The 2019 McLaren Speedtail officially dropped this morning after many, many months of hinting and shadowy teaser photos. It is devastatingly beautiful, elegant and striking all at once. And it has reduced your jaded, cynical writer back into a simple, gibbering child.
I’m old (26) and persnickety now. Very few things leave me with a sense of awe and wonder anymore. Cars certainly don’t. I can usually find something majorly wrong with every single new car today. Brand comparisons don’t matter because everyone is making the same goddamn thing and traffic has gotten so bad everywhere that we should all just stay home.
The Speedtail isn’t like that. It’s a radical departure from what other automakers are building. When I look at it, it hits me on an emotional level that weirdly doesn’t have any derision attached to it. I appreciate it in a vacuum, unattached to anything else that might otherwise smear or mar its impression.
Truly, I cannot remember the last time a car made me feel this way when it came out. The McLaren F1 debuted when I was an infant. As a child, I was obsessed with the Ferrari Enzo, and that was probably it. The subsequent LaFerrari’s stupid name detracted from it somewhat, but it never emotionally eclipsed the Enzo for me. The Porsche 918 Spyder still looked like a car and the McLaren P1 had a big, silly grin on its face. The Senna was too crude-looking for me to care about it much.
It wasn’t just me, by the way. The entire Jalopnik staff lost its shit momentarily over the Speedtail this morning, oohing and ahhing at the flexy carbon fiber and how it has no wing mirrors.
The car is a joy to look at. It resonates with the part of me that’s delighted by something sleek and—there’s no other word for it—cool. Every aspect of the Speedtail screams it. The swept-back shape of its profile. The low-slung height, which could probably creep under at least a few parking garage gate arms. The languid, trailing lines. The enormously long tail, which makes me think people at McLaren finally got fed up with us laughing about how its 675LT and 600LT models didn’t actually have long tails.
It helps that the name itself is epic. “Speedtail” brings very fast imagery to mind, images that are distorted with motion-blur. It isn’t named after some dead guy and, thankfully, McLaren had the sense to abandon the alphanumeric system. A special car deserves a special name.
The three-seat setup is fantastic but, of course, not new. What is new, however, is how futuristic the interior looks. There are big screens and ceiling-mounted switches. The child in you sits front and center, guiding the on-board radar for missile lock-on before kicking open the thrusters and jumping into slipspace.
I’m exaggerating of course, but not about the Speedtail’s superlative speed and performance. Over 1,000 horsepower and a zero to 186-mph time of 12.8 seconds—that’s less than the time it takes to put on and button a shirt.
This is a car I’d proudly tack up on my bedroom wall. People would ask why the wheels are mismatched and I’d tell them that it’s for improving aerodynamics. That’s a fact I’d carry around in my pocket to impress my friends with during recess.
Is the car an exercise in gross capitalism? At $2.2 million apiece, I’d say overwhelmingly yes, but here’s the other thing: Kids don’t give a shit about that. Kids don’t look at the price tag and think it’s insane to ask for that amount of money when so many others struggle to make basic ends meet. Kids are flabbergasted by how much it costs, but it’s a feature, not a flaw.
The Speedtail is what we need in this hell world. You and nobody you know will ever get to own it or probably even drive it, but we are cheered by it in the abstract. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.