Up: The styling, the detail, the presence, the comfort, and, most importantly, the performance.
Down: You want that pretty Volcano Yellow paint? That’ll be $5000. You want that sport exhaust? That’ll be another $5000. Oh, you want those carbon ceramic brakes? That’s a Ford Fiesta.
Neutral: There’s a certain “next-level-ness” to having a car built by people that did F1 first, and production cars later.
While walking down Clark Street towards the McLaren dealership I start to think about that day my parents told me we were going to Disney World. Instantly my body filled with electricity but was just as soon overcome with too much thought about expectations. You see, a McLaren is my Disney World. I want it to live up to all the hype that I’ve built up in my head over the years without actually ever seeing one in person. Everyone wants a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, but a McLaren just has that special something to me. Mickey Mouse, Cinderella Castle, and Magic Mountain had to all be present in this embodiment of horsepower and carbon fiber. I’m at the door now. I release a small breath and I walk in.
I pretend to casually look around at the sea of black and grey German sports cars, but really I’m just playing hard-to-get. Yeah I spot the MP4-12C in the corner, but I don’t want it to think I’m too anxious to shake hands. I ask the front counter if Rob Mancuso, the owner of Mancuso Motorsports Inc and also the gentleman I had been chatting with via email, was available and I get the expected “who is this guy?” look. The salesman walks to the back room and soon comes back with the tall, very well dressed man who must be the man himself. I’m ready to chat but my hard-to-get game is also over; my eyes are cemented to the Volcano Yellow McLaren.
“Hi Chris!” Rob exclaims as we exchange pleasantries (He even gives kudos to Short Shift so he gets 10 points right off the bat) and he starts showing me around the McLaren. We open and close the butterfly doors, chat about this 2013 model, he tells me to make myself at home, and that I can play with all the buttons. Already this review is far more than I expect when Rob adds another slice of pie to my plate. He tells me that when I’m done shooting this one, he has a black 2014 in the garage that I could look at… if I’m interested. “I would love to if it’s not too much trouble,” is what I casually said out loud while an expletive followed by ‘yeah!’ resounded in my head.
As I’m snapping every thoughtful nook and cranny of the 12C I start to really appreciate the detail that 300 grand gets you. I can see how the front grille keeps the nose down, how the massive rear vents channel air so the engine can breathe, how the door mirrors were shaped to slice through air, how the mechanical spoiler really works at speeds, how the engine cover allows you to appreciate the engine, how the exclusive Volcano Yellow color really is separate from normal yellow, and that is all just the exterior!
After taking a memory card’s worth of pictures of the exterior it was time to get in. Opening the door is strange because you expect it to come towards you but really it goes out and up; hence the “butterfly” name. The car sits so low that I nearly fall in but once I’m seated, I don’t want to leave. The level of detail I just witnessed fully carries over into the interior. I know I can’t start up the 616 hp twin-turbo V8, but I still grip the steering wheel and close my eyes for a second. It feels incredible. The Formula 1 style gauge cluster mocks me with the bright red section indicating redline and the digital panel lights up with “MP4-12C” but I remember to breathe and manage to pull my eyes away to look around. Most of what I see is a perfectly minimalistic layout with high quality materials and real carbon fiber. Wait, is that also yellow stitching? Now they’re just showing off.
It’s time to get out no because I’m starting to look like a loiterer. I approach Rob and he asks me if I still want to see the black 12C in the garage. I try to play coy and say “If it’s not too much trouble,” but in my head it still sounds like, “expletive yeah!” We walk over to the other end of the dealership and he slides open a secret hidden wall (of course they have a secret hidden wall) that house a gorgeous 2014 McLaren 12C Spider in all black just waiting to be woken up. He thinks some photos outside along the curb would be cool and I ask if I can ride along for the 20 foot ride because if I’ve got a chance to ride in a live 12C, I’m taking it.
We both get in and, after doing the pre-flight checks, he fires up the 3.8 liter V8 monster. Since the engine is basically touching my spine I am engulfed in a whirlwind of, what are the kids saying nowadays?.. so many feels. It’s an incredible roar that calms down into a deep and mellow purr. He throws it in drive and we glide towards the garage door. Rob takes a look left, and then right, and decides that heck, it’s a gorgeous day, why not go for a cruise in downtown Chicago?
As we start our voyage through the grid that is the heart of Chi Town, I immediately notice how comfortable the ride is. I mean, it looks like a supercar and it sounds like a supercar so why isn’t my back broken? Rob explains to me that since so much of the car is made from carbon fiber, the body can absorb the harshness of normal roads without leaving the driver with a twisted spine. This guy knows his stuff. He starts telling me more about the paddle shifters and the infotainment center and I try to keep my professional composure by taking some photos, but really I want to just sit there with my uncontrollable grin and absorb it all in. I now know why a dog sticks his head out of the window.
There’s finally a gap in traffic and he hits the gas. The power is instant. It went from 10 to what I assume was 150 mph in two shakes of a stick. Is that a saying? Who cares, it was the most brutal acceleration I have ever felt in a car and it only took a couple seconds. Since the traffic is so thick in Chicago, Rob tells me that it’s hard to get out of first gear sometimes before he has to brake. To me, that is an OK problem to have. Lamb’s tail! That’s it.
“Here’s the Viagra Triangle,” he tells me as we pull up to an intersection on Oak street; I look perplexed and wondered if I should know what that is. “It’s where people of a ‘certain stereotype’ like to cruise in their expensive sports cars to strut their stuff.” I can instantly tell that that is no secret as we pass one, no two, no three Porsche convertibles in a very short time. [tweet_quote hashtags=”#McLaren #12C” ]All of them were suckers at the moment because I’m in a McLaren.[/tweet_quote]
We pull up to a prime location for me to grab some outdoor shots of the 12C and I exit with an even bigger appreciation for the car. It has a presence that other sports cars don’t have. I think it’s because it is so phenomenal while still looking subtle enough for most people to have no idea what they’re looking at. Exclusivity is a good word for it. I have plenty of time to ponder these things in between shots because every passerby has to slow down to give it a once over. As I finish up with my interior shots, a very polite older man approaches me and asks me what kind of car it is. This reassures my earlier thoughts and I tell him what it is and where it’s from. He responds simply with, “Wow, what a beautiful car.” Yeah, it really is.
As Rob and I head back to the dealership, the gravity of this day starts to settle in. I completely forgot to ask him all of the questions I had prepared before I even left for Chicago. I sneak a few in as we park back in the garage. I tell him that anyone can read about the specs on the internet but what I want to know is what the 12C is like for someone who has to live with it. He thinks for a second and tells me it is a great daily driver. He emphasizes on the comfort and how the 12C Spider is every bit as good as the coupe. Everything is exactly the same except the Spider’s roof is a couple of centimeters higher and it only weighs around 80 lbs more solely because of the retracting roof mechanism. That’s pretty extraordinary stuff for a supercar.
Fearing I will outstay my welcome, I know that I have to pack up my camera and let the incredibly friendly staff get back to work. Mr. Mancuso has more than delivered with both his hospitality and his knowledge. Instead of just snapping a couple photos of a showroom floor model, they showed me that the McLaren MP4-12C is Disney World, Universal Studios, and Harry Potter World all rolled into one. Now, I just need to wish upon a star so I can own one.