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Photo: Basem Wasef/Wired

Supercars should look like sex. This is what the voice inside my head has been insisting since I was 14 years old, when the very same (if slightly less mature) spirit guide led me to hang a Lamborghini Countach poster above my bed and doodle Ferrari Testarossas all over my Pee Chee folders.

But somehow, to my eye, the McLaren MP4-12C doesn’t quite strike a nerve the way old school ├╝berexotics once did. Eye-popping curves and salacious silhouettes are time-honored ingredients of the exotic car formula. Like Vegas strip clubs or the pool bar at the Delano in South Beach, the meek need not apply — and if they do, they better damn well have a good reason for loitering in that rarified company.

And so the McLaren MP4-12C, while comely and sleek, isn’t the most visually charismatic player in this pumped up, pornographically endowed slice of the automotive stratosphere. Waist-high and swoopy, the McLaren may not be a shrinking violet in the topiary of supercars, but neither is it as sensuously enticing as the Monica Belucci-in-a-negligee Ferrari 458 Italia, or as intimidating as the oh-shit-the-mothership-has-landed Lamborghini Aventador. Even its alphanumeric moniker has more in common with C-3PO than any vehicle ought to. Car geeks unite: Your steed is here, and only you will get the four-wheeled joke.

But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or the dihedral doors, which open up and out to allow easier entry into the cabin, one of countless McLaren details engineered with an uncanny instinct for design purity. Bisected by a narrow center partition, this cockpit exemplifies levels of functionality typically associated with military aircraft. The windshield is taller than it is wide, and the proportion is designed to help you spot apexes and place the front wheels — visually identifiable by the slight humps on the front end — exactly where they need to be. The multimedia screen is oriented vertically in order to help achieve the vehicle’s target dimensions, and the massive tachometer is the instrument equivalent of a Jumbotron. The center console dials, cryptically distinguished with single letter labels, click into place like the switchgear of an F22 Raptor — all the better to enhance your jet pilot fantasies while loping down your favorite boulevard.

Photo: Basem Wasef/Wired

And then there’s the techy viscera: the carbon fiber chassis, the extruded aluminum subframes, the hydraulic roll control that’s so effective at minimizing body movement, it does away with traditional stabilizer bars altogether. Despite its ground-up newness and its of-the-moment technological artistry, analysis of the 12C would be incomplete without a brief look back at history.

Take the legendary F1 for instance, the most recent road car since the 12C that’s a pure McLaren (and no, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren doesn’t count.) With a screaming 6.1-liter V12 and a centrally positioned driver’s seat flanked by two co-thrones for your favorite grunties, the F1′s production run of roughly 100 cars made it one of the most deeply loved exotics of all time, reinforced by the fact that if and when they hit the market these days, they run well into the seven figures.

Can you feel us getting our geek on?

And I haven’t even touched on the fact that McLaren won one of every four Formula 1 races it’s entered since 1966; in contrast, during Toyota’s eight-season, multibillion-dollar F1 effort, the Japanese manufacturer couldn’t muster a single win. There’s verisimilitude in victory, friends.

But enough armchair quarterbacking. Let’s climb into the cockpit, flog this thing, and pass judgment based on seat-of-the-pants driving impressions, not theoretical musings.

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