Chris Harris drives the new $1.2 million McLaren P1 at the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit in Abu Dhabi UAE. Before taking to the track at night, Chris chats with Chris Goodwin, the Chief Test Driver for McLaren Automotive to discuss the technology of McLaren's latest offering, perhaps the definition of the modern day hypercar.
Fair warning, the McLaren Chris Harris drives in this car is the XP7, the pre-production prototype for P1. The car has had a long life over the past 15 months, driving around the world and clocking over 40,000 hard miles.
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You may consider this a joke, but we assure you - it's not. Welcome to our favorite car, and potentially, the one you'll always remember as the best car in the world after this film. Hosted by Chris Harris in a terrible hat.
Chris Harris takes a 24 hour trip to Los Angeles to drive the new BMW i8. He hated the flight, but the i8 left a positive impression on the team. Capable of 23 miles all electric before the 3-cylinder turbocharged motor kicks in to recharge the batteries. This is one of the closest production cars we've ever seen that looks almost identical to the concept car it's based on.
Intimidating, yet supremely usable. Oh, and obscenely quick.
By Chris Harris
The first thing any of us does with these hypercar things is look for the power figure. In the case of the LaFerrari, that figure is 950 hp. The next figure we snaffle out is, quite naturally, the weight, which in this case is around 2954 lbs, wet. Then we do the math. We always do the math: 643 hp per ton. Six hundred and forty-three. Boom.
Add in 715 lb-ft of torque and the LaFerrari's rear-wheel-drive setup, and the combined foreknowledge does little to quell the sense of intimidation you feel on a public highway—especially one of Maranello's narrow, lunatic-in-a-Fiat-strewn roads. And then you discover that the car's most admirable quality may be the ease with which it can be driven slowly. It won't grab headlines, and it won't help the 120-mph smoky drift for the video shoot, but if you're one of the 499 chosen few, then it will probably be the single most pleasing aspect of the car's performance. Take a 458, lose a little rear visibility, add some width, a 10 percent intimidation factor for the sticker price, and a few extra points for fellow motorists who seem hellbent on crashing into you while they gawk, and that's the slow-speed difficulty summarized; that's your LaFerrari in traffic.
The transmission is key. Gone is the Enzo's mostly hateful mechanized manual; in its place is a modified version of the F12's Getrag dual-clutch box. You can pop it in auto and pretend you're in a C-Class Merc. It's that easy. The only telltales to the contrary are the firm brake pedal with zero dead-travel at the top, and the long throw of the throttle pedal, which, even on small openings, allows access to performance levels not entirely compatible with narrow Modenese roads.
We like to think of cars like this as being no-compromise performance exercises defined though lap delta and Vmax, but the reality is that, perhaps more than any other Ferrari special, the LeFerrari is designed for usability on the street. Just look at the funky door opening and the cut-away sill. Both allow perfectly dignified access and exit strategies for occupants outside the casino. The ride is perplexingly good on the road, too. As in the F12 and the FF, you thumb the damper logo on the steering wheel, the dash says 'bumpy road' and everything slackens to the point of being comfortable.
I always marvel at how these engineers manage to take such mechanical ferocity and make it so calm and usable. You simply have no idea what's going on underneath your bottom. You don't know that 57.5 lbs of high-voltage cells are bolted into the carbon tub, and that someone has taken the F12's already monstrous 740-hp V12, added a variable length intake system and a hydroformed exhaust, and rounded it up to the magic 789 hp at 9000 rpm. You don't know that they've then somehow integrated a harvesting system that can draw energy from the brakes and even the differential. All the driver has to do is pull a paddle and dawdle.
But you want to know what the LaFerrari, the most absurdly named car in the company's history, is like to drive fast.
This of course happens at the Fiorano circuit. I'm always a little skeptical of drawing absolute dynamic conclusions of Ferrari product here for obvious reasons, but there's only one chance to drive this car.
