The new Ferrari 812 and the McLaren 720s are two extremely important cars for their respective companies because they are their transitions into the future. Their predecessors both perfectly encapsulate the transition from the last gen (2000 design) to current gen (2010 design): the transition from the Ferrari 599 to the F12 and the transition from the McLaren 12c to the P1/650s. Therefore, the current transition marks the transition from the current gen to the future. Since supercars are the ones that dictate the direction of the automotive industry, we can discover the direction of design in which, most likely, all of automotive industry is headed by examining the designs of these two particular two vehicles.
It is very interesting that the very first reaction that people have for the 812 is comparing it to other cars. It raises the question of “have we really come to the point where all current designs will have already been done at some point in the past?” I think this is mostly because of the 812’s drastic departure from the F12 in terms of design. The gut reaction from most people, upon seeing the profile of the 812, is to scream out “Viper” and it is absolutely hilarious due to the existence of FCA.
The connection to the Viper can be denied because they are going to have similar shapes because of the front-mid layout. However, the connection cannot be denied due to the symmetrical grill of the 812 and the hooded rear which were not present on the F12 but present on the Viper. The connection is strengthened further by the less exaggerated “aero bridge” (due to the widening of that area) and the exaggerated rear shoulder vent (akin to the Viper’s muscle car-like bodylines). Similarities to other cars have also been raised but I will have to address the comparisons to the C7 Corvette. It has been said that the rear of the 812 is resembles the rear of the Corvette and I have to object to such claims. The rear of the Corvette and, to an extent, the entirety of the Corvette has always suffered from flatness. Even a quick comparison to its closest rival, the Viper, the Corvette always had huge flat surfaces all over the car, the rear in particular. While other car designers have always tried to add negative space to the rear to avoid flatness (even if the attempt leads to controversy, see the i8), the Corvette just embraces it. Therefore the negative space rich 812’s rear definitely does not resemble the rear of the Corvette. The rear of the 812 resembles that of the RS7, with a hooded rear that layers on top of the lights.
Disregarding the comparisons, the car in of itself can be described as changes for the sake of change and changes in unexpected directions. The headlights have been flipped upside down, the grill opening has been enlarged, the aero bridge has been softened, and the rear has become hooded. The overall feel of this altered car is that it is stuck in between becoming something new and just a refresh. The design is cohesive and excellent but it is definitely subpar given that it is not a Pininfarina but an in house design. The transition from the 458 to the 488 is subtle but it elevates the car while the transition from the Enzo to the LaFerrari is absolutely groundbreaking. This one here is does not have the subtlety or the shock and awe of the two previous transitions and it does not elevate the design because of how similar and how comparable it is to other designs.
Meanwhile, the interior is a mix of F12 and LaFerrari. The horizontal strip connecting air vents are from the Laferrari while the diminishing dash towards the passenger is from the F12. It is restrained and classy, definitely up to the standards of the in house designers.
In sum, the 812 is definitely an excellent design but it does not have the same groundbreaking effect as the other transitions. However the one thing that is a massive improvement from the F12 is that the bright Ferrari red actually suits the car, whereas the F12 did not go well with the Ferrari red.
The first reactions to the McLaren 720s are comments about the front, especially the lights and the overall fascia. The new design should not come as a surprise, if one line up all recent McLarens in order (12c, P1, 650/675, 570), then one will see that the 720s’ design is but a natural evolution; the area in front, below the nose, was slowly being encased by the sides of the car.
We have reached the natural conclusion, where the sides take over the front splitter area. The rear as well, it is a natural evolution; the older frog leg design has finally connected together. The rear light is toned down in comparison to the extremely P1 and the 570s, it is not as aggressive and curvaceous and thus losing some of its McLaren character. But it was a necessary sacrifice to make sure that the spoiler is not a tiny, vestigial-looking thing.
There are a few quirks and issues with this design. The first issue is the headlight socket area and it feels as if the socket can be repositioned to make the car look even sleeker. The current position is a tad awkward because of the angles; it is not parallel to any other surfaces, thus making it look poorly integrated. Although this is probably not present during the design phase but rather appeared in the engineering phase due to aero purposes. The next issue is a two for one and it is the profile and front quarter view of the car makes it look very front heavy, much more so than the 650s. This is due to the fact that the sides on the front connect with the splitter, and the revised body contour that has the BMW hockey stick issue.
There is a lot of visual mass around the front wheel well and not enough mass towards the rear, the split bodylines towards the rear further accentuates the problem. The quickest fix is to apply paint that darkens towards the bottom of the car, which has already been done. Otherwise it seems that it is going to be difficult to shift that mass around because the engineers will not allow it, most likely. The rear is really well designed because it is barely designed at all, the frog legs are connected and they took off the rear body panel to expose the innards.
As for the interior, the 720s is as much of a leap forward as its exterior. The gauge cluster is a gimmick that moves, blissfully unaware of the Corvette’s digital gauge cluster. It does shake up the traditional supercar three area gauge, so it will be interest to see the response of other designers. The center stack is just an exaggerated P1 stack that is twisted a little. There is a lot of potential in the new McLaren interior that is yet to be exploited. Unfortunately due to the different climate controls, the door panels are no longer filled with negative space and have lost some of the McLaren charm.
All in all, though it has some issues there and there, the new McLaren is a leap forward in exterior design, fully immersed in futuristic design cues but the same cannot be said for the interior.
These two cars present a dichotomy for the future of cars, the future designs can either be trying to move into the future but at a conservative pace and look like it is stuck in an awkward position (Audi, Mercedes) or leaping all the way into the future and become completely unrecognizable (i8, KIA, Honda). There will be people who are pleased with neither of these options but it will happen regardless.
A special mention goes to the new Bentley Continental GT (2019 just been spied) and the Bentley EXP (it’s going on sale). The whole point of the GT is that it is the sweet spot between Aston Martin, sporting with luxury, and Rolls Royce, luxurious to the max. Making the front grill more raked moves it towards Aston Martin while making the front grill more upright moves it towards Rolls Royce. Bentley needs to get the Audi designers out of their offices. Aston Martin is going strong with their new partnership with Mercedes and some very inspired designers. Meanwhile Rolls Royce is planning on making a SUV that’s a hearse. It will be interesting to see how things unfold.