2014 McLaren P1, driven to the limit and beyond: Motoramic Drives
McLaren has only just begun shipping the first of its 375 P1 hyper cars, each a 903-hp plug-in hybrid costing $1.15 million, billed as a successor to the McLaren F1, one of the greatest supercars of all time. Getting a chance to drive one is a big deal; McLaren has let only a few select people in the world behind the wheel. So when Chris, my sales person from Park Place McLaren, asked about my interest in driving the McLaren P1 — on Top Gear’s famed Dunsfold test track, no less — I had to laugh; I thought he was kidding.
A few weeks later, there I was, preparing to ignite the twin-turbo V-8, jet-lagged and yet feeling more awake than I’ve ever been.
The P1 exists as a rolling testament to McLaren’s work on the track. Formula 1 leads technical innovation in motorsport, and its teams pay fastidious attention to detail, materials, aerodynamic efficiency and now even hybrid technology. Until the LaFerrari hits the streets, the McLaren P1 is the only road car in the world that shares not just technology, but a factory and engineers with a successful F1 team. The P1’s drag reduction system works just like the one on the McLaren's race cars; hydraulic suspension dampers allow for an active selection of handling modes- from "sport" to "track" to "race" which, along with lowering the car, also stiffens the suspension to make it less likely to morph into a flying missile. Hybrid IPAS, a device like an F1 KERS systems, allows for a 176-hp "go even faster" boost button whenever you need it…because you know, at 727 hp you generally need help passing people, right?
It’s the car of my dreams. And after some familiarization with the cockpit, some photographs, and many liability waivers, I belted into a two-seat carbon-fiber fighter jet.
It was raining. And Dunsfold, the proving ground of the Stig and sundry celebrities, was treacherous. To your average supercar buyer, this may be seen as somewhat sacrilegious. But not for me. I drive my McLaren 12C, Porsche Carrera GT and my (now gone) Bentley GT and Ferrari 599 as much as possible, in any conditions – the more grueling the better. One of the other future P1 owners on hand scoffed at my enthusiasm, saying that, "at least it isn't my car, (when I get mine) I'll never drive this thing fast or in the rain."