A.I. Commentary: McLaren MP4-12C And Ferrari 458 – Rivals..? Really..?

From the motoring folks who recently launched the Drive channel on YouTube, here we have an interesting (and beautifully shot) video from a certain Mr. Chris Harris that raises some questions about the aim of this car when considering the cozy, discreet, Grand Touring-like capabilities and real-world, daily-driven useability of the MP4-12C…

On paper, one would be immediately excused for comparing the mid-engined 3.8L V8 twin-turbo, 592 bhp McLaren with the 4.5L 562 bhp Ferrari 458 – Somewhat similar power outputs, comparable price point, mid-engined V8, well-established racing pedigree on both sides, really really fast, etc… Yet although one could argue that both cars represent each company’s bespoke (and exotic) interpretation of the formula and layout, one could also argue that these two cars aren’t exactly the heated rivals that the motoring press, a certain British motoring TV show and many supercar enthusiasts have made them out to be.

Understated yet conventionally attractive looks have most people 'ho-hum'-ing with regards to its looks...

For starters, one is a raucous, loud, impractical and highly visceral (and visual) experience adorned with beautifully stunning lines riding on conventional (albeit, high-tech) dampers and springs while the other is an extremely relaxing, everyday-useable, long-distance tourer imbued with all of the latest-tech wizardy (hello space-age suspension) that’s been rather discreetly (some would say, boringly) styled with a matching set of (mostly) muted lungs… Their power, price and basic shape/layout is similar, but aside from those traits, I’m beginning to see just how different these two supposed rivals really are…

The stunning Ferrari 458

After reading publications and watching a deluge of head-to-head video tests over the past 6 months involving various rivals  - most notably, the Ferrari 458 – one question seems to jump out moreso than any other: Should the Ferrari and McLaren even be considered rivals…? The McLaren doesn’t exactly shock and fascinate ‘in-the-metal’ despite its eye-candy doors and plethora of exotic materials used in its construction, but it does impress with its to-the-millimetre build quality, road-litheness and general air of keen robustness.

At a recent Concours Show in our fair city, the McLaren didn't exactly 'wow' the crowds moreso than it gained people's respect as an incredible 'all-rounder'

The more I look at it (and I looked at it for a long time back in September, as the photos show), the more I’m inclined to view this new McLaren as a Premium high-end spiritual successor to the tech-fest Honda NSX from the early ’90s - a phenomenally-engineered, precision-built, fast-yet-comfortable, mid-engined ‘everyday’ GT sportscar with Jekyll & Hyde-like attributes - one who’s modern-day main rival really is the Porsche 911 Turbo… not the look-at-me-dance Ferrari 458…

The 458 doing what it loves to do best...

With its understated outer-shell design (minus the fancy doors) and plush interior complete with classy nods to exotic materials and bespoke functionality - not to mention its luxuriously appointed ride quality – the MP4-12C, at least to these eyes, really seems to be aimed more towards the discerning driver that isn’t at all interested in flash attributes, going sideways, making noise and standing out… A driver that would just rather enjoy pootling along with Rolls-Royce levels of ride quality alongside bang-up-to-date tech with the promise of truly eye-watering speed and handling capabilities… if called upon.

Looks like a Supercar (albeit, a slightly dated one) from the back... doesn't sound like one though.

After soaking-in all of these high-profile, head-to-head tests (and mostly losing them) the McLaren has taken more than its unfair share of flack for its apparent inability to excite and entertain in the ways that the Ferrari so readily does… Yet I ask this: Taking price, power and basic layout out of the equation, how close, actually, are these two cars in terms of being labelled as direct rivals…?

Your thoughts and opinions, as always, are welcomed…!

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com

-McLaren Photos by: Blake J./AutoInjected.com

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