Is The McLaren SpeedTail A Worthy Successor To The F1?

Built as a follow up to the legendary McLaren F1, will the McLaren SpeedTail be a worthy successor?

Since it first started creating high performance road cars in 1992, McLaren has burst forth as a very viable competitor in the hypercar segment in a relatively short period of time.  The vehicle that put McLaren on the map in the road car segment was the iconic F1, a normally aspirated vehicle that is very valuable.  They routinely command over $10 million when one comes up for sale.

The Legendary McLaren F1

Built between 1993 and 1998, McLaren Cars produced only 106 copies of the F1, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car.  Conceived as a design exercise to build the ultimate road car, the F1 contained many cutting edge designs and technologies that enabled it to be relevant over 20 years after its initial release.

The design formula for the F1 was the same as it is for all high performance cars: a high power combined with low weight.   This was achieved through the use of exotic and expensive materials such as magnesium, titanium, gold, carbon fiber, and Kevlar.  In fact, the F1 was the first production vehicle to be built with a carbon fiber monocoque chassis.

One of the most unique characteristics of the F1 is a three-seat configuration.  With the driver centered between two passenger seats and slightly forward, such a configuration offers the driver much better visibility.

Cutting edge technology

The engine of the F1 was built by BMW specifically for McLaren was powerful and partially track oriented.   The engine was a normally aspirated 6.1 liter V12 engine called the S70/2.  In production form, the engine produced 618 horsepower and weighed 586 lbs.  This was 14% more powerful and 35 pounds heavier than the original design specifications.

The engine featured double-overhead cams (DOHC) with variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder and used a dry sump oil lubrication system.  Because of the tremendous heat produced, 16 grams of gold foil was used to line the engine bay protect the carbon fiber panels and monocoque chassis.

The road going version of the F1 used a compression ratio of 11.1 to produce 618 horsepower at 7,400 rpm and 479 lb-ft of torque.  Often a better indicator of performance potential, the car’s power-to-weight ratio is 550 horsepower per ton or 4.0 pounds per horsepower.

Autocar Magazine found that the F1 was able to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and from 0 to 100 miles per hour in just 6.3 seconds.  In March 1998, a prototype version of the F1, the XP5 set the Guiness World Record for the world’s fastest production car reaching 240.1 miles per hour.  A record that would stand until 2005 it was broken by a Koenigsegg CCR followed by a Bugatti Veyron shortly thereafter.

The F1 to this day remains one of the fastest production cars every produced succeeded by very few cars including the Koenigsegg Agera RS, Bugatti Chiron, Koenigsegg CCR, the SSC Ultimate Aero TT and Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

All the more impressive is that all of these top speed machines used some form of forced induction to achieve such performance.   Only the McLaren F1 uses a normally aspirated engine.

McLaren since the F1.

Since the F1, McLaren has gone on to produce several exceptional sports cars including the MP-12, 570, 650, P1, the Senna, and the 720S.  However, it is questionable if any of these cars can be considered as a worthy successor to the legendary F1, until now.

The McLaren SpeedTail

On October 26, 2018, McLaren released details of its first ‘hyper-GT’ and ultimate McLaren road car, the McLaren SpeedTail.  Like the iconic F1, production will be limited to just 106 units and will feature a central driving position slightly forward of two passenger seats , one on each side of the driver’s seat.

As with the F1, the SpeedTail will have a carbon fiber body, and be the most aero-drag efficient McLaren road produced to date.  Additionally, it will be the fastest McLaren ever built, capable of 250 miles per hour, just 10 miles per hour faster than the prototype F1, the XP5 just 20 years ago.

Unlike the F1, the SpeedTail will utilize a gasoline-hybrid powertrain delivering a combined 1,035 horsepower.  This is sufficient to propel the vehicle from 0 to 186 miles per hour is a lightning fast 12.8 seconds.  By comparison, the F1 is able to go from 0 to 190 miles per hour in a blistering 23.8 seconds.

To achieve such record-breaking top speeds, the SpeedTail utilizes a teardrop shaped cockpit and aerodynamically optimized body including patented active rear ailerons.  Instead of protruding mirrors, the SpeedTail will use retractable digital rear-facing cameras to further reduce aerodynamic  drag.

On paper, the McLaren SpeedTail sounds like an impressive engineering feat.  Looking at their record for delivering amazing vehicles, I have little doubt that the SpeedTail will live up to its expectation as a worthy successor to the McLaren F1.


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