There are cars that strike a deep chord. In my case, it’s generally about the drive, more than the styling, outright performance or technology. Driving a car is what’s most empowering in this world, unless you fly planes or save lives for a living. Driving is nearly everything to me.
The years have been good to me, and I’ve driven a number of incredible automobiles, from the Mazda Miata to a $1M Porsche 356B race car. In the middle of all that were a number of other Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Audi and Mercedes. Above all, however, McLaren stands out for the way it drives, and for the other elements I’ve enumerated that would usually be secondary.
Delivering the experience
McLaren’s modus operandi is simple: make the best cars possible, and also make even better ones.
The Sport Series, or “base” McLarens includes the 540 and the 570, and their respective versions. I’ve also taken a 650S, as part of the Super Series, for a spin and was left expecting more. You see, the 570S I reviewed last year scored an 11 out of 10 and thus I expected 12s or 13s from the 650. It was not so, but everything I’ve read about the 675LT and P1 convince me that they are exceptional. Perhaps that’s what skewed my judgement.
Anyhow, this year, I was honoured and blessed with the opportunity to review what I refer to as McLaren’s Bentley, or the closest thing (I hope) the supercar company from Woking will ever build to a luxury sedan.
From the onset, the 570GT soothes the eyes and other senses with curves, body panels in movement, perfect proportions; everything a supercar lover wants, including the breathtaking dihedral doors. The GT sports a few unique features including a glass roof and its signature move, the side opening glass hatch.
There are no bad angles to this car. From near, from far, it’s a pure head-turning stunner that one admires for its beauty, and not glares at for its gaudy spoilers, diffusers, and visually loud everything else.
The cabin is awash in craftsmanship, superb material and a sense of purpose. From the perfectly adapted cockpit and despite all the lavishness, there’s an uncanny feeling of speed that stems from the fact that your front feet are located between the front wheels, that you’re essentially pointed towards the middle of the of the car and that there’s a nuclear bomb of an engine mere inches from your head. There are clusters of controls in the centre of the car. The large screen serves to put at ease while driving while the other more important one serves to put in charge of the drive.
The McLaren Active Dynamic Panel switches have two steps to them: the first, to turn on the car and go. The second, once the “active” button has been activated, puts the car in a mood that obeys your command. From the brilliantly supportive and comfortable seats, your task is to now savour what the car can do.
If climbing aboard the car is not enough of an event, bringing the twin-turbocharged, 562-horsepower 3.8-litre V8 will make this year’s Canada Day celebrations seem mundane. Once the excitement, and the idle settle, you’re off to discover new possibilities.
In my quaint urban neighbourhood, the Pacific Blue 570GT looks out of place, but unless you see it, you’ll not notice it over the neighbours’ Pontiac G6 GT as they both putter by. However, that changes with a slightly heavier dab of the throttle.
Before merging onto the highway, the “active” button must light up, the “H” (for Handling) in my case stays in Normal (Sport is good too) while the “P” (for Powertrain) toggles over to Sport and the Manual button drops.
To say the McLaren is fast is to only begin to describe the rush that ensues the go-pedal meeting the lush carpeting. Even in ideal driving conditions, the 570 claws at the tarmac begging for grip. The rear end squats, the tires squirm and no sooner has everything settled that you are in orbit. The power is delivered instantaneously with zero lag, and delicious spooling and hissing noises.
The engine and exhaust sound is unlike any other V8 – in fact the way I would describe it is nearly unflattering so I won’t write it out. Ask me in person if we ever cross paths. It takes nothing away from the experience, obviously, but there’s no skull cracking uproar like there would be in a V10 Lambo while crushing the 0-100 km/h sprint in 3.4 seconds.
Pulling on the paddles is magnificently satisfying as the gears pound from one to the next that is if you don’t overdo it. I’ve got the annoying tendency to flick paddles and as the McLaren’s are of the toggle type, as opposed to being independent, it is possible that a brisk upshift will just as quickly turn into a downshift.
With that in mind, the 570GT gobbles highways and byways with an appetite equal to yours. It’ll not quit, nor be baffled by poor road surfaces. My jaunt through the countryside requires only slightly more care than perhaps a Chevy Camaro or Mazda MX-5 does. The suppleness and ease with which the car practically erases imperfections is impressive.
While the McLaren can be driven with care, it is far more at home carving corners and exploring the grip limits to its turn-in. Steering response is immediate, but in a way that flows instead of bring violent. As the weight moves from side to side, and front to back, the light chassis and rigid chassis remains unperturbed, stable, and masterfully at your disposal.
If I was to point a finger at another element that I would prefer be different in this car is the brake pedal. More precisely, how far it must travel before the binders clamp down on the big ceramic discs. That initial reaction from the pedal can be unnerving and conceivably, it could be meant as safety measure, but once the moment passes, the car stops with the force of a brick wall.
McLaren’s 570S and GT has set a standard in the supercar category in my opinion. More than likely, others will follow, or have already attempted to be as good. The Acura NSX comes to mind, as does the Audi R8 where they both can be driven to work and destroy other would-be sports cars on a track day.
In the end, the McLaren has done one thing no other car of this nature ever has: convince me that I want one. I would spend in excess of $300k with taxes ($265k as tested) and love it. The last “unreasonable” car that had that effect on me was a 997 Porsche GT3.
If this was the last McLaren I ever get to drive, I can promise you that I will never forget it.