The McLaren 570S is the most important car built in Woking since Gordon Murray’s F1. Seriously. And as they discovered that less grip can equal more fun, not only did it turn out to be beautiful, but also bloody fantastic to drive. It’s a proper supercar for normal humans who want to go very fast without breaking a sweat.
[Full disclosure: McLaren flew me to Portugal and put me up in a five star hotel, gin and tonics included. They also let me drive a pre-production 570S to the track, on the track and back from the track, so yeah, love was certainly in the air.]
The McLaren name has been synonymous with speed since Bruce McLaren put his racing team on the map in 1963, but the company that makes the 650S, the 675LT and the P1 has only been around since 2011. Four years on, McLaren Automotive managed to sell 1,649 cars and return a profit in 2014, with 30 percent of their turnover invested back into research and development moving forward.
That money is much needed as they intend to keep coming out with at least one new model or variant each year, filling up their lineup that’s now divided into three groups: the Sport, the Super and the Ultimate Series. The target is 4,000 cars per year by 2017, with the Sport Series accounting for 2,500 of those sales.
The entry-level Sports Series family consists of the China-bound, lower-calorie 540C and the regular 570S, with a yet unnamed version following next year (GT3?) before the hard-top convertible hits the stage in 2017. The 570S is a much welcome addition to the lower-end of their showroom offerings, staring at $184,900. (Some call it an “entry level” McLaren, but while it’s not north of $300,000 the way a 650S is, the price of entry is still a bit more than a Honda Civic. Or ten.)
Basically, the 570S is McLaren’s Gallardo moment, except for one thing. When Lamborghini went small to boost volumes and reach a wider range of costumers, they actually made a smaller car with a smaller engine. Not so for McLaren. The 570S turned out to be bigger than the 650S with the same 3.8 liter twin-turbo V8 in the middle, only with 30 percent new parts and 79 horsepower less. But that’s all for the greater good.
I don’t really see why journalists like to compare the baby McLaren to the Porsche 911 Turbo S since that’s anything but a supercar despite all the performance it packs. Woking was looking more at the Audi R8 V10 Plus as a competitor. The clever man’s Lamborghini Huracan starts two grand cheaper with a dual-clutch gearbox, but this is where it gets really interesting.
Despite McLaren merely calling it a sports car, the 570S seems to be a proper mid-engined supercar. It’s built around an upgraded carbon fiber tub that weighs just 165 pounds, has 562 horsepower and 443 lb ft, crazy doors and a top speed of 204 mph. With the whole car being just 3,174 pounds with a full tank of gas, you are looking at a power-to-weight ratio of 434 hp per ton.
You won’t find the switchgear of a Volkswagen Golf in the cabin either. Every part is a custom design, and McLaren is proud of the fact that although the Sports Series is built on the same line at Woking, they can only work on six at once, and putting together a 570S by hand takes 11 days.
Not surprisingly, the car feels very special inside. But let’s just stay outside for a tiny bit longer.
That rear end. We really need to talk about it, because Robert Melville managed to sculpt a rear that makes this car the best looking modern McLaren by far.
There are many things going on at that rear, yet it all looks clean and organic when viewed together. They used complexly curved aluminum panels, flying buttresses that channel air without being in your face, alien-eye lamps and a pair of cleverly integrated exhaust tips to get this look, and it’s really something you should check out in person, especially covered in this new red paint they call Vermillion.
With good design comes great visibility. For a mid-engined car, the 570S is very easy to see out of. As a daily driver candidate, this is a really fast one, granted, but McLaren worked extra hard to make this their best road car yet, and it really shows. They even put their first glovebox and a pair of vanity mirrors in it, although the glovebox won’t make it into the US due to different airbag regulations. I’m just as sad as you are.
On the plus side, since chasing lap times was never part of the picture, they got rid of the active aero to reduce downforce and put 225/285 wide Pirellis on it that were engineered to have less grip, reducing understeer and making the car more playful in the corners.
The hydraulic suspension has also been replaced with adjustable dampers and conventional anti-roll bars, but the ride is no worse than in a sporty hatchback. McLaren went for hydraulic steering as well despite almost everybody else switching to those often dead-feeling electric ones by now.
For the first time, all driver aids can be switched off completely. But even when you do that, the 570S stays remarkably hard to crash. We tried our best, and the fact that it’s not intimidating at high speeds makes its performance accessible to a wide group of drivers. Job well done.
Who saw it coming? Those perfectionists at McLaren created something dedicated entirely to the fun you can have on the road.
When you choose to take your 570S to the track, it will do those tricks too, sending the Pirellis to tire hell in no time at all. It has to, and while the turbo engine might not have the response of a naturally-aspirated unit, you should make peace with that bit of lag because it lets you prepare yourself for the catapult that comes on with the boost. There’s no drama, of course. There are no buttons on the steering wheel to confuse you in that crucial moment, and the flappy paddles are right where they need to be, working in both directions in case the steering is at full lock when you need to switch gears.
For the most spectacular tire smoking display, the stability control set to Dynamic also acts as sort of a hero mode. Basically, you can be Chris Harris in given corners without suffering the long term side effects. The car still does a bit of thinking for you, but it will make you and the spectators believe you’ve graduated. A nice touch indeed.
The brakes won’t melt either. They are carbon-ceramics as standard.
McLaren offers pretty much endless customization options with the Sports Series as well. After deciding whether to go for more luxury or the track package, lazy people can choose one of McLaren’s pre-set color combinations, but McLaren Special Operations will also be happy to take a deposit for some more extensive upgrades.
So now I need you to do me a favor. I need you to buy a 570S. Specifically, I need you to buy one, or several, with the bucket seats and the carbon fiber flappy paddles, because those are longer than the regular paddles and seem more practical at full throttle. Feel free to put lots of miles into your cars, go around the world with them and have fun. I know you will. Minor crashes are okay too.
I ask this of you because I’m playing the long game here, looking at the used 570S market in 2025. If they manage to sell 2,500 annually and keep it in production for long enough, I might just have a chance to getting back into that seat for more than a day. I’m praying for some of that sweet, sweet depreciation, although in Europe at least I’m told they hold their value well. Bummer for me.
Photo credit: McLaren
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