McLaren has previewed the styling of its three-seat homage to the F1 road car for the first time. The new model will eclipse the PI as the most powerful road-legal McLaren yet when it arrives in 2019. The new model, codenamed BP23, will slot into McLaren’s Ultimate Series – the range-topping tier for its most exclusive models – and is billed as a ‘hyper-GT’. It will bring hybrid technology back to a McLaren for the first time since the P1, ahead of a roll-out of similar technology across its mainstream models in 2020.
The BP23 will also introduce elements of McLaren’s next-generation carbonfibre structure, which will be built in Sheffield from 2020 and is expected to enable McLaren to build more diverse and distinctive models. McLaren has written to the 106 customers whose applications to buy a BP23 were successful. The car will cost an estimated £2 million. The company has also shown them the first image of the car, a view of the rear that shows off the coupe-only BP23’s super-slippery shape. A coupe is considered by McLaren to be the only body style that suits its Ultimate Series GT car.
HYBRID TECHNOLOGY – McLaren has said it expects half of the models it builds to incorporate some kind of hybrid power system by 2022. The first of these new-generation hybrids will be the BP23, a model that will have more than the 903bhp of the P1 thanks to the combination of McLaren’s new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 and electric propulsion. McLaren boss Mike Flewitt said: “If you think that the base engine that went into the P1 has now developed into the 4.0-litre in the 720S, then that side [of the powertrain] will clearly evolve.” Flewitt also confirmed the BP23 will use a higher-performing battery pack than the P1.
But the company’s other hybrid system will have a bigger impact. Flewitt confirmed it will be launched across an entire model range. Autocar understands this will be the next Sports Series model, which, based on McLaren’s disclosure of when its new carbonfibre facility in Sheffield will go on stream, is expected in either late 2020 or early 2021. Autocar understands this car will switch to a downsized turbocharged V6 that will work in conjunction with the electric aspect of the powertrain. Although Flewitt refused to be drawn on cylinder count, he said there is no ideological barrier to smaller engines at McLaren.
“For us, it’s all about attributes.” he said. “If we can get the performance, it doesn’t matter if it’s 12 or 10 or eight or six. We’re not wedded to cylinder count, but we are wedded very much to performance and excitement.” Flewitt is determined to claw back as much of the hybrid system’s extra weight as possible. A smaller engine is an obvious way of doing that. “With the P1, hybridisation added about 140kg,” he said. “To be weight neutral, we’ve got to take out about 140kg. That’s pretty hard, but if we can get close, we can have both the weight benefit and the performance benefit.”
UNIQUE POSITIONING – Flewitt said the BP23 will be a totally different proposition from the P1, its immediate predecessor in McLaren’s Ultimate Series. Whereas the P1 was pitched as the ultimate sports car, the BP23 will be all about supreme levels of on-road performance and usability. It will be an “incredible road car”, according to Flewitt, rather than being designed to lap a circuit quickly. This means the suspension and aerodynamics will be optimised for covering long distances quickly and in comfort, and not compromised by a need to perform on a track. Flewitt said only Bugatti had made cars to a similar brief in recent times.
“With the exception of Bugatti, people who create high-performance cars make them for track,” he told Autocar at the recent Geneva motor show. Talking about the differences between the P1 and the BP23, Flewitt said each Ultimate Series model will have its own unique positioning and purpose and the BP23 will have “a different impact” from the P1. There will not necessarily always be an Ultimate Series model in production, either, hence the interval between the end of P1 production in 2016 and the arrival of the BP23.
Despite being a three-seater, the carbonfibre-bodied BP23 is not being pitched as a replacement for the three-seat F1, but more an homage to it. On its three-seat layout. Flewitt said a lot of work had been done to make access for the driver as easy as possible and it was “very different technically” from the F1. The driver’s seat will be full-sized and the two passenger seats either side of it will be slightly smaller, but still capable of accommodating adults. Flewitt said: “It can be difficult to get into the central seat in a three-seater, but this is more accessible than the F1.”