I have been waiting to write this review for some time now. I finally had the chance to drive a Mclaren MP4-12C and after driving several Ferrari 458s over the last couple years can finally compare the two. In my opinion the 458 and 12C are the biggest rivals in their price range (I am biased towards Lamborghini so I will not compare them to the LP560). I have had several of my clients ask for my opinion between the two when looking for their next exotic but until now I could only give a one sided answer, telling people my experiences with the 458.
I will start my comparison with the two by saying they are incredibly different! The Ferrari 458 is driven by a 4.5 liter V8 motor producing 562 HP and a 9,000 RPM redline. The Mclaren MP4-12C has a 3.8 liter V8 with a twin turbo setup that produces 592 HP and a 8,500 RPM redline.
The Mclaren is obviously faster and you can definitely feel it when getting into the higher RPM range. The sound is very unique, not very loud but when the turbos spool it brings out nothing but a huge smile. This burst of power is very easy to control and shifts (even in race/track mode) are smooth, propelling the car from 40MPH to triple digits before you know it. Out of all the exotics I have driven the ride quality in this car is second to none. In comfort mode it is comparable to Bentleys and Rolls Royces. One of the first things I noticed when driving the car was how large the windshield was! The front of the car is visible, making it easy to maneuver in tight spaces. When getting in and out of the car, the vertical doors allow for easy access to the driver’s seat but when parked too close to another car can not be opened. As far as looks, the front of the car is a bit plain while the rear is unlike anything else on the road! The rear looks like something from a concept car but yet it has kept its original form through testing and into production. The paint quality is on another level with Volcano Red being one of my favorite colors ever produced. The car I drove was painted Fire Black which was equally impressive with the ridiculous amount of flake changing the color in different forms of light. Overall the Mclaren MP4-12C met all my expectations. The power output is mind-blowing while the ride comfort and transmission allow it to be a daily driver any day of the week.
Now on to the Ferrari 458 Italia! I will never forget the first time I saw a 458 in person. It has to be one of the best looking cars on the market that doesn’t have a bull on the front badge. Everything about this car is more aggressive looking in my opinion than previous cars from the prancing horse factory. Although the Mclaren’s exhaust note is great, the Ferrari’s triple pipe exhaust puts a professional orchestra to shame! Race Mode allows for a louder noise at much lower RPMs, less computer driving assistance and quicker shifting. Similar to the 12C, the 458 delivers power that is easy to control and is never too overwhelming. The first time I drove a 458 the owner had never driven in Race Mode before and when I brought the car to its full 9,000 RPM redline he could not believe how different the car performed. The suspension is pretty stiff but can be loosened up a bit allowing for longer commutes to be more enjoyable. The lights on the steering wheels take a little time to get used to but once mastered can provide for perfect manual shifts every time. Although it has a duel clutch that is much smoother than the single clutch in previous generations, the 458 still gives a very aggressive reaction when shifting at peak RPMs. The seat options in the 458 vary significantly. The race seats hold you in more when cornering hard and provide a more track oriented feel but became uncomfortable to me after about an hour of driving. The daytona seats are much more comfortable but lack the racing design. Although I believe the Mclaren would be a better daily driver, the 458 could very well be used as a daily commuter as well.
In conclusion, both cars deliver in a way that few can replicate. When choosing which one to purchase you have to realize what you want more. The Mclaren is very two faced, being a smooth driving, lazy commuter one moment to one of the fastest moving objects on the planet at any given time all within about 10 seconds. It’s looks are also not in your face so those who do not like to be annoyed by the general questions of curious motorists will not be bothered as much. The Ferrari is a loud, flashy and race oriented machine that will be noticed by those miles away when they get a glance of the car’s LED headlights. It may get beat by its competition on the track but the “fun” factor makes up for it to those that don’t care about a couple hundredths of a second performance difference to the competition. If I had my choice I would pick the Ferrari 458 but that doesn’t mean the Mclaren wasn’t one of my favorite cars I have driven! I look forward to the possibility of more seat time with both cars in the future!