The driving position is pretty radical. You sit low in a padded area of the carbon tub, not in a separate movable seat because that can flex and contaminate the driver-machine connection. The pedal box moves on a sprung handle and the steering wheel has a greater amount of movement than a series production Ferrari. It's a great position, and owners get the padding tailor-made for them.
The wheel is standard Ferrari, but oddly quadrate in shape. The dash readouts are all new, full TFT and riddled with information. The rest is bare, sculpted carbon and Alcantara. Few cockpits are more inviting.
The V12 yelps when you push the red starter, sounding much like the F12 but with a slightly deeper edge. Pull a paddle and you have first gear, tweak the little manettino into 'race', because we need to get on with this, and push the throttle. Take a lap, building speed and tire temperature, and ka-bam! We're traveling.
Throttle response is, well, electric! I've always wanted to say that in the literal sense. Urge is instant and entirely predictable on the throttle input. It just goes from 1500 rpm and keeps pulling, building to 9000 rpm, all the while leaving a rooster of V12 shriek that must be one of the finest noises ever created. This feels profoundly faster than the F12. Traction is superb, and the traction control allows decent slip angles without jagged throttle cuts.
Braking performance is race-car standard. The vast carbon ceramic Brembos leave you pinned in the optional harness belts. Given the regenerative capability, something the McLaren P1 doesn't have and that we know can ruin pedal feel, the work Ferrari has done is exceptional. And the steering is spot-on for speed, weight, and, dare I say it, a better sense of connection than either the F12 or the 458 deliver. I love the way Ferrari decided to effectively automate the driving process—there's active aero constantly juggling downforce levels, an electronic diff, and lord knows what else, but the driver just drives. No boost buttons, no DRS, just concentrate and drive. And you need to, because the LaFerrari is just so damned fast.
It's approachable, too. You can hang half a turn of opposite lock at high speed, just the way you can in a 458. The sense of agility is always there, and of course the power is so overbearing you can always alter your line with a prod of your right foot. Switch off all the safety aids off and the LaFerrari will reduce its tires to blue smoke very effectively. It will also a reveal a chassis with so much balance at extreme slip angles that you wonder if the car actually does anything wrong.
I'm still pondering that now. The noise, the excitement, the sheer, blistering speed, the spread of ability in being so usable on the road and such a missile on track. The LaFerrari is a triumph. We'll tell you more in the magazine very, very soon.
Harris gets an M235i and bulk order of M Performance bits; all he's interested in is the diff
You know what this place needs? Less chat about the bloody M135i. I have no idea whoâ€™s been constantly droning on about how much fun it is, and how fast it will go and how it makes many supposed sports cars seem a bit pointless, but they need to desist immediately. Furthermore, I have the perfect antidote â€“ letâ€™s spend extended time in a completely different machine that will divert the conversation away from all this rather nauseating M135i worship.
Itâ€™s the new M235i. A machine so profoundly different to the M135i that it has one different digit and some different suspension.
As a genuine M-car snob, I find this new sub-brand from BMW most interesting. I have always winced when I saw the blue and purple dressed on anything that wasnâ€™t built in Garching, and thatâ€™s a regular occurrence in the UK because we seem unable not to buy the M Sport version of anything. But these M Performance variants are proper jobs, developed by engineers from both BMW M and the regular car teams.
Two times the fun
My interest in the M235i is twofold. First, I like the concept of a discreet little coupe with loads of performance, driven rear wheels and frankly eye-popping economy. Iâ€™ve been driving it for the past three weeks and smiling all the way. Itâ€™s a proper BMW, proudly rear driven and somehow everything it does feels engineered around the driver a little more than rival machines. Iâ€™m a devout ZF eight-speed fan, but the six-speed manual in this car is an absolute gem â€“ and it underlines how clever the engine calibration is because you can enjoy all those little jabs of throttle that make having a stick so enjoyable. Only the crazy torque at low engine speeds suggests that itâ€™s turbocharged. And the fake induction noise? I like it.
