OCT 09th 2014

GRR Read Test: Autocar pits P1 against 918... but couldn't pick a winner (and no, LaFerrari wasn't allowed to play)

Autocar magazine

Motor shows are made for weekly motoring magazines and Autocar’s Paris Show number out today doesn’t disappoint.

The cover and 17 pages are devoted to last week’s Mondial de l’Automobile which, thanks to a journalistically inconvenient Thursday press day (rather than the more common Tuesday), undoubtedly meant the staff were up most of the night stitching the coverage together.

Autocar magazine

It was worth the effort chaps. Here is a thorough and very well-informed enthusiast round-up from Paris. Typically for Autocar it’s not just the new cars – which in the way of things these days have mostly been written about already – that makes the coverage so interesting but the people, the plans, the hopes and the fears behind those new models. Plus of course a healthy amount of gossip and speculation.

Among the magazine’s Parisienne conclusions: Peugeot Citroën are on the up under their new boss, Carlos Tavares (who encouragingly used to race in GP2 and now punts a Porsche in historic racing – perhaps he’d like a drive at Revival next year?); Bentley are mulling over a new smaller model; Ferrari have ruled out making an SUV or four-door; and Infiniti’s top-of-the line Q80 flagship will be ’90 per cent’ like the concept.

Star of the show? The five-door Audi TT Sportback gets the splash on the cover but the Lamborghini Asterion – 0-60 in 3secs and 67mpg says the mag – gets plenty of column inches inside asa well.

For GRR people, the stars were truly aligned for this issue of Autocar, for the Paris headlines are just the hors d’euvre of a feast of enthusiast cars.

Such as? The first (very encouraging) drive in the £25k road/track day car, the Zenos E10 (and you can watch Autocar’s video of that here). A round-up of the magazine’s handling champions over the past 25 years. And the full road test works on the new Chev Corvette. Good? Looks, bang for your buck and track handling. Not so good? Cruising refinement, muddled facia and lhd only. Overall an impressive four-star rating: ‘A big, honest sports car that’s not without a sophisticated touch,’ says the magazine.

Autocar magazine

All up a very decent £3.50 worth then. But there’s more: a ‘hypercar twin test’ no less, as the McLaren P1 meets the Porsche 918 (and, yes, Ferrari were asked for a LaFerrari but, as other mags have reported, the only thing forthcoming was a promise of excommunication should Autocar even dare use a private owner’s car for such a comparison).

The first surprise of the test, at the two-mile long Bruntingthorpe runway, was how much quicker the McLaren was to 200mph (‘a shade over 20sec, where the Porsche took almost 30sec’) despite the pair being neck and neck at 150mph, according to Autocar’s man in the hot seat, Steve Sutcliffe.

What else separates the cars? Sutcliffe finds that the 918 is less uptight and more appealing to drive on the road than the McLaren. But the (much lighter) P1 stops better and has superior brake feel. In contrast the 918’s gearchange is snappier but then the P1’s steering ‘has by far the more natural feel’.

Autocar magazine

Ultimately, though, says Sutcliffe, the big difference is the way they go round corners. The Porsche is like a big Boxster, he says: a bit conventional feeling alongside the aerodynamic ‘sorcery’ of the McLaren. ‘The P1 feels natural and alive and keyed in to the road in a way that the 918 never quite replicates, even at ordinary speeds… while at high speeds it goes to a place that is well beyond anything you will experience in any other road car, including the 918.’

A win for the McLaren then. Well, not quite. Because of their differences ‘picking a winner is entirely inappropriate’.

Cop out!

GRR Read Test verdict

Autocar 8 October 2014

Top effort all round. Recommended

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