Although not scheduled for production until sometime in 2011, McLaren Automotive has revealed an early look and some most intriguing technical information about its revolutionary MP4-12C supercar which will be one of the highlights of the Frankfurt Auto Show. According to McLaren's chairman, Ron Dennis, this sleek mid-engine two-seater will be the first in a series of high-performance offerings for the street-car wing of one of the world's most successful international racing operations. Given its prestigious motorsport heritage and with vehicles like the original McLaren F1 and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren in its portfolio, one is correct in anticipating that the MP4-12C significantly advances the design and materials game in this rarefied arena. At its heart is a unique Carbon MonoCell, the first ever one-piece carbon-fiber structure ever used in a street car. Wrapping that ultra-strong and rigid core is striking bodywork penned by another design legend, Frank Stephenson, and rendered in aluminum and SMC plastic material that's purposefully contoured and scooped to optimize airflow and downforce without resorting to paste-on appendages.

Power for the MP4-12C will come from a McLaren-designed 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that will make about 600 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft of torque. That force will get shipped to the rear wheels via a seven-speed/paddle-shifted dual-clutch automated transmission, and be able to take the car from 0-60 mph in well under 3.5 seconds and on to a top end on the far side of 200 mph. Underpinning the package is competition-derived and fully-adjustable coil-spring/double-wishbone suspension which McLaren has dubbed Proactive Chassis Control. Offering three distinct modes and interconnected hydraulically actuated anti-roll bars, PCC reportedly endows the MP4-12C with a never before realized combination of compliance, grip and cornering stability.

According to Dennis, the MP4-12C is destined to serve as a harbinger of even better things to come from the Woking, England-based McLaren Automotive. "It is a long-held dream of mine to launch a range of high performance sports cars that set new standards in the industry. We began designing and building cars for aficionados of thoroughbred sports cars almost 20 years ago. Incorporating the leading edge technologies that the McLaren Group has built up within its various companies, I believe we are now perfectly placed to open up this new chapter in McLaren's history as well as play a part in the regeneration of high-tech manufacturing in the UK and global automotive environment."

McLaren currently plans to produce about 1000 MP4-12C's in 2011, with roughly 25 percent of them headed to the U.S. While no firm pricing has been established, expect the car to open somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000-$225,000. While the MP4-12C will be positioned as McLaren's "core" competitor to take on cars like the Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes-Benz SLS and Porsche 911 Turbo, the firm is already working on two more step-up players. The first will be aimed at foes like the Ferrari 599 GTB and 612 as well as the Lamborghini Murcielago while the ultimate embodiment of McLaren's design innovation would be a car that goes up against ultra-exotics from boutique makers like Pagani and Koenigsegg as well as anything else currently lurking on designers CAD/CAM screens at BMW, Ferrari, M-B and Porsche.

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