The XP-files: McLaren Automotive reveals details of its next generation of prototypes
Development of the groundbreaking McLaren MP4-12C is entering its final phase. The bespoke high-performance sports car is due to launch in 2011, and right now the latest Experimental Prototype (XP) 12Cs are undergoing intensive appraisal at a number of test locations around the world.
One such site is Spain’s Applus IDIADA facility, the most comprehensive independent proving ground in Europe. McLaren Automotive recently obtained special permission to capture on camera the XP Beta cars in action at Applus IDIADA, and on public roads in the foothills near Tarragona. The result is the second in the ‘Inside McLaren Automotive’ series of short films. This gives viewers a unique insight into a performance car testing programme from the perspective of the development team responsible for the 12C.
Featured in the short film are XP8 and XP10, two XP Beta-phase prototypes. Wrapped almost entirely in matt black vinyl, XP Beta cars are clearly discernable from 2009’s XP cars, which were seen in the ‘Inside McLaren: Developing the MP4-12C” video sporting a black and white contrasting camouflage exterior.
The XP Beta test cars feature significant technological advancements that take the 12C nearer to production. A revised iteration of the M838T twin-turbo engine, transmission featuring new gear ratios, a more efficient cooling package, new suspension geometry and upgraded electrical architecture are the headline features of current prototypes, denoting key differences between XP and XP Beta cars.
Indicative performance figures generated by the XP Beta cars are expected to be announced in March, but feedback from February’s testing suggests that McLaren Automotive’s aspirations to out-perform its competitors appear well-founded.
A core team of 20-25 Vehicle Technicians travel with the XP Beta cars and are on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support a test programme that mirrors the intensity of developing a Formula 1 car. Meanwhile, a further 12 Vehicle Development Engineers are responsible for specific technologies and systems being appraised while out on test.
Mark Vinnels, McLaren Automotive Programme Director, is leading the engineering team and said: “There is an extensive list of subjective and objective targets set for our prototype vehicles. These XP Beta cars are already achieving outstanding results in many of the subjective areas, which includes ride quality, handling and many other aspects of dynamic performance.
“The benchmark competitor vehicles we have tested become nervous and twitchy at higher speed, but the 12C feels more stable than anything I have driven. Because the bump rejection is so good, the ride is smooth and the steering is solid.”
“Between now and production the vehicles and the team are working flat out. All this is geared towards not just achieving our unprecedented levels of performance but also guaranteeing the levels of quality, reliability and durability with which we expect to delight future McLaren customers.”