The McLaren P1 is by the carmaker’s own definition, “Designed, Engineered and Built to Be the Best Driver’s Car in the World.”
McLaren is primarily known for Formula 1 success, achieving the first of eight F1 World Championships in 1974. McLaren’s leader for over 30 years was Ron Dennis, an Englishman who started in Formula 1 as a mechanic. Dennis later led McLaren’s Formula 1 team through the glory years of legendary drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost and into the 21st century, spotting and nurturing current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. In 2009, Dennis transferred his almost fanatical attention to detail from the Formula 1 team to McLaren’s new road car division.
The P1 brings Formula 1 technology to the street in an enjoyable, usable, everyday package. Unlike traditional hybrids, which alternate between gas and electric power, the P1 uses its electric motor to minimize the inefficiencies in a gas motor. This motor provides what is sometimes referred to as “torque-fill” in those few milliseconds between shifting gears, or while the turbos spool up. In effect, it is a giant electric supercharger, because it drives the crankshaft directly. The P1 has a 3.8-liter twin turbo V-8 and delivers 727 hp standing alone. The displacement is similar to McLaren’s MP12, yet the block has a different casting to accommodate the electric motor.
It is in fast, sweeping turns where the P1 really excels, since this is where thecolossal, Formula 1-style downforce comes into play. To cope, Pirelli designed bespoke tires with especially strong sidewalls. When the P1 senses the driver lifting off the accelerator, it moves its brake calipers close to the rotors, ready to be applied if required. Significantly, when driven fast, but nowhere near its potential, the P1 feels controllable and fun; it can be drifted, and the prominent turbo whistle and popping wastegates deliver a terrific sense of occasion.
The P1 follows the weight-saving mantra of Formula 1: there are no carpets or glove box, and the carbon fiber body parts are unlacquered. Thin glass is used, with titanium fittings. The P1 is assembled from just five body panels, which both saves weight and increases structural rigidity. Unlike other hypercars, but like Formula 1 cars, the P1 is rear-wheel drive only. There is also a full electric mode with a five-mile range. Inside, the cabin feels airy due to the moonroof and the emphasis on simple, clean interface design.
As the flagship of the McLaren pantheon, exterior styling is themed around the distinctive speedmark featured on the McLaren logo. The P1 name purposely evokes comparison with the paradigm-shifting, Le Mans-winning McLaren F1 road car of the 1990s.
Rich as it is in design, the P1’s form is shaped by its function. The rear spoilerarticulates for optimum efficiency, sitting unobtrusively flush with the body at low speed. At speeds where it becomes useful, it rises to provide downforce, feathering itself slightly above 156 mph to reduce drag. Emulating the drag reduction system used by McLaren in Formula 1 since 2011, the driver can stall the wing using a button on the steering wheel. In another trickle-down from Formula 1, exhaust gases are used to amplify the aerodynamic effect of the diffuser.
The example offered here is finished in Carbon Black, a special-order color, and was delivered new to McLaren Philadelphia. Inside, a portrait screen controls the HVAC, navigation, and infotainment systems, and the carbon racing seats have provisions for harnesses. It has covered less than 1,700 miles from new and comes with its original window sticker.
Warp-speed fast, fun, and practical, the sophisticated racing technology in the P1 fades into the background, the better to aid the driving experience. With just 375 produced, the P1 is rare, and deliberately so, in order to maintain the exclusivity of ownership, making this a special opportunity to acquire a low-mileage example.