The “everyday supercar” thing can be bandied around as often as you like, but something super powerful, rear drive, and very expensive shouldn’t really be on your list of cars to take out when snow starts falling. I mean, why would you do that? However, if you absolutely must get from point A to point B and have, say, a McLaren (or seven) to do it in, you absolutely can if you’re properly equipped and/or are a bit unhinged.
McLaren is both of those things, and thought it would be a good idea to take a bunch of its cars on the kind of road trip you dream about to the Geneva Motor Show.
(Full Disclosure: McLaren wanted to get me to the Geneva Motor Show so bad it gave me the keys to a bunch of cool supercars, put me up in hotels, fed me, and told me keep its cars shiny side up. I did.)
“The Beast From The East” (an epic name for weather) is currently gripping Europe, turning British motorways into car parks/demolition derbies, making people cold, and generally making life a bit difficult. It’s come with a whole heap of snow (a couple of inches—enough to stop the UK from moving, but an average Wednesday in Detroit), which isn’t ideal if you’re planning on driving to Geneva via the UK, France, Belgium, and Germany in a supercar.
Luckily McLaren saw fit to pop sets of Pirelli Sottozero winter tires on the fleet. Ok, it meant we wouldn’t be vmaxing anything, but it also meant we wouldn’t be sliding ass first down the autobahn. A bonus, I think.
A first stint in a 570GT with a Sports Pack showed how the right rubber can make all the difference. The 570GT is a McLaren for dailying, a car that can still do all the epic performancy stuff but has softer springs and steering for the day to day—and combined it has more trunk space than a Ford Focus.
Unless, of course, you throw the Sports Pack on it—that gives you the steering and suspension from the harder edged 570S. A perfect car for the summer, but not one you’d imagine being comfortable pushing through a foot of snow. It felt solid, never remotely twitchy or unstable. It didn’t want to bite because it had decent shoes on. There was room for two people, luggage for a big trip, and nearly a kilo of peanut M&Ms (the best M&Ms—fight me).
The GT took us through France without any issues. It just set about being A Good Car. It’s not perfect though. Its infotainment system remains awful and thanks to its hand built nature some bits of trim weren’t necessarily in line.
You get what you pay for, and you’re paying for something built by hand, not by robots.
After an overnighter in Belguim we hopped in to a 570S Spider—roof up, thanks, it was cold and I’m not that insane—and booted it to Spa. The circuit was closed, but it made for a good photo op. Then we headed to the Nürburgring to find it closed and under lots of snow, but perfect for pictures. The thing about the Ring is that even though it’s a driving destination in itself, the roads around it are hilarious fun, and a perfect place to test a mid engined supercar.
The Spider may well be the best 570S, in case anyone asks. Its foldable roof means the horrid flying butresses of the coupé aren’t there and with it in place you can’t really tell you’re in a drop top. It’s also terrifically fast. There’s no turbo lag from its 3.8-liter V8, its seven-speed gearbox is quick to respond and its steering is utterly divine. The ’Ring’s surrounding roads were eaten whole by the car, the winter boots taking any water, snow, gunk in their stride and letting the driver just… enjoy.
There’s more to cars like the 570S than being something for a driver to enjoy. They’re for everyone. Every stop and every road saw people taking pictures, waving, joining our lurid convoy to drink in the noise, colour, and fun of it all. A motorway, no matter what you’re in, is still a motorway—dull, straight, grey—but when you see something a bit special it becomes, for a fleeting moment, a better place. Supercars are a social thing, they’re there to be big, bright, and a bit silly.
The next, and final, day of the trip it was my turn to pilot the 720S. It’s a big orange fuck-you to mediocrity. Everywhere it went, eyes were on it. Before we left the hotel a couple and their dog wanted to know everything they could about it, I even think the dog wanted a steer.
At a gas station the cops came to say hello and take pictures, children glued their faces to car windows to get an eyeful, and pretty much everyone on the Autoroute wanted to hear its 4.0-liter turbo V8 sing.
And oh boy, can it sing. It’s a breathy motor, one that takes huge lungfuls of air and uses it to fire you to very illegal speeds very quickly. Thanks to its carbon fiber monocage you can see pretty much 360 degrees, so you can overtake safely and make eye contact with the dude hanging off your ass taking pictures from his Citroën Saxo.
All the while the weather was still miserable, there was salty gunk on the road: the kind of stuff that would normally put the fear of God in to someone with the keys to a 710 BHP monster. The right rubber meant it was a doddle, and any concern that we’d end up shiny side down in a hedge were long gone.
A final diversion to an alpine road to, as the locals definitely say, “go for a wang around” showed how supple the 720S can be. Its steering is perfectly weighted and offers incredible feedback, allowing you to place the car with ease.
Should the back decide to make its own route you can easily bring it back in to check. Its huge carbon brakes do the job of losing speed very well indeed, and the motor… on that road, in that car, was basically eight cylinders of pure happiness. Unsurprisingly, the fast car from the people who make fast cars is very good.
Ok, some of the basics are a bit off. The 570S infotainment system ain’t great, the 720S decided to stop playing any form of music until we stopped and did a hard reset, and the windshield wipers tended to give a couple of extra swipes after clearing salty gunk from the screen re-smearing the glass and making the important business of ‘sight’ rather difficult.
All told, you can drive a supercar hundreds of miles in the snow happily comfortably, and safely so long as you’re not stupid about it. These supercars, at least.
And you’ll make a ton of people happy in the process. Flying may be faster, sure, but where’s the fun in that?