An instant after being launched by a hump in the road at over 100 mph, my view of the sky from the central driving position  McLaren F1

In that airborne instant, I believe anything is possible. Forget the moon—with an engine this potent, let's aim for Mars. McLaren F1

McLaren F1  When the four-point touchdown comes, it is so velvety that the suspen­sion feels as though it might have been designed for landings.

McLaren F1  As the speedo needle hits 125 mph, an instant shift—so precise and mechanical it's like pulling back a well-oiled bolt on a rifle—brings fourth gear

and another disorienting burst of power that thrusts me forcefully back into the tight-fitting bucket seat.  McLaren F1

Still we accelerate. Just 5.4 seconds later, a green up-shift light flashes, appropriately positioned at the 7500-rpm redline on the tach in the center of the instruments.  McLaren F1

Into fifth gear at 150 mph. Still no lessening of acceleration thrust. The car—squat, stable, a green limpet on the road—shoots forward.  McLaren F1

No. My courage runs out, the sur­vival instinct takes over. Onto the brakes. I press hard, through the pedal's inert feel before they bite to blunt forward movement.

Less than 30 seconds earlier, I'd waited back up the road for an all-clear signal. Even as the BMW V-12 idled evenly at 900 rpm, I could sense its invincibility.  McLaren F1

McLaren F1  The exhaust note might be subdued, but caress the throttle and the revs soar. I can't resist.

This engine responds so instantly it feels as if it doesn't have a flywheel, like a racing engine.  McLaren F1

McLaren F1  The induction bellow is almost ephemeral it can be timed so accurately. The tach needle jerks savagely around the gauge, as if directly connected to the crankshaft.

The McLaren F1 forces restraint because there is no way to drive it legally—except on an autobahn or a racetrack—and even begin to probe the full extent of its power and speed.