular aluminum dash substructure attaches to the carbon chassis tub, and allows McLaren to manufacture the MP4-12C in right and left-hand-drive versions for different markets.

Peter Cheney

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The MP4-12C does away with conventional steering linkages. Instead, the steering wheel controls an advanced hydraulic system that turns the front wheels.

George Pimentel

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The MP4-12C uses race-car style double-wishbone independent suspension on all four wheels. Body roll is controlled by sensors that stiffen outboard shock absorbers as the car turns.

George Pimentel

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Aluminum front and rear substructures are bolted to the MP4-12C's carbon fiber central chassis tub. The aluminum substructures are designed to crush progressively in a crash, protecting passengers.

Peter Cheney

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The MP4-12C's forged aluminum wheels use large spoke-openings to reduce wheel weight and promote airflow over the brakes.

George Pimentel

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Large scoops in front of the rear wheels channel cooling air to the rear brakes, and to the MP4-12C's engine radiators.

George Pimentel

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A McLaren MP4-12C on Queen St. in Toronto, doing what it does best - turning heads.

Peter Cheney

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