Thereâ€™s a third point of interest too: the new range of M Performance upgrades. With the gradual emasculation of modern car dealerships who can do anything more than plug in a lap top, I love the fact that BMW now wants to flog you a locking differential for one of these M Performance models, and that you will have your local dealer fit it.
So thatâ€™s the idea with this car. Weâ€™re having a bucket of options fitted from the parts list, some of them are mechanical, some cosmetic; some are subtle and cool, some are so over-the-top that youâ€™ll probably recoil in horror, but we need to show you whatâ€™s possible.
Below is full a list of what weâ€™re going to fit, and the cost for each component.
Now the eagle-eyed among you will have just calculated that weâ€™ve fitted 9,522 of extra bits to an M235i and not really improved its performance by that much. This I agree is madness, and I didnâ€™t think BMW was going to fit quite so many cosmetic parts. Theyâ€™re keen to show the full breadth of whatâ€™s available, and I personally think youâ€™d be insane to apply 93 in legal tender of side stripes to obliterate the beauty of that natty blue paintwork, but each to their own.
The most important bits for me are the sports exhaust (946 with carbon tips) and of course the limited-slip diff (2,520).
I suppose we should scribble something about each cosmetic upgrade, but they really donâ€™t interest me too much. One of the M235iâ€™s greatest strengths as standard is (was) stealthy speed. Now Iâ€™m bespoilered and in possession of the silliest set of stickers imaginable, the car announces its intentions from a great distance. Some people will enjoy this; I find it problematic.
The new rear bumper treatment around the tail-pipes is neat though, and I think the front spoiler elements work well with the black kidney grilles, which I notice are sold separately.
The interior carbon and Alcantara additions are of seriously high-quality and they do add a dash of appeal to an already attractive cabin. Again, itâ€™s all a matter of cost â€“ all of it together is ludicrously pricy, but the smaller gear lever makes the gearshift seem slightly more precise (clearly an illusion) so thatâ€™s the bit Iâ€™d pay for. Okay, the M Performance dash panel is pretty neat too.
It was very rainy the other day, and I have to admit I spent the whole time with the DSC off wondering if there was a car Iâ€™d rather be driving. In those conditions, having three pedals and 332lb ft is my idea of heaven. Before, with the open differential, the car was a little vague and you couldnâ€™t be quite sure how it would break traction. Now it does so predictably and you can enjoy the sensations of rear-wheel drive. And Iâ€™m not talking great big drifts, but building the throttle until the rear axle makes that suggestion of a movement and holding it just there. At 2,520 it ainâ€™t cheap, and in essence itâ€™s a standard differential case with a Drexler LSD slotted inside. Iâ€™m assuming this is fitted on an exchange basis for the standard unit.
The exhaust is much rowdier on start-up, and altogether louder, but it doesnâ€™t bring with it any performance gain, so I will need persuading over time of its benefit. As will the new brakes, which appear to be a tiny bit larger than before, but use the same calipers and have fake holes drilled in them. They are good, but then the standard items were already impressive.
For now, Iâ€™m going to drive it some more, continue asking myself what exactly an M4 would offer over this car for everyday UK use â€“ initial answer, quite a bit â€“ and report back next week.
Parts fitted and cost:
Red caliper and drilled brake discs - 1,725
Brake discs - 151
M Performance front attachment - 348
M Performance side sill attachment right - 90
M Performance side sill attachment left - 90
M Performance rear spoiler, carbon - 382
M Performance rear diffuser, black matt - 310
M Performance foil, side sill, left/right - 97
M Performance Side stripes black/red - 93
M Performance exterior mirror caps right - 251
M Performance exterior mirror caps left - 251
M Performance kidney grille left - 47
M Performance kidney grille right - 47
M Performance steering wheel II with sport display - 1,250
M Performance interior carbon/Alcantara - 625
M Performance gearknob carbon/Alcantara - 172
M Performance handbrake carbon/Alcantara - 127
M Performance limited-slip differential - 2,520
M Performance sports exhaust - 735
M Performance carbon tips - 211