"It sounds like a tiger!”
“It looks like a spaceship!”
“I’ve got an erection….”
These were genuinely the three first reactions to the McLaren 570S as I pulled up in the Square Mile car park.
The next colleague to arrive drives a BMW. “Well, this pisses all over my piece of shit, doesn’t it?” (I have fairly erudite colleagues.)
There is no doubting the 570S has wow factor. But not in exactly the same way as a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. For starters, a McLaren is a far rarer sight. The Woking firm only makes 22 cars a day at present; it was just two a day when it started in 2010.
The other difference with the McLaren is kudos. There’s a certain knowing respect afforded to you when you’ve chosen a British supercar over one of its Italian or German rivals; to own a McLaren you have shown innate discernment by eschewing more obvious, brash alternatives. From traffic lights to petrol stations, I’ve never been in a car that’s received so many unsolicited compliments.
Not bad for a company that has officially existed for less than a decade. Of course, McLaren as a brand has been going since the early 1960s when New Zealander Bruce McLaren first started racing. Although McLaren Automotive is a relative infant, that’s not to say its cars aren’t very grown-up.
Anyone even vaguely interested in cars will be familiar with its hypercar, the McLaren P1. You’ll also have heard of the F1 – first built in 1998, this 1990s pin-up is still the fastest naturally aspirated car of all time. You can’t buy the former: they were all sold before they were even made. You can’t buy the latter unless you have the best part of £15m to spare.
The engine mounting in particular is a masterpiece in carbon moulding
The 570S, however, you can buy, assuming you have £165k (relative pocket change).
A year ago, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the spider version of the 570S was launched. Although a full year of production hasn’t been completed, it’s safe to say it’s now the company’s best-selling car. Having driven it over a long weekend, I can easily see why.
At the heart of this car – and indeed all McLaren cars – is a monocell carbon tub structure. Visit the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC), and before you even enter the workshop, there sits a solitary tub placed upon a plinth – a testament to how pivotal this is to the McLaren genetic makeup. McLaren was actually the first manufacturer ever to use carbon composite in Formula 1 – back in 1981. It wasn’t long before every other racing car manufacturer followed suit. And of course, they continue to do so today.
One of the first things you notice about the 570S is the swathes of carbon fibre. It’s not there in a ‘I’m a fast car so I have this everywhere’ kind of way. It’s there because it’s necessary; it’s made for purpose. And it fits like a finely cut Savile Row suit. The engine mounting in particular is a masterpiece in carbon moulding where a herringbone pattern meets perfectly in the centre of the car; the resulting effect is of a giant arrow, pointing forwards, naturally.
But it’s the carbon you can’t see – the aforementioned tub – that helps make the car so good to drive. Most spiders require significant torsional strengthening to make up for the loss of rigidity caused by chopping off the roof. Not so with the Macca. As well as helping to keep weight down, the tub also allows you to feel everything the car is doing beneath you in a way I’ve rarely experienced before. It’s at once both reassuring and exhilarating. A powerful combination.
Especially when the sun’s out and the revs are up. The McLaren may have been tuned on the track, but it thrives on country roads. Put the hood down (15 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph) and you can really immerse yourself in every growl of the uncompromising 3.8-litre V8 engine, each one encouraging you faster.
I drove for ten hours wracking up around 550 miles, and there wasn’t a neck crick or muscle ache to complain of
And fast you will go. Zero-60mph takes a spine-shattering 3.2 seconds; you’ll hit 100mph in just 6 seconds. (For context, a Porsche 911 GT3 RS is 3.3 and 7.4 seconds, respectively). The top speed is a licence-losing 205mph – one test to leave for the track, then.
On the road, the McLaren can be very tame. When you’ve finished playing Alonso around Surrey’s finest B roads, it can be a calm and sophisticated proposition. There are heated, memory sports seats; there’s a Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker audio system; and it even has plenty of room for luggage with additional capacity in the tonneau when the roof is closed. This is a supercar with manners.
I drove for ten hours over two days wracking up around 550 miles, and there wasn’t a neck crick or muscle ache to complain of. I spent almost all that time in Sport mode (a quick flick to the right on the Active Dynamics Panel) which beefs up the powertrain and tenses the chassis up a notch. It’s sharp and smooth in equal measure.
The car is also exceptionally well made. The MTC workshop is more of a laboratory than a factory. A sea of white – white tiles, white walls, white ceilings – is peppered with up to 500 employees at one time. There are no power tools allowed on the floor, guaranteeing the ‘hand’ in handmade.
The centre itself is reflective of the company as a whole. Sir Norman Foster designed it. His brief from Ron Dennis was “make it 80% NASA; 20% Disney”. The Starchitect nailed it – the building is utilitarian yet spectacular; modern yet dramatic.
The cars follow suit. They are, first and foremost, technological tour de forces, but at the same time put the fun in functional.
For more info, see McLaren 570S