How the McLaren MP4-12C Got Its Weird and Complicated Name

McLaren has released several supercars since their first official production model designed solely by McLaren, the McLaren MP4-12C, but the McLaren naming scheme is a bit more than confusing to some fans. Unlike supercar and hypercar companies that name their vehicles after animals that inspire them, Latin words, or dearest family members, like the Koenigsegg Jesko (which was named after the company’s founder, Christian Von Koenigsegg’s father), the British supercar manufacturer uses a pairing of numbers and letters to give the different models their names, but it isn’t as randomized as it may seem.

How the McLaren MP4-12C name came to be

McLaren MP4-12C Spider
McLaren MP4-12C Spider Raymond Boyd, Getty Images

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The McLaren MP4-12C name, when broken down, stands for what the production project itself represented to the company. It isn’t meant to be any type of secret, either, as you can easily find an answer to the question: what does MP4-12C actually mean? It’s not very exciting, but MP4 stands for McLaren Project 4 — fair enough — the 12 comes from the brand’s internal rating index that compares its vehicles to competitors over several critical aspects such as weight, power, and aerodynamics. The ‘C’ simply stands for carbon, as the lightweight structure of the car is what allows it to have such a nimble handling experience and insane power to weight ratio. As owners, we just refer to the car as the 12C for short.

“The 12C is the first McLaren designed and built production car since the legendary F1. A pure McLaren, its innovative design and Formula 1™ inspired technologies make it one of the most versatile and potent supercars on the road.”

McLaren

Don’t understand the McLaren MP4-12C

Although it is the older, seemingly lesser of the McLaren performance crowd, you shouldn’t underestimate the McLaren MP4-12C. The 12C holds its own not only amongst the competition, but it also does well to stand up to the standards and performance of the newer McLarens, like the 2021 GT. It may have been the first of the official McLaren built production vehicles that were exclusively designed by the brand, but it was far from being a trial and error — with the MP4-12C, the brand was able to dial in a perfect tune of performance, handling, and luxury, and even though it isn’t brand new, it shouldn’t be underestimated.

What is it like to drive this McLaren supercar?

Supercar fans and drivers might be surprised by their experience behind with wheel of the McLaren MP4-12C. Its stiff handling and steering feel incredibly in tune with the drive, allowing the car to operate as an extension of your arms and legs rather than making you feel like you’re operating a piece of machinery as the enclosed Aston Martin Vantage had for me. The power is just one aspect of this car that makes it surprising to drive, but its agility is another. In a way, the McLaren MP4-12C has the lightweight, nimble behavior of a Lotus on steroids, and it combines all of this with a smooth, comfortable driving experience that makes it pretty difficult to compare to other supercars. While it may have been McLaren Project 4, it is clear that the first 3 projects that we can assume predeceased this roadster were finely tuned to create a surprisingly raw yet comfortable supercar.

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