The McLaren F1, released back in the nineties, was designed to be the most technically capable sports car of its era. It surpassed expectations, becoming the world’s fastest production car – a record it held for seven years until the Koenigsegg CCR and Bugatti Veyron overtook it.

By that yardstick, the McLaren P1 had a lot to live up to as the F1’s spiritual predecessor at the top of the McLaren range. But McLaren, as a company, had changed a lot since the creation of the P1.

Now focusing on producing sports cars developed for driver satisfaction and capability rather than all-out speed, and having ramped up production to produce its own engines rather than borrowing from the likes of BMW in the case of the F1, or joint projects like the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren created in intervening years.

Unburdened by the need to please other parties or incorporate other components, this gave McLaren’s engineers complete freedom from the get-go with the P1, with the sole aim of creating the best driver’s car on both road and track.

Compared to the controllable yet vivacious characters of the cars it met when it emerged in production in 2013 – the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder – the P1 delivered an altogether more sinister side, gaining it a reputation for having more of a bite.

As much as it’s a driver’s car, this is a car that demand the respect of the person behind the wheel.

Design, Styling & Interior

Given the focus on performance, it’s no surprise that McLaren allowed aerodynamics to define the overall design of the P1.

The carbon fibre bodywork is draped over a monocoque chassis, with a fighter-jet inspired teardrop cockpit sloping up out of the bonnet to funnel air across the rear wing, helping create a distinctly mid-engined silhouette that reveals how tightly-packaged and honed the car is.

Twin air vents up front hint at a venomous undertone to the P1, while an active rear spoiler provides F1 DRS-style aero advantages on the straights as well as acting as an air-brake.

This rises in “Race Mode”, as the rest of the car hunkers down – creating an athletic stance and oozing menace.


In a word? Outrageous. What else could you expect from the car that launched McLaren’s Ultimate Series?

The top speed may be below the F1 – an electronically limited 217mph to the F1’s 240+mph VMax – but absolute maximum speed is not what P1 is about.

A 1547kg car with 903hp is not going to hang about off the line, and the P1 makes the dash from 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds. 186mph comes up in just 16.5 seconds from standstill.

That power comes mostly from a twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 – the same as used across the McLaren range, but tweaked to output 727hp and 531lb ft of torque – combined with a lightweight and KERS-fed electric motor, that puts a further 176hp and 192lb ft at the driver’s disposal. That power reaches the rear wheels via seven-speed twin clutch gearbox.

As we learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility; the McLaren P1 has both, as its plug-in hybrid “twin powerplant” powertrain allows it to run in zero-emissions mode for up to 6.8 miles – in total silence, adding further to the sinister aura.

This set up also bestows the P1 with economy figures of 34mpg on the EU combined cycle – impressive for any performance car, but even more so when you consider that the P1 is a showcase of the peak of road car capability.

Ride & Handling

A combination of suspension wizardry, aerodynamics and downforce help keep the P1 composed at speed. While the set up is firmer than the company’s sport series cars, this is in keeping with the higher capability that the P1 offers. Comfort is not compromised by any means, with the P1’s hydro pneumatic setup offering more ride comfort than you might expect.

An active suspension system increases the stiffness of the P1 more than threefold when in race mode compared to road mode, as well as dropping the ride height by 50mm – giving the P1 the profile of some sort of fluid land missile when engaged.

McLaren cites that the P1 generates 600kg of downforce “from well below top speed”, with this aiding the car’s grip levels through corners. This can make it unintuitive initially for drivers, with commitment and attack to corners required to activate the downforce by keeping air moving over the car. This makes the car seem more stable the faster it goes, and can leave unsuspecting drivers who dip below the downforce threshold backwards and off the track before they realise anything has gone wrong – and with a staggeringly expensive repair bill to boot.

Prices & Specs

At launch, the McLaren P1 had an astronomical price tag that suited its astronomical capabilities. In the US, a 2013 P1 Coupe would set you back $1,350,000 for an example out of the showroom.

That sum would net you the one and only trim level, which itself includes some niche styling details that only grace a car of this caliber. Gold heat shields adorn the engine bay – a nod back to the car’s spiritual predecessor, the McLaren F1, as well as providing the P1 with excellent heat dissipation capabilities.

Buyers seeking a factory-fresh example had to act fast however – the P1’s run was limited to just 375 units to preserve exclusivity, and all of those were accounted for by November 2013 after order books opened that October.

Buyers at this level can spec all the exclusivity they want, and through McLaren’s MSO division around 75% of new P1’s featured some form of exclusive customisation – pushing the average order price to closer to $1.6 million.

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for examples to surpass $2 million at auction – so better get saving as values have been on the up since the car’s unveiling in 2013.

McLaren P1 Performance & Specs >
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