Let me start by saying that I love Mclaren. I love the efficient way that they go about making some of the worlds amazing cars, without the fussiness, aggressive branding, and redness of, say… Ferrari. Some people think that this makes their cars overly clinical and robotic, but you wouldn’t say that the terminator doesn’t have character would you?
There are two problems, as I see it, and they’re both called F1. First the sport: A couple of years ago Mclaren was top of the tree in F1 and there’s no doubting their heritage in the sport. They even had two British drivers (Lewis and Jenson), all of which is great for their identity as a British car maker, in the same way that Ferrari and Lamborghini are distinctly Italian. The fate of their 2014 season is yet to unfold, but recently the British team has fallen of the grid. Not good for branding.
How about the car then, Gordon Murray’s iconic Mclaren F1. In a way, it wasn’t built by the same Mclaren road car company that we know today. As the first road car by the marque, it was built and designed by the same people that made their racing cars- not strictly true today, but not far off. The F1 was the fastest car in the world at 243mph, a figure beaten by only a select few of the hypercar royalty. The problem here? The current generation of Mclarens can’t get anywhere near this figure, despite being more powerful, technical and rewarding to drive.
Maybe Mclaren isn’t the F1 anymore. Maybe its the ballistically brilliant P1. I’m sure that there are a bunch of very wealthy people itching to own the entry level 12C just to be part of the hype. And thats fine right? Well I’m not so sure. Let’s look again at Ferrari. Of course they have their flagship cars but the 458, the F12, the LaFerrari are all great cars in their own right. Not so much with Mclaren since the P1 blew away the media.
The new 650S is clearly more of a 12C evo, rather than a brand new car, utilising new technological advances honed in the P1. But they’ve changed the looks too, shamelessly bolting on the rather fiddly front end of the bigger car. They tell us that the new car will be built alongside the 12C but given the small price difference and largish gap in performance, who would buy a new 12C now? I fear that they’ll have no option but to kill it off. Why didn’t they just make the 650S a completely different car, even if the differences were still only cosmetic. I can’t be the only one disappointedly this?
So really we’re now left with two Mclarens: the P1 and the P1 mini- sorry 650S. Because of this there’s still a huge problem… The company sits in a huge, prancing-horse shaped, shadow. In the main, I don’t think even Mclaren can compete with the Ferrari appeal.