NEWPORT BEACH — What do you buy the supercar owner who has everything?
Try the McLaren MP4-12C, which just landed on U.S. soil, for a starting price of $229,000.
"This customer is more sophisticated — the car is clean, the design less flashy, and that appeals to them," said Pietro Frigerio, general manager of the soon-to-open McLaren dealership at 2540 W. Coast Hwy.
"They already had another exotic car and they want something very new," Frigerio continued. "Something that will out perform all the competition."
However, if flashy is what the customer wants, the twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 engine supercar can be modified with extras to speed past the half-million-dollar price tag.
While Frigerio would not release sales numbers for the Mariner's Mile dealership, he said that orders have been placed through the end of the year with customers as young as their late 20s.
The dealership plans to open mid-February, with a grand celebration March 25. Only nine McLaren dealerships are open in the U.S., with the next closest in Beverly Hills. Each showcases just one model.
However, that's not entirely true for the Newport Beach dealership.
Poised as if at a starting line just beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows facing West Coast Highway is a McLaren Formula One race car driven by John Watson, winner of the 1983 Long Beach Grand Prix.
"McLaren is already known as one of the most competitive and advanced in technology in Formula One racing," Frigerio said. "That translates into the product."
Among all that winning race car technology is the ultralight carbon fiber chassis now found in the MP4 models, he said.
The British streetcar also has a capacity for 592 horsepower, acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in about three seconds and an air brake that creates four points of contact while breaking.
Yet, with a seven-speed semi-automatic transmission and three handling modes — normal, sport and track — the car is not an 1980s-era exotic meant to be left in a collector's garage, Frigerio said.
"It drives just like a normal car," Frigerio said. "It's not intimidating to just drive it down the road to Starbucks. But, of course, it comes alive when you actually drive it on a track. It is incredibly light and agile."
Eventually, McLaren will have other street models available. The company has announced plans of revealing a new one each year, but it is not certain what or when will be the next installment, Frigerio said.
Until then, with the multiple handling modes, the lone street model both reaches a wide audience and avoids getting trapped in a single niche, he said.
"It drives like a McLaren," Frigerio said. "Each of these supercars, McLaren no less, has its own soul. Here, it's efficiency and driver involvement. I don't think any other car drives like this."