In one of the most eagerly awaited supercar introductions ever, McLaren Automotive officially unveiled the production version the new 2011 McLaren MP4-12C. The first of what Chairman Ron Dennis promises will be a range of McLaren sports cars appears to bode well for the future on every level. To be priced "under £175,000 ($268,000)," McLaren says it will begin taking orders for this exotic GT during the next several months with deliveries to begin in early 2011. Although the first cars will be built in the organization's ultramodern Technology Center that also houses its Formula One race team, within 12 months, construction will transfer to a dedicated McLaren Production Center facility that's now being completed. Not surprisingly, McLaren's successful F1 operation contributed a number of technological elements to the MP4-12C package, including an electronic differential and an articulated air brake. Both of its current Formula One driving aces -- 2008 champ Lewis Hamilton and his new teammate, the 2009 title holder, Jenson Button, also were on hand for the reveal.

In keeping with its lightweight design approach, the MP4-12C is built around a one-piece carbon-fiber structure that weighs a mere 176 pounds. Extensive use of composites and lightweight alloys throughout hold the dry curb weight of this mid-engine two-seater to less than 2,866 pounds, which is split 43/57 percent front/rear. Like McLaren's F1 machines, the MP4-12C's classically contemporary bodywork reflects extensive fine tuning courtesy of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and lots of time in McLaren's full-size wind tunnel. Despite its performance pedigree, McLaren says the MP4-12C will provide class-leading comfort and amenities, including a seven-inch touch-screen center display and Wi-Fi connectivity.

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Motivating the MP4-12C is a bespoke 3.8-liter twin turbocharged V8 that was co-developed in conjunction with Ricardo. The potent M838T makes 592 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 442 lb-ft of peak torque at 3,000 revs, with at least 80 percent of that twist on hand between 2,000-6,500 rpm. The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission equipped with F1-style paddle shifters. To further optimize vehicle dynamics, the MP4-12C's driver-selectable Normal/Sport/Track modes can be personalized using supplemental Handling and Powertrain functions. The first tweaks the car's steering effort, stability control, suspension, and roll stiffness while the latter remaps throttle response, engine acoustics and shift times and feel. McLaren says the MP4-12C will streak from 0-124 mph in less than 10 seconds and that its ultra-capable disc brakes can halt it from 100 mph in just 98 feet! Interestingly enough, the car's standard stoppers that use lightweight forged-aluminum hubs actually weigh less than the optional carbon-ceramic binders.

In summing up the future of McLaren Automotive, Chairman Ron Dennis concluded: "We have long held the dream of building a range of McLaren high-performance sports cars that take the raw elements of Formula 1 principles, processes and performance and forge them into a unique package; one that offers customer-focused requirements of quality, efficiency, comfort and reliability. Today's announcements confirm our intention to challenge convention at the highest levels of automotive design, from a new high-tech home that I am proud to say will deliver jobs, expertise and innovation in manufacturing and engineering."

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