Posted Jul 5th 2012 9:00AM
DAY TWO - THE FASTER CURVES OVER HILL AND VALLEY
If the first day was a warm-up just to get us to the good stuff in central France, Day Two of my McLaren MP4-12C odyssey was one type of pure sports car touring pleasure. The sun was everywhere, the roads were pure entertainment, and the five test cars glowed through the daylight hours.
I'm not talking about encountering a wild series of hairpins, mind you, but rather higher speed roads nonetheless filled with satisfying curves and stunning countryside. First, however, right at the start of the day's driving leg, I had a stop at the former grand prix circuit Reims-Gueux.
This more or less 7.8-km long (4.8-mile) circuit was extremely fast and therefore dangerous, given that in its earlier layout before 1951 it was essentially a triangle with three sharp right-handers and three very long straights to get you into trouble quickly should something go wrong. From 1954 through its closure in 1972, the circuit was reconfigured to an even faster 8.3 kms (5.2 mi). The main straight is nowadays actually the busy two-lane highway RN31 and the entire grandstand is still there on one side, the well-kept pit area on the other. Here and there around the pit structure is stenciled a beautiful sentiment: "Memoire des pilotes, respect du site." France is a nation not unknown for its abundant graffiti, but there is none of it to be seen here.
If you liked this, check out:
McLaren MP4-12C: Day One
McLaren MP4-12C: Day Three
Related Gallery1,000 miles in the McLaren MP4-12C: Day Two
After skirting the northern edge of the big hills and small mountains in France's Massif Central, we traveled into the gorgeous region of the Jura Mountains, passing to the west of Geneva, then south to Annecy and its stunning lake.
All of these geographical beauty marks had roads going around them and/or over them and the 12C seriously enjoyed itself over the 430 miles.
Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa
As might be imagined, the technology on the 3,161-pound (1,433 kg) MP4-12C and feel through its 19-inch Pirelli P Zero tires have both been engineered to face just these sorts of routes every day should an owner wish to do that. These circumstances will use about 80 percent of what this car is truly capable of showing a driver, so just about perfect really.
The abundant torque band of 443 pound-feet between 3,000 and 7,000 rpm makes holding onto third gear even in pretty tight turns an easy choice. The two turbos make the efficiently packaged 3.8-litre V8 feel more like a Mercedes-AMG 5.5-litre bi-turbo – but an AMG with insane handling skills to boot.
There emerged a few little items that started to make me question McLaren's execution of the 12C package. First, I have never been a big fan of the widely used and cumbersome Graziano automated manual transmission interface. The gearbox is light and lovely at higher revs, but the multi-button interface is forever plodding and clunky for a road car.
I had just about had it with the winged doors' "caress" opening ritual after about a day. The system doesn't work as "easily" as advertised and McLaren is actually in the process of finding other solutions.
A third item is the ease with which the front chin spoiler scrapes the asphalt when in the most technical sections of road. I played with all handling and powertrain settings to try and stop this grating cacophony during really amazing curve sequences, but it remained. My upwards-of-$270,000 car had better come off more sophisticated than that – all I know is that neither the Ferrari 458 Italia nor Porsche GT3 RS does this anywhere near as much.
And we ended up by staring south at the French Alps awaiting us before hitting the Mediterranean.