McLaren Ultimate Series
The McLaren Ultimate Series brings us the greatest driver’s car ever engineered: the McLaren P1.
The P1 follows in the footsteps of the iconic McLaren F1, the car that pushed boundaries further than any of its rivals. Even two decades after it first appeared, the McLaren F1 still looks ahead of its time. It combined extraordinary speed with everyday usability in a way that no other contemporary supercar could. The McLaren P1™ is every inch its rightful successor. While headline writers loved the fact that the McLaren F1 was the fastest production car in the world – setting a record of 240.1mph – its greatest legacy was its technical innovation. It was the first road car to be built around a carbon fibre tub, a technology pioneered by McLaren in Formula 1, and one that lies at the heart of all of our current models.
McLaren Ultimate Series: P1
Designed, engineered and built to be the best driver’s car in the world.
Design and Innovation
The best-looking cars are the ones with real substance as well as style. The McLaren P1™ is a stunning piece of automotive design, but you won’t find any needless ornaments or frivolous styling features on it. Every surface has been designed to work, every part given the same aerodynamic consideration as if it was part of an aircraft or a Formula 1™ car.
The bodywork is ‘shrink-wrapped’ as tightly as possible over the mechanical hard points of the car and the cockpit sits right at the centre. This approach helps to reduce frontal surface area, but also makes it easier to manage airflow over the surface of the bodywork and into the engine’s roof snorkel intake and to the active aero components. It looks awesome, and it works very efficiently.
LIGHTWEIGHT SPORTS SEATS
Good wasn’t good enough for the McLaren P1™, which is why we produced special lightweight seats with ultra-thin carbon fibre shells. Despite their low-mass construction, they are supremely strong, yet comfortable for longer journeys. The seats are mounted on lightweight brackets and their backs are fixed at an optimum 28-degree angle (although 32 degrees can be specified to increase helmet space). The finished seats weigh just 10.5kg each.
Carbon fibre doesn’t just save weight, it can also be beautiful – a point proved by the immaculately trimmed interior. The carbon and Alcantara steering wheel has been ergonomically designed, with buttons for the DRS and IPAS systems positioned within easy reach. Instrumentation is displayed on three TFT screens with four switchable modes.
At the heart of the car is the carbon fibre MonoCage which serves as both the passenger compartment, the safety cell and the chassis’ major structural component. It’s a direct technology crossover from Formula 1™, made from fibres with more than five times the strength of top-grade titanium and twice the stiffness of steel. The entire MonoCage, including the roof, engine air-intake snorkel and integrated battery compartment for the IPAS system, weighs just 90kg.
The mid-mounted twin-turbo V8 engine is derived from the one fitted to the 12C, but with numerous and significant differences. A unique block casting is used to incorporate the IPAS electric motor, and the use of new larger high-pressure turbochargers. By itself, the V8 produces an already astonishing 737PS, but it has been designed to work in conjunction with the electric motor, which gives seamless performance and takes the powertrain’s combined output to a dizzying 916PS.
The Instant Power Assist System is a powerful electric motor integrated into the powertrain. The motor weighs just 26kg and produces 179PS – more than double the power of a Formula 1™ KERS unit. It boosts performance, whether deployed through the IPAS button on the steering wheel or working automatically, but it also dramatically sharpens throttle response by filling the torque gap as the V8’s twin turbochargers spool up.
RACE ACTIVE CHASSIS CONTROL
Probably the most advanced suspension system ever fitted to a road car, RCC uses independent hydro-pneumatic control of spring rate and damping at each wheel. This enables both roll and pitch to be countered and controlled, allowing the McLaren P1™ to combine outstanding body control and flat cornering. RCC also enables the car’s ride height to be altered when required, with Race mode lowering the body by 50mm and increasing spring stiffness by 300 per cent.
The importance of high-speed stability means the McLaren P1™ has been designed to produce more downforce than any other road car. Moveable front and rear wings can produce a peak of 600kg of downforce in Race mode, increasing both grip and driver confidence. The rear wing also incorporates a Formula 1™ inspired DRS (Drag Reduction System), which reduces the wing element’s angle to zero degrees when the DRS button on the steering wheel is pressed, reducing drag by 23 per cent.
CARBON CERAMIC BRAKES
The astonishing performance of the McLaren P1™ requires equally powerful brakes. The system is closer to the performance offered by a GT3 race car than any road-going rival. A new type of ceramic carbon is used in the brake discs that can absorb 50 per cent more energy than conventional ceramic rotors. The McLaren P1™ also has Brake Steer – a McLaren-designed technology that has now been banned from Formula 1™ for providing us too much of an advantage. The system applies brake force to the inner rear wheel on fast corner entry to bring the car’s nose tighter to the apex. The same wheel is trimmed again on the exit of the corner, pushing the torque to the outer wheel for increased traction during acceleration.
Despite its strictly limited production, the McLaren P1™ underwent a comprehensive test programme, designed to ensure that the car and its state-of-the-art powertrain could deliver its extraordinary breadth of capability anywhere an owner might choose to take it. Prototypes, and the engineering team, travelled the world to ensure the car could function in the hottest and coldest climates. And, of course, the toughest environment of all – Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife, and the need to meet the project target of a sub-seven-minute lap.
PERFORMANCE TESTING: NURBURGRING
There is no tougher challenge for a performance car than the Nürburgring Nordschleife. The 20.8km (12.9-mile) track in northern Germany has 150 corners and 300 metres (984 feet) of elevation changes. It’s tight and bumpy, with crests sharp enough to cause a car like the McLaren P1™ to leave the ground several times during a fast lap. Barriers sit right next to the track, few corners have any run-off, and margin for error is practically non-existent. In short, it’s about the best place in the world to test the sum total of a car’s components, and the confidence they give a skilled driver to go fast.
The McLaren P1™ was built to deliver a sub-seven-minute lap of the Nordschleife. For perspective, 7:06.5 was quick enough for James Hunt to secure pole position in his McLaren M23 at the last Formula 1™ race to be held at the track in 1976. For our engineering team, successfully meeting the challenge would mean both validation of their work, and confirmation of performance icon status for the McLaren P1™.
COLD WEATHER TESTING: ARCTIC CIRCLE
The McLaren P1™ also spent time in one of the coldest places on Earth during its development cycle. The Arctic Circle provides any array of challenges with temperatures as low as -40C. Coping with these deep-freeze conditions is even harder for the battery pack than searing heat, while the icy surface of a frozen lake proved the perfect location to put the advanced stability control systems through their paces.
HOT WEATHER TESTING: DEATH VALLEY
The clue is in the name – California’s Death Valley isn’t a place that supports life. For a car like the McLaren P1™, the combination of searing temperatures (over 50C is common) and dry, still air provide the ultimate test of engine cooling and heat management. For the powertrain of the McLaren P1™, there was an additional challenge – ensuring the battery pack could cope with such temperatures and still deliver its boost.