McLaren might not have had a great time on the track lately, with its 2015 F1 season not quite going to plan, but its road car division – McLaren Automotive – is going from strength to strength.
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So where does it fit into the McLaren range? The 570S is the first car in the Sports Series range and completes the three-tier model line-up, with the Super Series 650S and 675LT, and the halo P1 in the rarefied atmosphere of the Ultimate Series.
Simply, though, this is the most usable, accessible McLaren ever – but crucially, this £143,250 exotic is still stunning to drive.
McLaren’s familiar mid-mounted 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 powers the 570S, but 30 per cent of the engine components are new. It kicks out 562bhp and 600Nm of torque here, which married to the lightweight carbonfibre MonoCell II chassis, gives massive performance.
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Engage launch control off the line with the engine popping and banging off its rev limiter and the 0-60mph sprint takes 3.1 seconds, while top speed stands at 204mph – it’s the first figure that’s most significant though, as the current lowest rung of the British brand’s sports car ladder accelerates faster than the iconic McLaren F1 from a standing start. That’s progress.
The noise isn’t quite as musical as the F1’s V12, but the turbo V8 here has a unique character of its own. Prod the starter button and it blares into life. Push the beautifully machined throttle pedal to the stop and at low revs there’s a touch of turbo lag, but before you know it you hear a whoosh as the boost builds before you’re catapulted down the road at a ridiculous rate. With more revs the engine sounds and responds much better, giving a fizzy race car style rasp at the top end and eye-widening in-gear performance.
Play with McLaren’s Active Dynamics Panel and you can change the 570S’ handling and powertrain settings with separate dials, flicking between Normal, Sport and Track. This sharpens up the swift seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox even further, with lightning fast, seamless upshifts on full throttle and razor sharp down changes. At slower speeds it slurs gear changes nicely for extra comfort, too.
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It’s a firm car as standard, the 570S, but in Normal mode the dampers offer supreme control, and at speed there’s a gentle fluidity to the way it moves over cambers and cracked tarmac. In Track the chassis feels less forgiving, but the ultra rigid carbon chassis gives a solid, stable platform for the suspension to work from, so it’s unruffled by challenging roads.
Unlike the 650S with its clever interconnected dampers, McLaren has opted for a more conventional roll bar setup at the front and back here. It connects you to the car, but it’s the steering that really ties you in to the driving experience.
It’s fast, precise, perfectly weighted and full of feel. You can place the 570S exactly where you want – because there’s huge grip. Turn in and the McLaren’s low nose darts towards the apex thanks to the clever Brake Steer system. But it still lets you play with the car’s balance using the power as the car’s limits have been deliberately lowered compared to its stable mates. The brakes need a solid shove, but push hard and the stopping power will leave you gasping.
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Another triumph of the 570S is McLaren’s success in making this car incredibly usable, so the huge windscreen and low dash give a great view forward, inspiring you to push harder. But it’s easy to get in and out of, too, with lower chassis sills and dihedral doors that open wider than the 650S for easier access. Just watch the new aluminium body panels in tight car parks.
On top of this, McLaren has revised its IRIS infotainment system, so there’s a seven-inch tablet style touchscreen in a bespoke carbonfibre pod, featuring hot keys to go straight to nav, media and climate settings, making it a more logical to use.
The combined result is a resounding success. Compared to McLaren Automotive’s first foray – the MP4-12C that launched back in 2011 – the 570S feels generations better.