The One Thing Wrong With The McLaren P1

I'm in a particularly bad mood at the moment, and that makes it a great time to discuss the one thing wrong with the McLaren P1. It has nothing to do with the batteries, or the curvy styling, or whatever else people could complain about. It's the fake side window. UPDATE: See the designer's response below.

The One Thing Wrong With The McLaren P1

Yes, this thing right here.

The One Thing Wrong With The McLaren P1

That bastard.

The One Thing Wrong With The McLaren P1

Look at that fucker.

It's a carbon fiber panel that is indented to evoke a window, but it is not a window. Why does it exist? If it is a carbon fiber panel, why does it try to look like it's a window? If it was supposed to be a window, why is there a carbon fiber panel instead?

The first question is easy to answer, and I can do it in a picture, saving myself a thousand words. Below is the McLaren P1, below that is a McLaren F1.

The One Thing Wrong With The McLaren P1

Note that the McLaren P1's fake window line perfectly echoes the old F1's window line. Oh, you think I'm crazy? Let me highlight those window lines for you.

The One Thing Wrong With The McLaren P1

It's one of those things that triggers the synapses in your brain to say 'I recognize this, I'm comfortable with this, I do not fear this change.'

I think it's wimpy.

When McLaren made the F1, they set out to make the ultimate car. The whole process was detailed in the BBC documentary How To Go Fast And Influence People: The Gordon Murray Story. You can watch the whole thing right here. I'm not a person who worships the McLaren F1, so I'll just say that the design team was told to think entirely outside the box, discarding all preconceived notions of what a car should look like, how it should perform, how it should be made. That's why the driver's seat is in the middle, and that's why the car is so special.

And the P1 is not that. Now, I don't mean to take away from the massive achievement the car is. I can't even begin to imagine the kind of complexity it would require to get an electric motor to work with a dual-clutch transmission and a twin-turbocharged engine, for instance. But the car still shares a great deal with the 12C, which has a closely related engine and carbon chassis. A huge amount of work was done to make the P1 what it is, but it didn't start as a clean sheet of paper.

And that's part of what makes the P1 not so special as it might be, if McLaren had gone all-out in its development. That's what I think of every time I see that fake side window. It isn't about the lack of over-the-shoulder visibility (not that I don't dislike that), and it isn't about the styling (which is pretty sweet). It's what it signifies about the car's design, that despite being among the fastest, quickest, most advanced cars ever made, there's still a part of it that is built to a price, built to be familiar, built to be normal. That's not the kind of car that I dream about.

UPDATE: Frank Stephenson, McLaren's head of design, responds on our Facebook page:

Here we go...it's like that for a few good reasons. 1. It's a ducting panel, not a fake window...if you look you'll see that it leads to an intake. 2. If it was clear, you'd be staring inwards at the battery pack and fuel tank. 3. It looks like a McLaren side graphic...which is because it's a McLaren in the first place. Now what do you think about the fuel cap? Hint: It doesn't have one.

Photo Credits: McLaren