As the horsepower wars go into overtime, McLaren has thrown its sizable hat into the ring with the 650S, a world-beating super-coupe that is faster than anything made by Italy short of the LaFerrari. However, the previous generation 12C may be the best supercar value, ever.
When analyzing the pitfalls of a car, as I tend to do in this series, glaring faults are readily apparent. However, when you’re dealing with a 592 to 616 horsepower supercar that can out-maneuver, out-pace, and out-fire-from-the-tailpipe a Ferrari 458, the word “fault” isn’t really an appropriate term.
Having said that, here’s the minor discrepancy with this model of car: It’s overshadowed by its big, P1-styled brother, the 650S, in looks and performance.
The “problem” is so prevalent that you can now buy a low-miles 12C coupe for $140,000 less than a comparably optioned 650S, when the cars are very similar save for tweaks to the suspension, tub, and engine tuning. The deal gets even sweeter because as the smaller 570S is released, the price on first-gen MP4-12Cs will drop further, perhaps to the low $120k range, where they will be more than six figures cheaper than the cheapest used Ferrari 458. It’s already started, check how low prices are getting on eBay.
The remedy to this first world problem is extremely easy, and it consists of two elements: show and go. McLaren’s Super Series, consisting of the 12C, 650S, 675LT, and the Asia-only 625C is nearly identical in body, with the biggest aesthetic changes taking place between the release of the 12C and the 650S. The 650 shares the P1’s smooth flowing front end with insect-like eyelids, where the 12C’s front fascia is more wide-eyed and angular.
McLaren, however, has said that converting a 12C to look like a 650S is impossible, due to the changes in body type between models, which is complete and utter bullshit.
(Photo Credit: F1fcar, Mclarenlife.com)
Not only is the 650S a mostly bolt-on affair, but boutiques around the country have been doing the conversions for some time, a notable one being exotic and show car modification shop Lux Motorwerks in New Jersey. A conversion from a 12C to 650S doesn’t have a set price because part availability fluctuates, but expect the entire front and rear conversion to cost around $35,000-$45,000. A bit steep for a body kit, but if you’re starting with a car that cost around $120,000, getting it to the point where it looks identical to that of a $300,000 car is a pretty great deal.
The second part of the equation is to adjust the performance of the 12C to match or surpass the 650S. Done, and done. Alpha Performance makes a $4995 ECU reflash that gets the car from its miserly 616 horsepower to a more fitting 716 horsepower, which is 11 less than the million-dollar P1 makes, sans the electric motors, but that’s not the most intriguing aspect of it all.
It’s the power under the curve and how it’s delivered that’s truly mesmerizing. Here’s an Alpha tuned car, with drag radials, laying down a low 10-second quarter mile time, which is nearly half a second faster than its 650S bigger and more expensive brother, and four tenths shy of the P1’s time.
Although the differences between the cars don’t end there, those are the variables that are most easily changed, shortening the rift between the two models, making the remaining differences a matter of preference and user experience.
Let’s put it like this: If you bought a 12C right now for $150,000, gave it a $45,000 facelift with a $5,000 tune, you’d have a car that would be a bumper’s length away from a P1 in the quarter mile, and it could eat the lunch of almost any Ferrari out there. It would be six figures less than the current 650S, and with the money you’d save, you could outfit it with whatever wheels or body mods fit your fancy. If you have the money, there’s no reason not to buy one.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world’s cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he’s the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn’t feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.