In Portimao, Portugal
This is not - appearances are deceiving - a supercar. Yes, I know it looks like one. Sounds a lot like one too. It even wears a McLaren badge, which, to most people (including myself) would automatically qualify it as a supercar. Heck, it wears Pirelli PZeros - extra sticky Corsas, no less - boasts a high-revving, twice-turbocharged V8 and is built around a carbon fiber tub that is so incredibly robust that it withstood 14 crash tests without blemish. Sounds pretty darn super to me.
Despite the resume, McLaren insists its new 570S is definitely not super. It's actually "sporty" says Woking's marketing mavens; the 570S being the first of what McLaren promises will be a complete lineup of Sport - as opposed to Super (650S/675LT) and Ultimate (P1/P1GTR) - Series cars. This is the "most accessible McLaren model to date", claims the company's PR types, noting all manner of firsts for the 570S.
"See," says Wayne Bruce (yes, he's heard all the Batman jokes), "it's even got vanity mirrors!" (My addition of an exclamation point in no way exaggerating the thrill McLaren's communications manager ascribes to the 570's newfound ability to adjust one's lipstick or toupee behind the wheel.) "And," continues Chris Goodwin, "it's the first McLaren with dual windshield wipers!" (The exclamation point ascribed to his excitement is even more surprising since he's McLaren's chief test driver and a veteran of England's rock ‘em, sock ‘em Touring Car series, as well as GT - in a McLaren F1 no less - and GT3 championships.)
Their protestations, however, seem somewhat pitiful in light of the facts. For instance, those two turbochargers I mentioned, boost the same double overhead cam V8 that powers all McLarens and are, in ideal supercar fashion, located directly behind your right ear. Carbon ceramic brakes adorn all four wheels: there's 562 horsepower to test their efficiency, and the 570's 3.2 second zero to 100 kilometers per hour acceleration time sounds suspiciously super as well. The car's chassis - its "tub" in Formula One-speak - is, as I mentioned, fully carbon-fibered and the dihedral doors do a fair "gull-wing" impression. Surely that's a sign of true super-ness if there ever was one.
So, what renders this McLaren something less than super?
Well, according to Bruce, the difference is more about intent than execution. So, despite our little scurry around Portugal's tortuous Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, McLaren sees the 570 spending a lot less time racing around closed circuits than any of its previous models. So inhibited, there was no need for the 650/675's Proactive Chassis Control suspension which not only adjusts the shock damping individually, but cross-links the dampers so they semi-actively stiffen during hard cornering. As deliciously subtle as they render handling, all that high-tech trickery costs a lot of money. Instead the 570 makes do with - shades of Chevrolet! - roll bars. Yup, the 570S may be the first McLaren with a vanity mirror, but it is also the first car from Woking with plain, old, ordinary anti-sway bars.
According to Goodwin, there is also a lot less aerodynamic trickery to the 570S. McLaren worried less about Formula One concerns like downforce in a car that will supposedly reduce the likelihood of clipping a curb. Oh, there are still diffusers and efficient routing of air through the body, but that's just so the car remains neutral - aerodynamic forces are balanced front to rear - rather than forcing a tighter contact with the tarmac.
Devoid of wind-cheating foofery and Fancy Dan suspension, the 570 is a more visceral car than any of its stable mates, relying almost entirely on good, old-fashioned, mechanical grip (those Pirelli PZero Corsas) rather than, like the rest of the McLaren lineup, brute aerodynamic downforce. Flip the handling selector to Sport or Track and some good, old-fashioned powerslides are but a caress of the throttle pedal away. Even those a little intimidated by the prospect of sliding a 562 horsepower mid-engined (non) supercar around can have their fun: the Performance Traction Control's Dynamic mode has the 570's electronic stability control perfectly calibrated for long, lurid slides. Think of it this way, what McLaren taketh away in high-speed stability (all that previously mentioned downforce), it giveth back in low-speed hijinks. Unless you're planning on setting the lap record at Yas Marina, it's not a bad tradeoff.
As for other compromises, no doubt much will be made of the fact that the 570 boasts "only" 562 horsepower. I doubt you'll notice the loss as the 570S scoots to 100 kilometers per hour in a mere 3.2 seconds, and to 200 kilometers per hour in just 6.3 more. Keep the loud pedal floored and you'll see 328 kilometers per hour. Not super indeed!
And finally, the most important determinant of supercardom of all: price. 570's start at a $157,727 USD, an MSRP that seems almost reasonable - a quality seldom ascribed to a supercar. Let's just call it "supercar adjacent" then.
Pros: Supercar-like power, more visceral handling than any other McLaren, sleek stylish looks, costs about the same as a Porsche 911 Turbo
Cons: Not as stable at high-speed (caused by that reduction in aerodynamic downforce), it's getting a little tiring listening to McLaren say it's a "different" car when all it is is a stripped 650
Rivals: Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8
One word: Adjacent
Engine: 3.8 L turbocharged V8, 562 hp @ 7,400 rpm; 443 pound-feet of torque @ 5,000 to 6,500 rpm
Transmission: 7 speed dual-clutch SSG manumatic
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 3.2 sec, 10.7 L/100 km, Top speed: 328 km/h
Chassis: 1,313 kg