The first carbon-fibre chassis in Formula 1; the most radical reimagining of road-car suspension in half a century – McLaren is renowned for its innovation on both the road and the racetrack. As the old racing mantra goes: “If you’re not innovating, you’re going backwards.”
The new McLaren 570S Coupé is no exception. Never mind the technology under the skin – the fact that this car exists at all is an innovation. With a history of mind-warping supercars like the McLaren F1 and more recently the McLaren P1, the company is well-known as a maker of “hypercars”. Now the 570S Coupé, the first Sports Series model, joins the McLaren Super Series and Ultimate Series ranges and represents a new sector for the company – a sports car. It’s the most attainable McLaren ever, opening up ownership to a whole new audience. It’s the most practical McLaren too, conceived from the start for daily use on the road. That means it’s an easier car to get in and out of; there are more cubbyholes for storage; there’s more luggage space. Practical stuff, boring perhaps if all you’re interested in is an adrenaline-fuelled fast lap; but it’s stuff that matters a lot if you’re going to drive the car every day.
However, driving the 570S Coupé for the first time at the fabulous Autódromo do Algarve circuit in Portugal, it’s clear straight away that this enhanced usability isn’t at the expense of incredible dynamics. Try a standing start with the launch control function and the 570S rockets past 100kph (62mph) in 3.2 seconds, reaching 200kph (124mph) in a scant 9.5 seconds. That’s not boring, that’s phenomenal – the kind of performance that puts clean air between the McLaren Sports Series and every other car in its class.
In part, that electrifying acceleration is due to the way the car is built: the new carbon-fibre chassis at its heart, known as the MonoCell II, is unique in its class. It’s stronger, stiffer and lighter than the aluminium structures used by rivals, giving the 570S a dry weight of just 1,313kg (with lightweight options), 145kg less than the nearest competition. Combine that with the powerful 570PS (562bhp) 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 – derived from the same core unit that powers the McLaren P1 – and you get an unmatched power-to-weight ratio of 434PS (428bhp) per tonne. Those statistics get car nerds excited, but the real-world effects can be felt by anyone, anywhere, every time you pull out of your drive.
So the 570S Coupé has the technical make-up of a true McLaren, the performance to match, and it undoubtedly looks the part too. In detail you can see the inspiration drawn from the McLaren P1, the headlight shape ensuring a sound family connection. Beyond that, the appearance is influenced only by the laws of aerodynamics, with endless hours in the wind tunnel imprinted in the fluid shapes of the super-formed aluminium panels. It’s at the rear that the 570S really asserts its own character, the rear wings sweeping up and over the tail, directing your gaze to the V8 engine nestled between them.
Inside, the architecture is new, with a clean structure, soft, organic edges, and a “floating” centre console adding a sense of depth. At its centre is the latest IRIS system, offering navigation, entertainment and connectivity; ahead of the driver, another digital screen showing the rev counter and its 8500rpm redline. The McLaren quality remains the same, however – the reassuring grip of the sports steering wheel, the soft nappa-leather trim, the stitching, the supportive seats (hip-hugging sports seats are also available), even the smells – this is a proper driving environment, made by hand and beautiful in every detail.
Something else about the Sports Series is unique in this class. You might expect that peerless steering response and unflappable feel would be a given in any sports car, but it’s rarely so. Only McLaren, with hydraulic-assisted steering, opens up a line of communication with the front wheels so transparent that there’s never a moment when you’re unsure of the car’s connection with the road. Whether cruising north on the motorway from our point of origin to Lisbon, navigating the Portuguese capital’s ancient cobbled streets, or carving through wood-lined curves near the coastal town of Cascais, the McLaren’s wheel gently keeps you both informed, and involved, in the driving experience.
Whatever the surface, the blend of ride and handling provided by the Sports Series’ all-new suspension system is perfectly judged. Twin toggles in the Active Dynamics Panel at the base of the centre console, one controlling Handling, one for Powertrain, give options of Normal, Sport and Track in each case. The latter’s extreme grip on body movements is best suited for circuit use, as its name suggests, leaving Sport as the optimum choice for fast road work, and Normal mode perfect for urban driving and cruising.
It’s those urban situations that reveal just how hard McLaren has worked to make the Sports Series an everyday proposition. The generous opening of the dihedral doors and low-cut sill of the new MonoCell II chassis take the strain out of climbing in and out. It’s also patently clear that huge attention has been paid to visibility, prominent front wings and slim pillars helping you position the car, whether navigating traffic or nailing that apex. The new TFT instrument binnacle, whose graphics are tailored to the driving mode selected, displays turn-by-turn navigation to supplement the IRIS infotainment system. The optional front-end lift system will see you over any speed bump. And if all this talk of city driving has you yearning to get away, the large 150-litre boot and additional luggage space behind the front seats means the Sports Series is ready for that too.
Ready for anything, in fact.