Driving The McLaren 570S—A Starter Supercar That Delivers

This 204 mph beauty is the easiest way to enter the rarefied world of McLaren.

The McLaren 570S is a study in the very nature of exclusivity. It’s charged with furthering the prestige of McLaren’s storied Formula One team’s production arm, but at a starting price of $184,900, it’s significantly more accessible than the company’s legend-building supercars, the F1 and P1.

McLaren’s answer to this high-class conundrum is to provide value in the form of exotic hardware at the price of more run-of-the-mill mass-produced high-performance sports cars such as the Porsche 911 Turbo S.

Details like the McLaren’s extremely rigid but featherweight carbon fiber chassis help set the 570S apart with a 2,895-lb. curb weight. And while entry-level supercars such as the Lamborghini Huracan forgo extras such as dramatically opening doors in favor of those that are conventionally hinged, the 570S showcases the same dihedral-style doors that flip upward and forward as the more costly 650S, 675LT and P1.

Or how about the industry-exclusive use of McLaren’s brake steering system? Deployed in the team’s racing cars in 1998, drivers used extra pedals to separately brake the inside rear wheel as they turned in to corners to help rotate the car more crisply. It was so diabolically effective that rulemakers subsequently banned the technology, but now McLaren provides it to everyday drivers of its production models.

Of course, we mortals aren’t expected to dance on different brake pedals while cornering, so the 570S has a computer that applies pressure to the inside rear brake using a dedicated caliper, leaving the main brakes unaffected. The system functions invisibly, with only especially sharp corner entry as evidence of its presence.

Further, because it is McLaren’s newest model, the 570S enjoys the benefit of the constant advance of technology, so it not only shares the latest instrument panel virtual gauge display as the 675LT, but the optional 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system is the finest sound system available in any of McLaren’s cars. This top shelf sound system is unmistakable because it includes a tweeter atop the center of the dashboard that resembles a singer’s microphone, a design hallmark of B&W’s home audio tweeters.

There is also the matter of McLaren’s increasing proficiency designing and building its beautiful street machines. Where the MP4/12C’s body was as plain as its name was needlessly convoluted, the 570S sports impressive detailing such as the “tendons” that stretch over the side air intakes in its doors.

These have the effect of minimizing the visual size of the intake scoops, but they are fiendishly difficult to manufacture and assemble correctly. Now, McLaren has the expertise to deliver such icing rather than spreading a simple glaze on its cakes.

Similarly, the 570S’s concave rear window is a favorite design feature of design director Frank Stephenson. The curved glass wraps around to blend seamlessly into the flying buttresses on the trailing edge of the roof, neatly framing the 570S’s engine.

Drivers have the choice of a lower-key standard exhaust with its quad tips tucked neatly beneath the 570S’s rear bumper, or the more extroverted (and louder) sport exhaust which exits ostentatiously straight out the rear panel above that bumper.

Either way, output from the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine is the same, at 562 hp. The engine uses many of the same components as that in the 650S, but with revised cams, turbos, injectors and tuning to provide more tractable low- and mid-range power for street driving, with less top-end race-ready power than the 650S.

The 570S starts with a fast-spinning electric whine that is followed by the roar of ignition only after the engine management computer is satisfied that oil pressure, fuel pressure and other parameters are in the specified range. Just like when McLaren’s Formula 1 race cars fire to life in the garages at Monaco.

Even before pulling away, a saw back and forth on the 570S’s steering wheel serves notice that the car’s steering is only lightly boosted, with the hydraulic system conveying the desirable feel that even the world’s best electric power steering systems have still not achieved.

A glance down at the dashboard display to adjust the climate control reveals a pictograph of the driver in the seat to illustrate the various sources of airflow. Tellingly, that nondescript humanoid outline is shown with a racing helmet for its head.

McLaren uses pushbuttons in the center console to select gears in the 570S’s seven-speed dual-clutch computer-shifted transmission, with carbon fiber shift paddles on the steering column for manual gear selection when the driver chooses to take over from the computer.

Dual-clutch transmissions are characteristically smooth as they ease from one gear to the next by simultaneously releasing the clutch of the current gear and engaging the clutch of the desired gear. But McLaren has managed to make these gearshifts even more unbelievably creamy through the application of a more advanced engine management computer that is able to even more finely control the flow of fuel as it briefly cuts power during the shifts.

The 570S rockets to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, only a couple tenths behind the very fastest-accelerating cars in the world. It completes the quarter-mile in 10.9 seconds and achieves a terminal velocity of 204 mph.

Tearing along rural Swiss highways between Geneva and Lucerne a bit slower than that, the 570S demonstrated its uncanny stability as the car slogged through constantly changing weather that included periods of beautiful sun along with light rain and even snow in places. Some rear-drive extreme performance cars might feel as ill-suited as dress shoes to such conditions, but the 570S tracked steady and true throughout.

So the question becomes not weather offering a car that starts at $184,900 (the tested car, with its Bowers & Wilkins audio and various carbon fiber flourishes lists for $204,900) undercuts McLaren’s exclusive image, but rather how much value McLaren can provide at a price that is attainable for a wider range of buyers than its other models. 

The 570S shows that incredible value bridges the gap between exclusivity and accessibility.

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