Posts Tagged ‘Awards’

…As for the MP4-12C, well, maybe there was an excess of pressure here, too. The day before I drove an early car at Portimão, back in February, Ron Dennis – a man who’s definitely a little misunderstood, but is still the closest the car industry has to a Steve Jobs figure – claimed that McLaren has always been “passionate” about measuring things scientifically. “And we can prove scientifically that ours is the best sports car in history.”

Very Ron and not wrong. Unscientifically, however, it didn’t appear – at first – the most thrilling of mid-engined supercars. Because, pitched as it was against the Ferrari 458 Italia, it’s actually more about sheer speed than vociferous thrills. When we brought them together, the 12C couldn’t quite eclipse the 458, a car in which the myths and legends of Maranello segue perfectly with some truly extraordinary engineering. The Ferrari’s normally aspirated V8 sounds better than the McLaren’s twin-turbo unit, and its bodywork undulates as sinfully as a Fifties Italian screen siren. The 12C looks neat but functional. Plus, Ferrari would never name a car after a tumble-dryer. But the McLaren remembers when to shut up, which the more extrovert Italian isn’t so good at. Call it English reserve. That’s its character.

What if we were looking at the comparison from the wrong angle, though? Top Gear’s editor-in-chief Charlie Turner drove a 12C back to the UK from July’s Alpine performance-car gathering, and wouldn’t stop going on about how insanely good it was until we locked him in a small room and doused him with cold water. In the real world, a place we visit occasionally, the McLaren simply works. Well, it does now that the initial satnav and warning-light gremlins have been evicted.

We also thought more about the context of the 12C’s creation. From a more or less standing start to getting within a hair’s breadth of arguably the greatest-ever Ferrari is a seriously impressive feat. So here it is: our GT Car of the Year.

But not quite yet. Lewis will be driving it along a red carpet at a McLaren dealer opening, not long after our meeting. Then it’s ours, to do with as we please, for about 12 hours. Our allotted time with him is almost up. I ask him what he thought of the Senna documentary, arguably the film of the year. His answer is surprisingly reflective…

Winning the green game by stealth is this, the Vauxhall Ampera

The Ampera is here as an example of technology that’s managing to sneak under the social radar and win the green game by stealth. It combines a load of realistic green technologies to produce a car that’s practical and easy to use (this really could be your only car), at a price – £29k – that’s easy(ish) to swallow. It’s a plug-in – with an EV-range of 50 miles, so it may never need to see a fuel station. But it’s also an ER-EV, or Extended Range Electric Vehicle, so the 1.4-litre petrol engine is never connected to the wheels – it’s there to drive a generator, just like the Fisker on p140, and allow for an all-up range of 310 miles on one tank.

The battery is guaranteed for 150k miles or 10 years. With a full charge, it’ll do the equivalent of 175-odd mpg and 40g/km CO2. So this is exciting new tech in a normal, useful package. An EV without the range anxiety. A green car without the sense of self-righteous anger. The future’s bright. The future’s quite subtle.