One day; in fact, mere hours. That's all I had with one of the most exciting new cars in years. Yes, I guess that's more than most people would enjoy with the new McLaren MP4-12C, but for a full review of this new supercar, I'd prefer to have more time with it to pass along to you, dear readers.
In fact, this isn't even the car that you'd buy in the new Dubai showroom - it's a pre-production model, the only one available to the local media here. But I'm assured by the McLaren staff that the basic car is exactly what is available, save for excessive wind and hydraulic pump noise filtering into the cabin. Oh, and a limited infotainment system. But the rest is the same, so I'm told - the chassis, the handling, the engine, all the stuff that matters.
So, what do I do? Drive. Drive hard, fast and all day long. Drive towards Hatta, drive towards the twisting, open roads that this car was made for. It's exhausting work, but it's all for you.
My initial disappointment at the time allotted is dulled somewhat when I first set eyes on the car, though. It's low, sleek and that bright orange really lets its curves shine in the sun. The front headlights have a neon-look LED surround reminiscent of the car's logo, while the tail lights are cleverly hidden in black accents at the rear; the mid-mounted, twin-turbo V8 is on show under a glass bonnet behind the passenger compartment. Its optional black wheels look good with the orange body and are 10kg lighter than stock, and this one has optional carbon ceramic brakes. The scissor doors open with a swipe of your hand under a body crease - get it wrong and you won't be able to get inside.
Inside, the seats are sparse and a little short under the legs, but supportive and relatively comfortable. The 12C was designed to be a real sports car that can be used every day, but the carbon fibre tub that forms the chassis has wide sills that make ingress and egress a bit of a chore, and it also takes up a lot of space in the cramped footwell.
That infotainment system on the vertical-layout screen in this pre-production model is the same as the showroom cars save for a lack of a sat/nav system, but the way it works impresses me. Its layout and operation is minimalistic yet futuristic, like something you'd see in a sci-fi film.
Yeah, but does that matter when you're driving? Trundling out of the showroom and onto the open road, I'm keeping it in the normal suspension and drivetrain modes for a while - the ride is firm but not jarring, while the engine is kept to a drone that permeates into the cockpit. The gearbox is on automatic and the shifts from the double clutches are smooth; for a supercar, the 12C can be a tame puppy if driven as such.
But all it takes is a stab at the throttle to know it's more than that. The high torque and horsepower send the car shooting forward at an alarming rate. McLaren says 100kph comes in just 3.3 seconds and from regular motorway speeds to a lose-your-licence rate is just all too quick and easy. The fence posts on the straight roads heading south-east of Dubai turn into a blurred, solid wall in between the radar cameras, and back to fence posts just as quickly as I hit the brakes hard. In the mirror I see the rear wing shoot up as an air brake, putting more weight on the rear wheels. It helps to make the 12C just as startlingly good at braking as it is in acceleration - no squirming