When McLaren Automotive invites you to test their car you don’t turn down the offer. For a blog like us its only once a year, so in many ways, it feels like an annual migration and the feeding ground this year was the rolling hills and roads of Derbyshire, England. Driving to the test location I noticed how the landscape changed from an urban grey to a sea of green that is the Derbyshire countryside. At this time of the year, the trees begin to shed their foliage and change colour, as you drive in from a distance it appears as if there is a river of gold running through the forested areas.
And the gold at the end of the horizon is McLaren Automotive, a rare feat in modern British automotive manufacturing, est. 2010, it exists to be a maker of supercars, a maker of dreams that is dedicated and focused on building the ultimate in performance cars. The whole enterprise is equally as focused and has quickly become profitable.
But enough of the flag waving and national pride, McLaren don’t do second best and even their entry level Sports Series range of supercars are formidable as they are formidably expensive. But not so if you can afford such a car.
The latest to join the ranks of the entry-level Sports Series line-up is the 570S Spider, spec for spec it matches the 570S Coupe. It uses the same 3.8-litre V8 Twin Turbocharged petrol engine and outputs the same (570PS) 562bhp.
The Spider also offers the same 204mph topseed with the roof up, roof down it manages 196mph. However it is a fraction as makes little difference slower from 0-62mph, 3.2 seconds if you must know. The key difference between the Spider and the Coupe obviously requires little in the way of an explanation.
Of course, the 570S Spider is armed with a special engineering solution that adds a defining appeal to this latest 570S derivative. A retractable folding hardtop roof. The composite roof adds an extra 46kg of weight to the car, around 7 stone or 101 pounds if you are reading this in the US of A.
To the uninformed, that extra weight doesn’t seem like an awful lot extra, but in the world of lightweight performance supercars it is quite a lot. However, it’s significantly less than an Audi R8 Spyder which adds almost 229kg of extra weight just so the roof can go up and down.
In addition, a supercar like the Audi R8 Spyder requires extra strengthening and this is where most of the extra weight comes from and where some of the performance is lost. The 570S is unique because it doesn’t require any additional strengthening because the underlying MonoCell 2 carbon fiber tub is so strong that it allows McLaren to create an entirely new engineering solution in that no solution is required at all.
So, the 570S Spider is a supercar purely built around the philosophy of performance first. And admittedly it also allows owners finally to properly strike a driving pose.
If you want to be noticed then the 570S Spider has plenty of appeal, roof up or down which takes about 15 seconds either way and can also be opened or closed at speeds of up to 25mph. The interior is accessed by those statement dihedral doors that are designed to allow for better access, but they do look cool.
And with the roof up it feels as secure, refined and as well soundproofed as the coupe. With the roof down you get to listen to the V8 Twin-Turbo in full song and while it isn’t the best engine soundtrack it is meaty enough to announce your arrival and departure in dramatic style.
Once seated you notice how well appointed the interior is, so often with new car companies quality assurance takes time to gather pace and often feels like guessing game that lasts for years. Not with McLaren, the 570S Spider’s interior is masterfully trimmed and appointed. It’s a sophisticated minimalist, leather / Alcantara mix that gives the impression of wrapping around you when you are seated into position without in any way feeling cramped.
The driving position is near perfect and although McLaren can easily touchscreen all of the dash control functions such as the driver modes everything is neatly housed and within easy reach.
At the end of the day, the 570S Spider is a supercar, a McLaren supercar and naturally, it’s about the performance. As with the 570S Coupe the 570S Spider is pure undiluted performance and is equally as rapid as its coupe brethren. McLaren Automotive has utilized their Formula 1 experience to optimise the aerodynamics under and over the car so it feels stable at high speed. For example, the rear spoiler is 12mm higher than Coupé’s to allow for the change in body shape.
The 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo, is as ever is smooth and accessible and as ever and delivers blinding speed with savage immediacy. You have to keep reminding yourself this is an entry-level McLaren. The ride, complemented by advanced adaptive dampers, is firm yet supple and the handling balletic, the seven-speed dual clutch transmission shoots through each gear like a bullet not seen not heard, but when it strikes it’s impressive. The electronic steering system, a bane of modern-day supercars, feel like a precision instrument in the 570S. Driving through the twisting B-roads of Derbyshire demonstrates that the power of the 570S Spider isn’t solely reliant on the V8 Twin-Turbo it’s everything, the engine, transmission the aerodynamics, the ride and handling all of which combine to form a precision instrument that allows you to gather speed with confidence and surety.
Above all, it’s an easy car to drive, how McLaren combined the speed, the drama the exhilaration in what is essentially a docile-to-drive everyday supercar is a complete mystery because more often than not a supercar is a compromise.
There is one compromise, the carbon-ceramic brakes. While offering weight savings and improving the overall handling they have little feel at low speeds and require one to muster the power of Greyskull to apply enough pressure to brake in normal driving conditions. However this is the way McLaren prefer the brake system to operate, carbon ceramic brakes require an operating temperature to work really effectively.
However, what remains impressive is that I didn’t even get to try the various driver modes, Normal, Sport Track. Normal mode around the twisting but slightly damp country lanes of Derbyshire provided ample evidence of the breadth and scale of this easy to drive, easy to live with supercar.
So how much does this greatness cost? £165,000 without any optional extras or the personalisation services provided by McLaren’s bespoke MSO division. So, Why do you need a supercar with a retractable roof in the first place, what benefit is such a vehicle over say a VW Tiguan.
Look at the 570S Spider this way… a supercar isn’t a set of rules it’s a philosophy, a philosophy born out of a mission to push the boundaries of known engineering to the limit. In this case, known rules do not necessarily apply, only the singular directive of extracting maximum performance.
The McLaren 570S Spider is engineering at its most heightened and focused and yet it is a hand-built mechanical entity that has a soul, a very McLaren soul.