Up close and personal with McLaren's incredible P1

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The P1's central exhaust is made of Inconel (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)

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McLaren's P1 needs little introduction: the hybrid-V8 powered hypercar sits in a realm where rivals are scarce, and performance figures are almost beyond comprehension – 0-100 km/h (62 mph) takes just 2.8 seconds, and the car will cover the quarter mile in 9.8 seconds from a standing start. The P1 is not just about crazy acceleration numbers though, it is a product of McLaren's impressive motorsports history, with a focus on pushing the edge of what a car can do through aerodynamics and innovative design. Gizmag took a close look at the incredible P1 at the opening of McLaren's new dealership in Melbourne, Australia.

The P1 is powered by a hybrid system, which combines a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 engine with an electric motor for combined outputs of 903 hp (673 kW) and 900 Nm of torque. Both motors can operate independently of each other – P1 drivers can cruise on pure battery power for more than 6.2 miles (10 km) before the battery is depleted and the petrol engine kicks in.

Using hybrid power isn't just about economy in the P1. When the car is making the most of both motors at once, the electric motor provides torque fill, providing instant throttle response while the petrol engine's turbos spool up. The electric motor can also provide "negative torque," which allows engine revs to drop more quickly between gears, for faster gearshifts.

According to McLaren's Head of Sales and Operations for Asia Pacific, George Biggs, the interaction between the P1's petrol and electric motors provides linear power because the electric motor is effectively filling in the torque curve.

"That's what the drivers really feel, they really feel you can just keep on accelerating."

As a brand with an illustrious racing heritage, all of McLaren's cars embody a focus on the small details that allow a car to go faster. The MP4-12C and 650S use a magnesium bulkhead and aluminum wiring because of the weight savings they provide over more conventional designs, and carbon fiber is used extensively throughout the brand's cars because it is so light and stiff.

When you look at the P1's body, the lightweight weave is everywhere. McLaren's Executive Director of Global Sales and Marketing, Jolyon Nash, says that any McLaren needs to balance beauty and functionality.

"The beauty of the P1 is that everything there is for a reason", says Nash, "it's there to maximize downforce through aerodynamics, to maximize engine cooling through aerodynamics. It's very, very functional".

Functional benefits aside, the P1's design is eye catching, and full of incredible details. The car is compact, but has serious presence thanks to its broad hips, massive wheels and hunkered-down stance. The whole car looks like it's being sucked onto the road, and it is, generating up to 600 kg of downforce, which Biggs say is "unprecedented for a road car."

Lifting the P1's (very light) door reveals an interior that draws on the MP4-12C and 650S' layout, albeit in a more stripped back form. Touch points are all trimmed in Alcantara, while carbon fiber is used for the "floating" center console, which houses a vertical screen and switches that drivers use to control the car's power delivery and suspension setup.

Put simply, the P1 is an extraordinary machine. Unfortunately, all 375 P1's are accounted for, so if you've got the urge to own one you're out of luck – after all, we don't expect McLaren owners to be offering their cars up on Craigslist when its time to move on.

Unfortunately for me, that also means my first chance to see the P1 is also likely to be my last. As the grin below should show you, it was brilliant while it lasted.

Check out more photos from our close encounter with the P1 in the gallery.

View gallery - 28 images

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