If there’s one thing I know well on paper, it’s the McLaren Sports Series. I was there when they launched the 540C and the 570S in Japan. I was there when they launched the 570GT in Japan. Hell, by pure chance I was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2017 when they launched the 570S Spider. When the time came to launch it in Japan in September 2017, I was there too. I haven’t covered any other press events as extensively as I’ve covered McLaren.
After a while, however, all these media launch events start to get a bit repetitive. It’s all well and nice to see a new car up close and personal but it’s another to actually see what it’s like to drive. Thankfully, after attending all of the press events for McLaren’s Sports Series I’ve finally experienced one from behind the wheel. The car I’m testing is, arguably, the best car from their Sports Series range. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 570S Spider.
The McLaren Sports Series range is their entry in the world of ‘sports cars’. Yes, McLaren have the cheek to call these cars ‘sports cars’, but name aside, this is every bit a supercar as the rest of their range. The Sports Series is the least expensive way of getting Woking’s finest on your driveway, sitting below the Super Series (720S, 675LT) and Ultimate Series (Senna, P1).
It’s crazy to think how far McLaren has come since the MP4-12C was launched in 2011. Since then they’ve built up a strong lineup consisting of three Series and gave the supercar segment a much needed shakeup. At the rate they’re going McLaren’s cars will literally be capable of space travel in a few years.
All Sports Series cars are powered by the now familiar 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 first seen in the McLaren MP4-12C with two different power outputs; 397kW for the 540C and 419kW for the 570S, 570S Spider, and 570GT. Prices for the Sports Series start from a reasonable $295,000 for the 540C, going up to $339,000 for the 570S and $359,000 for the 570GT. This 570S Spider tops out the range at $369,000. Now considering their exotic looks, bonkers performance, and exclusivity, it’s hard to ignore McLaren’s competitive pricing strategy.
The 540C, for example, starts less than a Porsche 911 Turbo and is around the same ballpark as a Mercedes-AMG GT S, Maserati Granturismo, and BMW i8. You can have brand new McLaren for less than a Porsche. That’s just absurd.
Just look at it, it looks like an alien spaceship. There’s nothing else on the road that looks like a McLaren and the 570S Spider is easily the prettiest of the bunch. With the hard-top roof up you wouldn’t even think it was a convertible, with it down it just adds to the drama of the design. This Curacao Blue paint on the Launch Edition test car helps too, though McLaren have one of the most extensive and colourful paint palettes on the market. Their McLaren Special Operations (MSO) division can help with all your bespoke needs too.
Not that the 570S Spider needs much help in standing out. I have never driven a car that has gotten so much attention before. I’ve driven a bright orange 12C Spider before and that didn’t turn even half as many heads as this 570S Spider. If you don’t mind a bit of attention, this is probably the best attention-for-buck supercar on the market right now.
If you want to hide away from all the eyes outside, close the roof (which only takes 15 second to raise or lower and can be done at speeds up to 40 km/h) and it’s like a snug coupe inside. It truly does isolate you from the outside world.
Inside you have a fuss-free and driver-focused interior. It’s all very McLaren but it’s not dull. The alien-like shapes and lines from the exterior carry on inside with more of the ‘Kiwi-shape’ motif on the doors. Of course everything you touch is high quality leather, alcantara, or carbon fibre. Even the plastics are nice to touch, though the plastic key was a bit of a disappointment. A heftier key or perhaps some carbon fibre would’ve been more apt for a $300,000 supercar.
In front of the driver is a massive and crystal-clear TFT instrument cluster. There’s no old school dial here, it’s very much 21st Century tech. The display changes depending on driving mode. In the centre of the dash is a vertical touchscreen which controls IRIS, McLaren’s in-house infotainment system. It’s easy enough to use, if a bit clunky at times. The sat-nav is clear and crisp, offering split-view directions too. Compared to other low-volume supercar infotainment systems, IRIS is up there with the best. Pairing a smartphone via Bluetooth was quicker and simpler than I expected. The optional Bowers & Wilkins sounds system was decent too.
That’s where this ‘sports car’ shines. It can do all that boring stuff perfectly well. The interior is a comfortable place to be in. There’s enough space for two adults without having to become too intimate with each other, the seats are wonderfully supportive once you get the seat in the position you want. I don’t understand McLaren’s electric seat controls. They’re hidden away at the bottom of the seats where you can’t see them and the buttons aren’t intuitive at all. But at least it’s different.
The refinement of the 570S is an improvement over the 12C too. You can cruise along at 100 km/h in 7th gear with the top down and you can still have a civilised conversation with your passenger. The engine noise is subdued enough you don’t need to raise your voice but still audible to remind you that you’re in something special. It’s a wonderful balance.
Practicality, it’s got that covered too. I mean you’re not going to be using this for the school run or for furniture shopping trips. But it can be usable everyday. One of the things that gets thrown around at ALL of the Sports Series press events was the improved “ingress and egress” (getting in and out of the car). Previous McLarens had high door sills which meant it was a tricky balance getting in and out. They’ve solved that with the 570S by trimming some of the sill at the front. It makes life that much easier.
There’s decent storage space as well. The luggage space at the front is a nice size. It’s deep and spacious. It managed to fit two jackets, two backpacks and some camera gear while still having the car cover in a bag and some McLaren boxes inside. There’s also a nifty storage space under tonneau cover which can be used when the roof is up. There’s also a glovebox (something not all supercars have), some storage under the armrest, secret cubby holes in the doors, and a coupe of cupholders.
Before I get on to the incredible performance this car delivers, I have to talk about the thing that surprised me the most – the ride. Cars of this type generally have firm and harsh rides. Think Porsche GT cars, Lamborghinis, and Ferraris. The McLaren on the other hand rode better than most ‘normal’ cars. If you blindfolded someone and drove them around in this, they’d think they were in a luxury sedan. I’d go as far as to say it rides better than even most German executive sedans, certainly better than any AMG I’ve been in.
It’s so well sorted and forgiving. It manages to soften out the rough edges of bumps, and for a car this low to the ground, it’s simply awe-inspiring. The best thing about the 570S is there’s no downside for having a nice ride. It still goes around corners with more composure than an Olympic ice skater and with no body roll. This doesn’t even have McLaren’s trick suspension as seen in the more expensive 720S. Being built in a country with notoriously bad roads does have its upsides.
Now, the performance. The Sports Series is the last to use McLaren’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 that’s been in everything since the MP4-12. In the 570S there’s 419kW, that’s 570hp, available and 600NM of torque. That’s enough to get this 1359kg (only 40kg more than the coupe) supercar from 0-100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds. Seeing those figures you just have to laugh at the fact this is the ‘baby’ McLaren and what they consider a ‘sports car’.
It’s not so much a sports car as it is a spaceship. It’s really a matter of the looks match the go. The 7-speed ‘Seamless Shift Gearbox’ (SSG) is McLaren talk for dual-clutch transmission but it’s not false advertising either, the shifts really are seamless and instant. The gearbox coupled with that epic engine help add to the sense of speed you get in this car.
Get it working above 3000rpm where the engine really comes alive, mash the throttle and prepare yourself to hit warp speed. It’s probably the closest I’ll get to space travel as this car just rockets towards the horizon. The test car came fitted with the optional Sports Exhaust, while loud, just doesn’t sound as symphonic as a naturally aspirated engine. But what it lacks in aural quality it makes up for in speed. Blink and before you know it you’re doing doubly illegal speeds on the road. Thank goodness for the standard-fit carbon ceramic brakes which are so powerful the only thing more effective would be to hit a wall.
I shouldn’t be surprised a car from one of the most successful Formula 1 teams in history performs so well. It was the stability and ease of speed that was unfathomable to me. Take the Nissan GT-R NISMO as an example. I expected that car to be a safe and predictable way to exploit it’s performance. I knew it’d be stable at high speeds and the clever four-wheel drive and trick electronics would keep me in line. The 570S, I kid you not, was just as stable as the GT-R at high speeds despite only having half the driven wheels and 500kg less mass to keep it planted on the road.
There’s so much clever engineering, design, and aerodynamics witchery at play with the McLaren I couldn’t wrap my head around it all. It’s an utterly breathtaking exercise in engineering brilliance. That’s before we get on to the way it goes around corners. I’ve already talked about how the suspension is supple and forgiving over harsh road conditions but take it on to some twisty roads and you soon realise why McLaren call this their sports car.
It’s got a very playful character to it, more so than the 12C which was a car that was impressive to drive but not one that made me ache in anticipation for the next time I’d drive it. The 570S was a car that I was genuinely sad to stop and get out of. It’s exactly what a sports car should do. This is every inch a proper driver’s car.
The steering is one of the 570S’ several strong points. It’s an electro-hydraulic system, unlike most of its competitors which have gone to electrically assisted setups, and the feel and feedback you get just entices confidence. It’s not a car you throw around corners but rather a car you flow through corners with. There’s a sense of real dependability and predictability of where the front is pointing. Sure, the front is a bit light with no engine weight the nose down but push it and it’ll let you know where its limit is at with a slight hint of understeer. The steering is so communicative I’m surprised it doesn’t have its own Twitter account. #MakeSteeringGreatAgain
The chassis also deserves a shoutout. Without the Monocell II carbon tub, I don’t think a topless version of the 570S would handle so well or be as rigid as it is. There was no flex or compromise. Even with the roof down it still felt every bit a racing car as a McLaren should. Oh and the grip. I know most is due to the electronics but when the rear wheels have to deal with 419kW, there’s usually some compromises to be had. Not in the McLaren.
Point it at a corner, hit the throttle and it’ll just go around it likes it on rails with no fuss. You can take on corners at speeds you wouldn’t even think about in any other mid-engine rear-wheel drive supercar. The last time I was in a car this powerful with this much grip was in the NISMO. I really don’t know why anyone would want any more than this. You’re not going to be exploit cars more powerful than this on public roads and if you want a car for pure posing status, this is $137,000 less expensive than a Ferrari 488 Spider and I’d say this gets more attention.
McLarens are meant to be track-honed road cars but they do showing off very well too. It could be due to the unique, alien-like shapes. It also helps there aren’t too many of them on the road. Though the bright blue paint on my test car helps too. There wasn’t a place or time where this car didn’t get attention. If it wasn’t people smiling and stick their thumbs up, it was having smartphones pointing at it, and people asking what it was. The moment I knew this car was beloved by everyone was when I was out on some country roads and every second biker gave me the thumbs up. That’s never happened before.
Pootling around town in this is easy too. Because you sit so far forward, you get a great view out front and to the side. You do get a bit of a blind spot from the buttresses but most cars of this kind have that issue too. If you want to drive with the roof down on colder days, the heater and seat heaters are very effective.
|Brand/Model||Engine||Power/Torque||Fuel, L/100km||0-100 kph, seconds||Price – High to Low|
|Ferrari 488 Spider||3.9-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol||492kW/760NM||11.4||3.0||$506,688|
|Lamborghini Huracan Spyder||5.2-litre V10 petrol||449kW/560NM||12.5||3.4||$475,000|
|Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet||3.8-litre flat six twin-turbo petrol||427kW/750NM||9.3||3.0||$431,000|
|Audi R8 V10 Spyder||5.2-litre V10 petrol||440kW/560NM||12.3||3.3||$370,000|
|McLaren 570S Spider||3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo, petrol||419kW/600NM||10.7||3.2||$369,000|
|Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster||4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo, petrol||410kW/680NM||9.5||3.9||$330,250|
The Pros and Cons
|• Mind-bending performance |
• Rides better than most ‘normal’ cars
• Telepathic and predictable handling
• Proper supercar looks
• Useable everyday
• So much drama for the value
|• If you don’t like attention this isn’t the car for you |
• Electric seat controls are a guessing game
• Can’t see the infotainment screen with the roof down
What do we think of it?
The McLaren 570S Spider is really in a class of its own. At this price point nothing compares to the, the performance it delivers, the drama, the usability and the ‘convertible-ness’. I can’t imagine why anyone would spend more for any other supercar, and let’s not mess about here this is a proper supercar despite what McLaren says.
The 720S has 150 more horsepower. I just can’t see how you’d be able to enjoy or utlise that on the road. The playful character of the 570S Spider really surprised and while the performance is jaw-dropping, it’s the agile and communicative handling that really impressed. This is a supercar you can enjoy taking to its limits and exploiting them without it killing you. For me that’s the most important thing, the way it makes you feel and this car made me feel great.
2018 McLaren 570S Spider
|Tested Price||$417,800 (est)|
|Engine||3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo, petrol engine|
|Transmission||7-speed dual-clutch transmission|
|0 – 100 kph, seconds||3.2|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||1,359|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||4530 x 2095 x 1201 mm|
|Cargo Capacity, litres||150 (front)|
|Fuel Tank, litres||78|
|Fuel Efficiency||Advertised Spec – Combined – 10.7L / 100km|
Real World Test – Combined – 15L / 100km
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||N/A|
|Warranty||3 year, unlimited kilometre|