This is a car that deploys almost 650 horsepower for every tonne of weight. You might look at that 2.8-second 0-62mph time and conclude it’s not that much faster than a conventional supercar. But that’s only because with just two driven wheels traction limitations mean only a small amount of that potential can be used at low speed. The 0-124mph time of 6.8 seconds provides a greater insight. That’s just 0.3 seconds slower than Bugatti Chiron despite the latter’s enormous traction advantage. It really is one of the fastest road cars ever created.
Which of course means opportunities to use that power on the public road are not merely few and far between but vanishingly rare. Squeeze too hard for a second or more and you’re putting first your licence and, very shortly thereafter, your liberty right on the line.
But an opportunity to do a few laps of Goodwood provide a better impression of the Elva’s true potential. McLaren describes the car as ‘track capable’ rather than track tuned, but in fact it seems a more natural environment for the car than the road. Because it’s only when you exit Lavant, hit the pedal and discover you’re already about to arrive at Woodcote that you realise just what forces this car can deploy.
Yet being a McLaren it’s so much more than just a straight line missile. Two considerations inform the way it gets through corners: its weight and downforce or, in both cases, relative lack thereof.
The fact it’s so light means it feels immediate in a way heavier cars – even those capable of close to this level of performance – cannot. The way it turns in, its balance, poise and the way it avoids extravagant body movements on the limit can only be attributes of an exceptionally light car. And the same is true of the feel it provides the driver.
The downforce issue is perhaps more interesting still. Load a car with huge amounts of it – as McLaren did with the Senna – and you have no choice but to also give it commensurately stiff springs to make sure that body remains supported with all those hundreds of kilos of aerodynamically induced weight sitting on top of it at speed. The Elva does generate downforce at all speeds but not close to enough to be so affected. So it can be sprung quite softly and appropriately for such a light car, which means that, quite unlike a Senna, it rides remarkably well too.
As for the ‘Active Air Management System’ at the front, it works impressively given there is no windscreen, and you only have to raise an arm into the hurricane force winds it keeps off your face to realise it, but owners should be aware it’s not a windscreen substitute, and does not remove buffeting, but merely reduces it to more manageable levels.