Car Reviews

backWOW Test Drive: The McLaren MP4-12C

“How to open the door”* was not the very first thing I googled when I found out I’d be driving the McLaren MP4-12C, but it was right up there. In fact, I spent so much time watching YouTube and Top Gear test-drives at work (sorry, boss), I almost forgot I was employed by a women’s mag. I needn’t have worried – despite the seven-speed Seamless Shift dual-clutch (or “flappy paddle” if you’re Jeremy Clarkson) gearbox and my rather undignified way of falling getting into and out of the car, the McLaren could probably drive itself if you asked it nicely enough. It would take a special talent to stuff it up.

I never used the flappy paddles, choosing the auto option instead, but by the end of the drive I wished I had. The car is that amazing – it’s gorgeous to look at, lovely to listen to and, even in auto, it responds to the gentlest touch.

The most amazing thing about the McLaren – the thing that made me giggle like a kid in a candy store and bounce in my seat in the most embarrassing manner – is its handling. At high speeds (and on the track), my instructor assured me it corners in a way that’s “insane”.

Bearing in mind my test-drive was around lunch time and there were no clear runways at Cape Town International airport, I was reluctantly forced to take his word for it – until I hit a sharp bend at around 120km/h (much less than half of its top speed, by the way) and felt my body want to lean into the momentum, only to realise there was no momentum. We may as well have been cruising along beside the beach at 40km/h for all the leaning the car allowed me to do.

This may not be the most glowing superlative ever used to describe it, but the MP4-12C is quite possibly the most comfortable jet cockpit car I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit in, never mind drive. It’s fast – Ferrari 458 fast, 0-100-in-3.3-seconds kind of fast – but at the same time it’s soft and sexy. It’s crazy yet smooth and, whether you’re on manual or the sports mode in auto, it will probably never let you do anything stupid. It’s very much like a woman – it knows what you want, it knows how to give it to you and it’s not afraid to let you have it. Within reason, of course.

There are many things on my bucket list. Driving one of these used to be in my top 10. Owning one of these is now officially at the top. Boss, I’ll need a raise…

* You have to stroke the door to open it. Seriously. Go on – look it up.

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