Editor's welcome: the rise and rise of McLaren, CAR+ October 2015

Published: 16 September 2015

► October 2015 letter from the editor
► Reflecting on our rocky McLaren relationship
► The journey McLaren has been on  

CAR magazine’s relationship with McLaren Automotive has been, at times, rocky. Our scoops revealing the 12C and Spider caused shockwaves at the top of the company. And our 2011 cover line ‘McLaren’s Worst Nightmare’ after the 12C’s hydraulically interconnected dampers sprang a leak and the car flopped on track, before losing to Ferrari in our crunch giant test, landed us on one former executive’s enemies’ list. That’s the price for telling it how it is, which we pride ourselves on doing at CAR.

McLaren has come a long way since then, at a speed reflective of its supercar stable. In four years the company has re-designed the 12C to create the 650S, then changed a third of its parts to create the circuit-crushing 675 LT. That version is 100kg lighter, has a re-engineered engine that revs higher and delivers more power, and some wild aero that clamps the LT to the tarmac. Chris Chilton drives the 675 LT in this issue, while Ben Miller tests the 650S LM special edition – and himself – by choosing to spend the Le Mans 24-hour race period covering as many miles as possible in a loop away from, and back to, that famous track.

Regular readers will know that Martin Brundle experienced the P1 GTR for us last month, and was blown away by the hybrid supercar’s incredible acceleration, linear steering and brakes, and its consistency, lap after lap. The P1 can undeniably mix it with Porsche’s 918 Spyder and LaFerrari, the greatest supercars from companies with six decades of uninterrupted road car experience. That’s some achievement for a start-up.

Just 300 of McLaren Automotive’s 1000 employees are engineers, with another 400 working on the flexible production line. Early build of the third car line – the Sports Series – is underway; we’ll drive the 570S next month. With that model in production, McLaren will achieve the goal it set out in 2009: to launch a three-tier product range. Along the way the company became profitable in 2013, then banking £15m before tax on £475m turnover last year, when it delivered 1649 cars. In 2016, McLaren will invest another £120m in product development, aiming to sell 2000 cars, a figure it hopes to double in 2017. That will be Mission Accomplished.

Last week, McLaren’s progress was brought home to me during an extended drive in a 650S. We often use the language of war – explosions, violence, savagery – to describe a supercar’s performance and character. But that wouldn’t reflect the civility of the ride, the easy view out, the deftness of the steering, the delicacy of the bespoke controls. Yes, it is shocking – and exhilarating – how quickly the 650S eats up the road ahead. But there’s so much more to its abilities than mere firepower. The 650S is mind-blowing. And given our previous McLaren criticism, there’s extra meaning in those sincere words of praise.

This editorial has reflected on six years of CAR’s McLaren coverage, but we have another 47 years of pioneering writing in our archive. Starting this month, we will begin to unearth our greatest features in a special website area, called CAR+. For a small fee, not only will you be able to read some of the incredible stories that made the CAR legend, but you’ll also get access to CAR’s print content digitally whenever you’re online. To find out more, please visit carmagazine.co.uk.

This month in history: October 1997

New porsche 911

Porsche’s current plan to turbocharge the entire 911 range echoes history: in October 1997 CAR featured the 911 996, which replaced the air-cooled flat-six with an all-new water-cooled boxer. Then, as now, the aim was greater efficiency – the increased performance coming as a bonus. Yet it was the performance that ended up winning us over. History repeating? 

CAR magazine, October 1997

Also in that issue...

New Mk4 Golf GTI leaves Paul Horrell wanting more: ‘it’s no longer really a GTI’
Russell Bulgin follows MG to the Bonneville Salt Flats to see an MG-F crack 215mph
‘Fiercely fast’ Jaguar XJR giant tested against Audi S8 ‘mega-cruiser’ and ‘flamboyant but flawed’ Maserati Quattroporte – guess which wins…

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine