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Staying the course
CARMAKERS these days are so enamoured of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) that they can't seem to churn them out fast enough. But not McLaren. This is one segment the British sports carmaker is not eyeing.
Frank Stephenson, design director of McLaren Automotive, explains: "Our mission is to design mid-engine high-performance vehicles and we are committed to maintain a clear and unwavering focus on this target."
McLaren is famed for its stunning shrink-wrapped styling, where the amount of outer surface skin of its sports cars is reduced to an absolute minimum - "similar to the concept of vacuum-packing food products or to the way that you can see the muscles and tendons pushing against the outer skin of a race horse or a cheetah".
This is not only visually exciting but also functional as weight and aerodynamic drag are lowered. But it has also led to comments that the models in the current McLaren range look too similar.
Mr Stephenson disagrees.
"The brand is currently still young and evolving. There are some commonalities in the design features that are meant to establish a unique and distinctive McLaren look while still maintaining individualism in each segment."
One signature feature is the show-stopping dihedral doors. The geometry of the upward-opening doors was improved for the Super Series to allow easier ingress and egress but some users say an adjacent vehicle or wall in a car park can sometimes hinder occupants.
But Mr Stephenson says it is a "misconception that the dihedral doors are not as practical".
"The dihedral doors take up less space when fully opened when compared to a conventionally opened door and offer a larger opening."
In general, practicality is an extremely important aspect of McLaren's design language. "Ergonomics, comfort and usability play a vital role in our design briefs."
And therein lies McLaren's strengths vis-a-vis its competitors.
"McLaren designs are directly linked to our race car engineering solutions. To this end, McLaren designs are always purpose-driven where the aesthetics are the results of technological advancements. Our cars are always equally adaptable on the track as on the roads, combining class-leading levels of performance with aesthetics that reflect the needs of the vehicle to push the edges of its segment."