“The design of the car starts with the driver,” notes Design Director Frank Stephenson. “This is the most driver-focused sports car on the market.”
INTERIOR DESIGN AND PACKAGING
Ergonomically, the 12C delivers on its aim of making the driver feel as comfortable as possible, whether driving in town or on a track. The steering column is centred on the driver, and is parallel to his or her seat and shoulders. The brake and throttle pedals are also placed directly in-line with the driver. All primary controls are within a hands-reach, yet surfaces and switches do not intrude or interfere during spirited driving.
Packaging was fundamental to support the low weight targets set for the 12C. Externally, the car had to be compact, yet internally it had to offer an unparalleled driver and passenger environment where space, comfort and driving enjoyment were not compromised.
At 4509mm long, 1895mm wide at the front axle (1908mm rear), and 1199mm high, the 12C is compact externally, smaller in all dimensions than, for example, the Ferrari 458 Italia, yet the interior is spacious, being designed to accommodate 98th percentile adults in comfort.
“With the interior, we have created a real step forward in the packaging of a sports car,” says Frank Stephenson. “The MonoCell concept allowed us the freedom to design the occupant space around the driver, just like in a Formula 1 car. And this also brings the driver closer to the centre of the car, improving control and driver enjoyment. Positioning the pedals inboard improves the problem of wheel well intrusion. We also repackaged many of the major components that normally sit under the dashboard to allow for more space and a unique form.
“Packaging in sports cars is often an after-thought – ‘now, what can we fit in and where?’ – but with the 12C it was fundamental. The occupants have to enjoy being in this car more than any other sports car they have ever owned.”
This has been partly achieved by the seven-inch touch screen IRIS telematics system oriented in ‘portrait’ mode. This is a first for the automotive industry and is more intuitive than ‘landscape’ orientation – we read down a page and our mobile telephones and other personal information devices are configured this way. It has also been designed with the minimum of command buttons in order to minimise the complexity of its operation, and can be viewed by both driver and passenger.
McLaren designers paid great attention to all-round visibility from the car for both safety and driving precision.
The low windscreen cowl gives a full six degrees downward vision from eye height and, importantly, allows the driver a clear view of the front of the car. The view of the top of the front wings, with the highest point positioned directly above the centre of the wheel, also facilitates perfect placement of the 12C in a corner. Rear vision is excellent too and an internal buttress with a rear three-quarter glass provides a clear rearward view.
The steering wheel is probably the most important sensory item for any driver. Apart from the feel and feedback from the front wheels, the actual grip and design of the wheel itself is paramount. The steering wheel is ‘clean’ – there are no buttons to distract the driver. It is also small and very tactile.
McLaren designers and engineers found the solution to the steering wheel design challenge under their own roof. Having employed an advanced and compact airbag, the steering wheel design was then inspired by McLaren’s racing expertise. The steering wheel grip of the 12C is as technically precise as a McLaren racing driver’s wheel. This is because past McLaren world champions’ grips were modelled on a CAD system and scanned to produce an exact replica on the 12C’s steering wheel.
Such attention to detail is to be found throughout the 12C’s interior and it does not suffer from an over abundance of switches, knobs and dials.
For components that customers can see and touch, it is even more important that they are ‘pure’ McLaren. None of the switches are carry-over parts from another maker: all are bespoke items designed exclusively by McLaren for the 12C.
It is not only the appearance of the switchgear that is important: the haptics and ergonomics are essential ingredients in providing a unique environment for the 12C buyer. Haptics – the ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘touch’ of a control – and ergonomics – how accessible they are and what kind of feedback they give the driver – have been the subject of considerable focus at McLaren.
The layout and ergonomics of the interior are aided by the 12C’s packaging. The driver and passenger sit closer together, giving the driver a better feeling of control for placing the car on the road accurately as well as leaving more room between the driver and the door panel. This allows not only more space for arm movements during hard driving, but also provided space for an additional ‘door console’.
The 12C cabin design offers a range of material and colour options allowing customers a great degree of freedom to personalise their car. This includes the, new for Model Year 2013, exclusive Semi-Aniline leather interior, which features a higher quality and more naturally textured leather. If selected, Semi-Aniline leather is applied to all major interior surfaces including doors, seats, dash and the centre console. The new interior option includes flat piping around the perimeter of the seat and along the edge of the door card insert. The piping finish will be in Carbon Black as standard, but can also be specified in McLaren Orange, Harissa Red or Stone Grey.
ACTIVE DYNAMICS PANELS
The Active Dynamics Panel on the middle centre console provides two rotary switches, ‘P’ and ‘H’ – ‘P’ for Powertrain and ‘H’ for Handling, each having three positions for ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Track’ modes. ‘P’ changes throttle response and acoustics, gearbox strategy, shift times and impulse (how much one can feel the gearchange). The coaxial ‘Manual’ button controls use of manual gearbox functions.
‘H’ changes stability control, adaptive damping, suspension firmness and roll stiffness. The coaxial ‘Aero’ button allows the driver to deploy the Airbrake to a 15° position for increased downforce.
In addition, there are four push buttons for: the keyless ignition, ‘Active’ which automatically engages the driver’s preferred settings, the ‘Winter’ setting and the ‘Launch’ control system for maximum standing start acceleration.
Launch control is designed to offer the maximum acceleration from a standing start.
The launch control system is initiated when the button is pressed. With the brake pedal fully depressed, the accelerator is then held down and the engine speed will increase to 3,000 rpm. When the brake pedal is released, the launch control system will perform a launch start to give maximum acceleration.
Winter mode overrides both handling and powertrain controls. In winter mode, the roll stiffness, adaptive damping and Electronic Stability Control settings are changed to give the maximum assistance to the driver in slippery conditions. The engine speed, gearshift points and shift speed are also optimised for the slippery conditions.