LaFerrari vs McLaren P1 driven: world's first twin test review

Published: 28 November 2014

Here's the full film from CAR magazine's LaFerrari vs McLaren P1 supercar twin test. Join CAR writers Ben Barry and Chris Chilton onboard the two hybrid heroes as they charge up the hillsides in north-eastern Italy for CAR magazine's cover story this month.

It's a visceral chase scene, bringing the raw flavour of these two hypercars into sharp focus. Our seasoned road testers' eyes are on stalks, as they battle to keep a combined 1853bhp of petrol-electric power on the road.

Which is your favourite car? Be sure to tell us in the comments below. And don't forget to buy the December 2014 issue of CAR magazine, on sale in newsagents now or any time via our dedicated iPad tablet edition and versions for Android, Kobo and Nook e-readers. Don't miss the twin test of the decade!

Read on for more backstage snippets, gossip and extra footage from the McLaren P1 vs LaFerrari twin test below in our behind-the-scenes blog.

Win a framed print of CAR magazine's LaFerrari vs McLaren P1 cover story 

Win an exclusive CAR magazine framed art print

Here’s your chance to win a money-can’t-buy framed print from CAR magazine’s exclusive LaFerrari vs McLaren P1 twin test. You could own this stunning image above of the two hybrid supercars being driven through Italy simply by entering our competition.

Renowned automotive photographer Greg Pajo shot the cars for our December 2014 issue cover story - and we’ve produced a unique A3-size art print, fully framed, which will look great on your wall.

Simply visit our competition page by clicking on the button below for your chance to win. Full terms and conditions and details of how to enter before the 15 December 2014 closing date are included on our sister site Win accessed by clicking the button below. Good luck!

Click here to enter our competition

Two supercar legends, one twin test

Highlights from the McLaren P1 vs LaFerrari twin test

'There's no disguising the obviously turbocharged sound and power delivery of the P1's 3.8-litre V8, but it's edgier than a Tolkien clifftop, and when you wind it right out to 8000rpm, trust me, there are no disappointments in the sound department' - Chris Chilton

'You drive about in the LaFerrari trying to acclimatise and you're thinking "Jesus, if it goes like that in fifth, how the hell is it going to pull in second?' - Ben Barry

Beautiful Italian light captures the most titanic of supercar struggles

What we felt: can you use the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 every day?

Chris Chilton drove the P1 to Maranello from the Bergamo Alps, via Milan. ‘The ride from the P1’s hydraulic suspension is eerily good, noise levels surprisingly acceptable. The self-proclaimed fastest trackday car on the planet is a half passable GT with enough luggage room in the nose for a couple of squashy bags.’
 
Ben Barry picked up LaFerrari from the factory, before heading to the hills to meet up with the P1. ‘You drive about trying to acclimatise, and you pootle down the street, almost forgetting the excellent ride quality, and then swooping into little roundabouts and getting that sense of total precision that emboldens you to grab a car by the scruff of the neck,' he recalls.

Yep, even these most savage of supercars are actually - relative - pussycats to drive, day in, day out. Who'd have thought it?

McLaren P1, after driving from Woking to Maranello

Behind the scenes: Greg Pajo, photographer (below, behind tripod!)

‘It was a shoot packed with highlights. But sitting with Ben for his first drive in LaFerrari sticks in my mind. His disbelief, then enthusiasm, as he built confidence to go faster and faster in corners was great fun to watch. Then we came upon a straight long enough to floor it, both laughing nervously before Ben unleashed hell…

‘I also really enjoyed one maximum-attack run up the hill for the video, me hanging onto my tripod and camera in LaFerrari’s passenger seat. The guys were really on it! Amazing to watch Ben B adjust his slides for a wider approach for the next corner. Both Ben and I were wide-eyed with amazement as the P1 pulled slightly away on a straight, generating its own heat haze from the exhaust: it looked something from a video game!

‘In the P1, the first time Chris and I floored it on the motorway we both leant forward in anticipation but not much happened… We were still in recharge mode and got buzzed by an Audi A1. It didn’t take long to sort out the drive modes, and steam away. It’s always a tough call to decide which car to ride shotgun in, but this was something else… My favourite shot? The cover with its beautiful light and sense of speed. We were really lucky with the conditions: any later in the year, and you just couldn’t get the shoot we bagged.’

Photographer Greg Pajo weaves his magic with the lens

Backstage at CAR's LaFerrari vs McLaren P1 twin test with Vince Knight, our videographer

‘Both the P1 and LaFerrari are absolutely ridiculous, and the road we filmed on was absolutely ridiculous too, with its beautiful views and cliff edges protected only by a thin metal barrier that wouldn’t stop anything! I’m strapped in, I’d just met these guys, and I had to trust that they were good drivers. The McLaren sounds awesome with its V8 turbo engine, more intense than the Ferrari’s V12. It’s a big plus that you can drive the McLaren in electric mode, and talk without raising your voice. Although that didn’t happen during the hill runs…

‘The Ferrari just turns in so eagerly, and there’s what feels like an endless pick up of speed, no lag, any gear, any revs you just go. And fifth gear feels like third gear! There was plenty of oversteer, but to be honest, the McLaren was just as tail-happy as the Ferrari.

‘The first run in the McLaren, I had the camera rigged up on the windshield, an inch away from my head, I had another camera for sound recording. I was desperately trying to stay out of shot, trying to monitor the audio, thinking we’ve only got one shot at this, trying to pin myself in place during some full-on driving. That’s the key memory for me from this shoot.’ See our LaFerrari vs P1 trailer video here.

What we felt: supercar stature and scares

‘When you see them side-by-side, it’s obvious how strikingly different the two cars are in design. And size,’ says Chris Chilton. The Ferrari is 4.7m long – more than 100mm longer than the P1. And both feel so wide during our maximum attack runs up the hill, especially with LaFerrari swinging into oversteer given half a chance. Chris leading in the P1 says LaFerrari’s angry face ‘absolutely monsters the P1 in the rear view mirror scare-factor. Circle round to the back end, and it’s the P1 doing the scaring,’ he recollects.

LaFerrari chases McLaren P1, CAR magazine December 2014

What we felt: the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari hybrid drivetrains

Both hybrid supercars have electric assistance to boost the petrol engine’s mighty outputs, but the P1’s twin turbo V8 doesn’t have the razor-sharp response of LaFerrari’s V12. ‘It feels initially laggy out of the slower corners, then boosts manically in a spike that spins up the rear tyres,’ says Ben.

 ‘If you flatten the Ferrari’s pedal in a higher gear and it picks up harder and faster than any caffeine hit ever could,’ responds Chris. ‘I love the savage kick of the P1 on full boost, but the Ferrari’s drivetrain is faster revving, smoother and more soulful. Either way, these cars warped my brain so much, I began to wonder how supercars ever got by with a mere 700-brake…!’

What's it like inside the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 cockpits?

‘The McLaren is harder to climb into, with the carbonfibre tub hampering your legs and the doors not taking any of the roof away,’ remembers Ben. ‘Once you’re in it makes you feel much more at ease: the feel is familiar from other McLarens, and you sit higher on seats with actual seat frames that are canted further back than the Ferrari’s.’

‘You sit more upright in the Maranello car,’ muses Chris, 'facing a more comprehensive digital display and F1-style rectangular wheel, but closer to the ground in a seat bolted rigidly to the floor.’ The Ferrari is straightforward to set-up: simply turn the manettino dial on the wheel through five different settings, to tweak engine, gearbox, ABS and stability control parameters. The McLaren is more complicated, with two buttons to adjust handling and powertrain. Like in an F1 car, you can alter the rear wing to reduce drag in a straight via a wheel-mounted button; likewise, there’s a push-to-pass, red IPAS button that provides an immense overtaking kick.

Watch our video trailer for the story here. The full film is available on our December 2014 iPad edition out now.

LaFerrari vs McLaren P1: the world’s car fans have been waiting for an on-road comparison between these pinnacles of the supercar. And between 30 October and 1 November 2014, CAR magazine was in Italy, to become the first magazine to drive these incredible cars together. The 20-page feature is out now, on iTunes and in CAR’s December 2014 print issue.
 
With the late autumn sun shining and cars supplied by Woking and Maranello, Chris Chilton and Ben Barry could drive these cars hard, freed from the trepidations of using customer cars. And drive them hard they did!
 
CAR Online is sharing their experiences: unseen images, eyewitness blogs and thrilling insights into the 903bhp McLaren and 950bhp Ferrari. These rear-drive, carbonfibre hypercars, with electric motors adding another slug of performance on top of the ballistic twin-turbo V8 and naturally aspirated V12, are hard to separate on performance alone. But they offer very different driving experiences.

Stay tuned to find out more – and, while we wait for the full video to leave the editing suite, watch our preview clip above. It's a sneak peek at what to expect in the December 2014 issue of CAR magazine, out now. Don't miss it!

Click here for the CAR Online LaFerrari review.

Click here for the CAR Online McLaren P1 review.

McLaren P1 vs LaFerrari: a CAR magazine exclusive twin test

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