“A no-compromise convertible” is how McLaren Automotive describes its latest drop-top, the 570S Spider. Such a statement from the men in Woking hardly surprises: in the four years it has been in existence, McLaren Automotive has demonstrated just how far shy of compromise it falls, producing unashamedly ‘driver-focused” sportscars, supercars and hypercars. Not a whiff of going soft around the edges.
JUL 25th 2017
First Drive: McLaren 570S Spider
Even the 570GT, meant for more “lifestyle” adventures such as touring the continent in comfort, barely nods to any creature comforts, with the addition of a parcel shelf accessed by a side-hinged rear screen about it.
Don’t, therefore, go expecting a big girls-blouse of a car by lopping the roof off the Sports Series 570S coupe. Not so long ago, taking the top off a car meant the whole thing wobbled around like a plate of jelly, panels pinching and widening, the chassis undergoing a heinous amount of scuttle shape. Nowadays: nada. Everything is stiff and taut and lean: performance figures barely change, additional weight is limited… which leaves you wondering why you wouldn’t buy the convertible version of anything, really.
So then. The roof is a composite hardtop which disappears between two handsome buttresses behind the seats. It adds 46kg to the car’s weight but when closed, it maintains the coupe’s roofline. And anyway, the car is still 200kg lighter than the equivalent Audi R8 Spyder.
Thanks to McLaren’s carbon fibre tub, there’s zero need for stiffening reinforcements. The glazed rear window is meant to act as a wind deflector while raised when the roof’s down (although, weirdly – and it wasn’t just me who felt this – the cabin was calmer and quieter with the wind deflector down), or you can have it down with the roof up to listen to those exhausts.
The performance figures on paper remain largely identical to those of the coupe: the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 pumps out 562bhp and 443lb ft of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed auto. Its acceleration and top speed are the same: 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds and top speed of 204mph, although, with the roof down, it’s a whole 8mph slower: ha! Knew we’d find a compromise…
Our test car in Spain had a couple of minor blemishes, which we’ll get out of the way to get onto the good stuff, of which there’s plenty. A few of us had problems starting the Spider: that moment when it tells you to depress the brake pedal then push the button? Nothing happened. For a long time and many tries; key in hand, key in pocket. Lock, unlock the car… something to do with the brake pedal we surmised after the two biggest blokes on the launch really stamped on it.
Secondly, the transmission. Whether in “N”, “P” or “T” settings, it held onto the gears for too long, on up and down changes. Oh, and the brake travel feels a little lacking in definition: they’re carbon ceramics, and we got them good and warm round the hilly route, but they felt like blunt stopping instruments which jarred with the rest of the car’s character. These are things I didn’t notice on the 570S coupe; perhaps we had a couple of early rogue cars.
But the good stuff. My, a McLaren chassis is an engineering marvel for Bruce to be proud of. Taut, supple, delicate, precise, clever.. it flatters the driver into ever more seat-of-the-pants moves, which can cause problems. Luckily, McLaren drivers tend to be a sensible, clever bunch of discerning drivers who know their limits. And the steering… pin-sharp, sensitive, the wheel jiggling in your hands as the tyres bump and turn over broken surfaces. Thankfully McLaren has stuck resolutely with a hydraulic system.
As for extras: I’d go for the Security pack at £4,090 which gives you vehicle lift, front and rear sensors, rear view mirror (because there’s diddly squat visibility out the back), alarm upgrade and car cover; but probably not the Luxury pack for another £7,280 (power adjust and heated sports seats, power adjustable steering column, Bowers and Wilkins 12-speaker system, soft-close doors and banded floor mats). I’d also take the 10-spoke diamond-cut forged alloy wheels (£4k) and definitely the sports exhaust (£3,370); you want to hear that soundtrack with the roof down; it might not be as lyrical as a Ferrari, but it sounds decently industrious.
It’s a marvellous, and very different proposition, a McLaren. It’s up against Porsche, Audi, Ferrari and Aston, but you’re buying something that has an ethereal British edge about it: a mixture, as Rob Melville, McLaren’s chief designer, put it, of clean, simple design built around innovative engineering. Let’s hope the marque stays that way.
Engine: 3,799cc twin-turbo V8
Transmission: 7-spd auto, RWD
bhp/lb ft: 562/443
Top speed: 204mph
Price as tested: £194,600
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