McLaren P13 (2015) prototype spied testing

Published: 13 December 2013

McLaren is sharpening its claws for a fight in the hotly contested £100k+ sport car market. Its entry, codenamed P13, will arrive in 2015, spoiling for a scrap with the Porsche 911 Turbo, and teeing up a grudge match with previous partners Mercedes, and its upcoming GT AMG super-coupe.

It looks just like a McLaren 12C to me…

This car, scooped testing in Spain, is indeed an almost stock 12C supercar albeit for one visible change – that curious front wheel. The curved spokes wrap around the huge front monobloc brake caliper, hinting at a narrower front tyre and track than the 12C usually runs. McLaren has confirmed to CAR this example is a test-bed for P13 technology, possibly brake cooling, and isn’t a 12C trying a new space-saver wheel option…

Factor in that grafted-on wheelarch lip and it’s likely McLaren is testing a new frontal assembly for the P13, working around a more compact front track.

What can we expect from the new McLaren P13?

It’s the entry point to McLaren’s range, sitting below the 12C and P1 in size, price, and performance. However, much componentry will be shared between the P13 and its bigger brothers. The engine is expected to be a development of the 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 mounted amidships in the 12C and P1. Whereas those cars’ V8s develop 616bhp and 725bhp respectively, the P13’s engine will be retuned for a more manageable figure. The car’s key rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo, develops 520bhp in regular guise, and 552bhp as a hotter Turbo S.

While Porsche’s 520bhp 911 Turbo is a brawny machine, its all-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering party tricks add weight – something McLaren should undercut the 1600kg Porker on. By sharing carbonfibre ‘Monocell’ tub technology with the 12C, the P13 could be the lightest McLaren yet, and still boast racecar levels of rigidity.

How many models will McLaren spin out of the P13 mould?

Like Porsche’s do-it-all 911, there’ll be a series of different P13 models to seduce everyone from the boulevard poseurs to the Nürburgring devotees. First up is the hard-top coupe, followed by a convertible losing next to no stiffness thanks to that super-strong carbonfibre cell.

McLaren is also plotting a more hardcore model, in the vein of Porsche’s GT3 and GT3 RS – think ‘McLaren P13 Speciale’ for the lighter, louder recipe. It’s possible McLaren could resurrect the GTR badge for the car: McLaren hasn’t used ‘GTR’ since 28 racing versions of the iconic F1 supercar were built from 1996 – 1997.

The other expected P13 variants could be bespoke special editions prepared by McLaren’s in-house personalisation skunkworks, McLaren Special Operations. MSO offers anything from new paint finishes for your F1, 12C or McLaren-Mercedes SLR to a complete rebody, as showcased by the X-1 one-off revealed in 2012.

McLaren follows a policy of one new model variant per year (12C in 2011, 12C Spider in 2012, P1 in 2013), so the expansion of the P13 range should continue apace from 2015. Expect prices to kick off from around £120,000 – heartland 911 Turbo territory, in other words. But with the potential for P1-inspired styling and active aero galore, McLaren hopes to out-punch Porsche in the supercar drama stakes at last.

By Ollie Kew

Former road tester and staff writer of this parish