► We test first convertible McLaren P1
► Brand-new, all-electric powertrain
► 2309 of these, or a real P1?
Here’s one of 2017’s most eagerly awaited supercar launches: the new Ride On McLaren P1 - and we’ve given it the full CAR magazine review treatment.
It establishes a number of firsts: this is the only convertible P1 in existence and the smallest car Woking’s ever made for tarmac use; it’s the brand’s first with a zeitgeisty electric-only powertrain and it’s the only McLaren we’re aware of with remote control letting you drive the car from the comfort of your sofa. Autonomous supercars? We’ve already driven ’em…
Yes, McLaren Automotive has branched out into toy cars. Here we test the 1:3.5 scale P1. At £375, it could worm its way onto the Christmas present list of well-heeled petrolheads and their offspring.
£375? Is it made from carbonfibre and McUnobtainium?
Not quite. This is an approved licensed model, so it doesn’t roll off the production line in Surrey. The mind boggles to think what an actual McLaren-built scale model would cost…
Lightweight thermoplastics are used throughout the chassis and Volcano Yellow body, while the front axle is supported by a metal sub-frame for greater steering precision. Even the beautifully detailed wheels with inboard disc motifs are fashioned from sturdy moulded plastic (above).
This commitment to composite keeps weight admirably low. It tipped our (bathroom) scales at 18.2kg unladen. That’s a dry weight; this McLaren doesn’t require any oils or coolants whatsoever, cutting service and maintenance costs to zero. Your accountant will love it.
Packaging, design of the Ride On McLaren P1
This is a fun-sized replica of the full-fat P1 hypercar, the most extreme road car to emerge from Woking since the legendary F1 of 1994. At 1.3m long, it’s remarkably faithful to the design blueprint, although the ride height is lifted somewhat to better handle the bumps, lumps and tiny feet typically found in playgrounds.
Note the operational lights front and rear; those back lamps (below) are a work of illuminatory delight, tiny LEDs wrapped around the rear clamshell just like on the real thing. It’s got a seriously cool, ethereal presence at night.
Cabin, interior space
Reprising the F1’s famous central seating position, the Ride On P1 plonks the driver slap bang in the middle of the action. The view out is commendably widescreen, especially as your head will be towering above the excuse of a windscreen.
This is a very selfish kind of supercar, with no passenger seats whatsoever - and a luggage compartment is worryingly absent, limiting the possibility of overnight trips for sleepovers with school chums.
You perch on a firm, fixed and functional driver’s seat clasped by a two-part harness (no inertia-reels here) and all major controls are clustered around the familiar three-spoke McLaren wheel, complete with horn, DRS and IPAS buttons just like big brother:
- Stubby gearlever (P, R, D1, D2 and D3 ratios)
- Start/stop button
- Switch selecting remote control or onboard operation
- HVAC one-speed fan
- Front and rear light switches (perfect for flashing slow-coaches in the middle lane)
Instruments, sound system
The attention to detail on this P1 is incredible: an illuminated three-panel digital read-out features the proper McLaren typeface and replicates the information hierarchy on the P1 road car, although the display is static and doesn’t show live data. Handy for preventing parents tracking your whereabouts in the holidays.
Two air vents are fed by a one-speed fan - a great way to cool over-excited toddlers.
Finally, an MP3 player is pre-loaded with nursery rhymes triggered by those steering wheel buttons (embarrassing for anyone over the age of five) but there is a USB port for importing your own tunes and the volume control lets you choose how loud you roll.
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How does the electric P1 drive?
Open the dihedral doors and marvel at the engineering on display. The doors soar skywards smoothly on a gas strut, guaranteed to impress your mates. We love these doors - perhaps the car’s stand-out feature.
Thumb the starter button and the synthesised engine sound is a reminder of the roadgoing P1’s hybrid status; the thrills here are all electric, however.
What this does mean is that torque is instant, a quiet electrical whirr from the twin motors on the back axle. The driver’s bum is inches above the rear wheels, so traction is exceptional, all power propelling this flyweight sports car forwards. And the EV range is exceptional: we charged it once and it lasted all week with no degradation in performance whatsoever. We hope any future McLaren EVs boast this kind of Tesla-rivalling range.
Flaws? We missed the clever damping of the actual P1 (there is no suspension to talk of here, sadly) and you feel every bump and lump in the Ride On - but, hey, it’s all part of the go-kart handling experience.
After a quick (cramped) adult blast on board, I can attest the steering is very direct and you can throw the Ride On around while daydreaming of nabbing Jenson’s day job. Truth is, older users will be more comfortable driving the P1 on the remote control supplied.
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You gotta love the Ride On McLaren P1. This is the most fun we’ve had at 3mph all year - and here’s a McLaren that won’t break the piggy bank. Patient saving could liberate one of these sooner than you think, kids!
Click here to read Gavin Green’s grown-up McLaren P1 review