McLaren P1 pictures and hands-on

Here at Pocket-Lint, we’ll only bring you content and reviews on stuff that we’ve spent time with. So although the McLaren P1 concept was "unveiled" last September in Paris, we’ve waited until now to bring you details because back then it was an exterior form only. The interior wasn’t finished, all the vents were blocked, which made the design hard to understand and the tight-lipped operation from Woking wasn’t giving away much in the way of details about the car.

Skip forward to the Geneva Motorshow 2013 and the car you’re looking at top of page is no longer a "concept", but the real deal P1, which will go on sale for a cool £866,000 later this year. Most importantly here in Geneva we could get to (a) touch it and (b) sit in it - which helps when you’re trying to form impressions of what a car might be like.

It’s being overshadowed somewhat by the launch of the Ferrari LaFerrari over the hallway. And even though the styling’s hardly conventional by everyday standards, the car from Italy does make the McLaren look a bit, "steady", as you might say.

Still, in some respect that’s part of the McLaren’s appeal. If you’re the kind of person who flails your arms a lot, wears sunglasses while inside and utters the words "Don’t you know who I am" to people, then you’ll be forming an orderly queue outside Maranello’s door for the stupidly named LaFerrari. Conversely, if you’re in your 50s, live in Surrey and are a somewhat balding man called Ron, you’re probably not after the sort of attention the Ferrari draws and so would probably be happier in this. Though maybe not in yellow if you’re really trying to keep it on the down-low.

Outside it looks petite compared to the stretched-out Ferrari. And with its slightly grinning face and wrapping lamps it’s not exactly your super-angry-looking supercar either. The cut-away surface on the door looks a bit odd to us though, and the line taken by the rear wing feels too low when you look at the car in side profile. It looks much more balanced when the retractable spoiler is deployed. But the best bit of the design is undoubtedly around the back where the whole rear end is a mesh vent through which you can see the engine.

The rear lamps aren’t lamps in the conventional sense but a string of LEDs that run around the shape of that black rear area. You don’t really get the full impression in photos, but trust us, it looks cool.

Step through the light swing doors (they arc forward and up) and drop down into a super-snug bucket seat, in an interior that’s (rather like the Ferrari) really bare. It’s a carbon fibre-fest again in here, though call us crazy but we prefer the McLaren’s cabin to the Italian car’s. That centre console, which is like a big flying wing, is neat and expresses the "lightness" concept of this car beautifully.

We also love the (admittedly not original) turbine vents, the really delicate column stalks and the fact that beyond those, the pedals and steering wheels, your interaction points with this car consist of just two screens - one landscape behind the wheel, one portrait on the centre stack - eight buttons and five knobs which allow you to adjust things like the aerodynamics and gearbox settings.

It’s all rather calm and restrained as a car overall. And as it is in F1, the vibe is that McLaren’s playing the British, sensible, techy-nerd to the Ferrari’s flamboyant, much louder Italian character.

Which would we guess is the better car? You may as well toss a coin to decide - they’ll both be brilliant, and if you did have a million kicking around then whatever we say would never sway you. You’d simply buy the brand you feel most affinity for.

We can say though that the McLaren is a useful £134,000 cheaper than the Ferrari, has 47 less horsepower, also uses a hybrid powertrain (a twin-turbo V8 engine is mated once again to a 7-speed auto box, some very clever electronics and a big heap of batteries). And by a whisker, it won’t be quite as fast as the slightly lighter, more powerful Ferrari. Which is a ridiculous thing to say - because it’ll still top 200mph and do 0-60 in under 3 second.

Perhaps more relevantly, its hybrid system is projected to allow you to do 6 miles on electric power alone (the Ferrari’s isn’t). So if you’re the kind of supercar owner who has an environmental or neighbourly conscious, that might be a key differentiating appeal.

Which would we choose? They’re both amazing in their own right from an engineering perspective - and in many ways completely and utterly absurd and pointless in a modern world with speed limits, speed cameras, depleting oil reserves and the like. But that said, from where we sit, if you’re going to go totally bonkers with your car and were in the fortunate enough position to be able to own one, for our money you might as well go the whole hog and really lord it about.

That would mean you’d find us behind the wheel of the Ferrari. Having seen all three super/hyper/mega cars just unveiled in Geneva, let us know what you would pick.