It is remarkable to think that McLaren’s’s road car Division, McLaren Automotive, was only established seven years ago. More remarkable still is the fact that a relative newcomer to the ultra-competitive supercar market, should find itself so well established amongst the finest and most respected names in the business.
The McLaren P1 hypercar, launched only two year’s into McLaren’s new venture and with a price-tag of almost £1m, sold out within a month of its launch at the Paris Motors Show.
So what exactly gives this brand its midas touch? I was keen to find out, so popped along to test the company’s latest models to find out.
I imagine that my original perception of the McLaren brand was similar to that of many reading this column at one point - the MP4-12C arrived in 2011 and found itself going head-to-head with one of the most beautiful, magical and critically acclaimed cars in the world - the Ferrari 458 Italia. McLaren’s newcomer certainly had its work cut out, yet should be applauded for aiming so high so soon.
Against such competition however, and despite being incredibly accomplished with exceptional performance, ride quality and motorsport pedigree, the relatively tame Lotus Evora-esque looking MP4-12C lacked the emotive appeal of its Italian rival.
The signs were promising however - the MP4 had impressed, and tales of the incredibly silent and meticulous McLaren factory under the charge of then-CEO Ron Dennis increased appreciation of this focused, purposeful brand.
However, it was the arrival P1 hypercar that really put McLaren on the map. One of the acclaimed ‘holy trinity’ and in the company of the finest efforts from Porsche and Ferrari in the form of the 918 Spyder and LaFerrari, the P1 stunned the world not only with its performance, but also its beautiful and more significantly, unique styling.
And it is the P1’s styling that defines the brand’s current design language. With wind-tunnel inspired panels, detailing so exotic that it resembled that of an unheard of but deadly species first seen on Planet Earth and a road-presence to match, this for me, is the company’s crowning achievement.
With standards so high, it is so incredibly difficult for a modern car manufacturer to distinguish itself from its rivals, yet to do so in such a short space of time, in one of the most competitive and emotive sectors in the market, and against the finest competition in the world, is outstanding.
With the P1 pitched at an unattainable level for most, it was the 675 LT that pricked my enthusiasm for McLaren yet again, and more recently the absolutely stunning 720S - a car with front-end styling that I wasn’t quite sure of at the Geneva Motor Show, but that has grown on me considerably since, particularly in glacier white.
With dihedral doors integrated into the roof, and one of the most attractive rear ends in the business, the 720S’ blistering performance (0-200 km/hr in 7.8 seconds!) is only the icing on the cake.
McLaren quickly recognised the potential of a more ‘entry-level’ supercar to sit alongside its ‘Super Series.’ Enter the ‘Sports Series’ 570S. 90% of 570S customers are new to the McLaren brand, so I felt that it was quite apt that this was my first McLaren driving experience.
Sparkling in the autumnal sunshine outside Hoar Cross Hall in Staffordshire, the ‘baby’ McLaren undeniably sports the family’s good looks.
With a P1 inspired front-end and flowing curves, the Porsche 911 Turbo and Audi R8 rivalling 570S certainly brings its A-game to the party.
Swing open the dihedral and swan-like door, navigate the wide sill of the car’s 75kg carbon tub, and sink low into driver-focussed cabin - one thing is for sure - this is a proper supercar.
The interior is minimalistic yet purposeful, fitting for a company who prides itself on its purity of purpose. Lashings of alcantara and exposed matt finished carbon lend the cabin a motorsport inspired vibe, while the car’s exterior design flair is evident in the swooshes along the door cards, integrated into which is a Bowers and Wilkins sound system.
Fire up the 570PS (not a typo - McLaren’s model designations match their power output) turbocharged V8 engine, drop the roof as I’m testing the Spider variant, and set off.
The immediate impression is how easy the McLaren is to drive - while left in auto, the 570S will brush off any daily commute with ease, while its suspension is remarkably compliant for a car in this class.
As the road opens up ahead, it’s time to put the 570S to the test. Into manual, and using the carbon paddles behind the steering wheel, it’s time to tackle some peak district B-roads. The car’s performance is outstanding - 0-100 km/hr is dismissed in 3.2 seconds, and I am assured that on track, 200 km/hr is reached an astonishing 6.4 seconds later.
The fact that the carbon paddles are crafted as one-piece is a nice touch - enabling the driver to shift up or down using either side of the steering wheel. So too is the fact that the Spider is fitted with a drop-down window behind the seats, enabling the aural qualities of the V8 engine to be enjoyed with the roof up.
McLaren market this as an everyday supercar, and it is certainly easy to see how the 570S could easily slip into one’s daily routine. The 570S’ only problem in fact is that 720S ticks the same box yet is even more beautiful and accomplished on track.
At this price-point though, the 570S’ rivals should be very worried indeed - a remarkable statement given that we are talking about the most established car manufacturers in the world, and a car company that is but 7 years in business.