McLaren’s “Entry-Level” Sports Cars Are Anything but Boring

The lithe and fast 570S, the first of McLaren’s new Sports Series models, shows that even the brand’s lower tier is a lofty position. 

The Algarve International Circuit in Portimão, Portugal, is a 2.9-mile knot of blind corners, dizzying elevation changes, and tight and challenging twists. On this fall day, the track is testing the mettle of the new McLaren 570S. Accelerating out of the pits in track mode—which enhances power delivery, shock damping, and stability control—the 570S feels sharp, potent, and stable.

And though it seems as if the car is attached to the asphalt, the wedge-shaped coupe slices through the atmosphere with relatively little grip-enhancing assistance from the wind (unlike McLaren’s higher-powered 650S and P1 models, which produce massive amounts of downforce at speed). The lack of drag, among other factors, helps it achieve a top speed of 204 mph, according to McLaren. 

The 570S is the initial model in the Sports Series, McLaren’s entry-level tier. It has a starting price of just under $185,000. McLaren began deliveries in November after introducing the car last April at the New York International Auto Show. It is available only in coupe form for now, but expect a spider variant to follow. 

At the Geneva International Motor Show last March, McLaren unveiled the 675LT, which has joined the 650S in the brand’s Super Series. (Both models are available in spider and coupe variants.) The 675LT Spider’s $372,600 price is more than double that of the 570S. The Ultimate Series comprises the seven-figure P1 and P1 GTR. (McLaren has added the 540C to the Sports Series. It has less power and a lower price than the 570S, but it is not available in the U.S. market.)     

In accordance with the series designation, McLaren presents the 570S as a sports car, not a supercar, in the same category as the Audi R8 V10 Plus (about $154,000) and Porsche 911 Turbo S (about $183,000). Indeed, its power numbers are impressive but not in the supercar stratosphere; the mid-mounted 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine produces 562 hp and 442 ft lbs of torque. However, the car weighs only 3,186 pounds (curb weight), and with such a high power-to-weight ratio, it can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and zero to 100 mph in 6.3 seconds.

At the circuit in Portugal, the engine—equipped with the available sport exhaust system—produces a healthy thrum that permeates the austere yet comfortable cabin. When you accelerate from a standstill, the 570S pulls ahead steadily until the tachometer reaches the 3,500 rpm mark. At this point, the momentum of the turbochargers causes the tachometer to surge, pushing it rapidly toward the 8,000 rpm redline. 

The 570S’s handling dynamics feel buttoned down when the car is in track mode—one of three driving settings—but the newly developed dynamic mode transforms it into a yawing, sliding, squealing hellion, forcing you to exercise restraint instead of relying on the electronic nannies to keep the car on the track. Once you become acclimated to the throttle response it is easy to control sideways drift with a steady foot and some delicate counter-steering. 

The more permissive stability-control setting enables an entertaining interplay between driver and machine while still providing a safety net to prevent spinouts or complete losses of control. Also assisting your sense of control is what engineers call brake steering: The feature applies the brakes to the inside rear wheel in order to help it turn. McLaren developed the technology during the 1997 Formula 1 season, and it proved so effective that the FIA, racing’s governing body, later banned it because it gave the team an unfair advantage. 

The 570S’s high-revving engine is paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that hardly ever seems to miss a beat as it sends power to the rear wheels. Tap one of the paddles on either side of the steering wheel and the gears change quickly, smoothly, and nearly imperceptibly. Rev higher when the car is set in one of the aggressive driving modes and the shifts turn even crisper and more urgent. The carbon-ceramic brakes are potent, but you may need time to become accustomed to the pedal’s feedback before you can make refined stops.

After demonstrating its piercing acceleration and responsive handling on the track, the 570S proves civilized and comfortable during a long-distance drive on Portugal’s highways. It can consume miles as well as any grand tourer thanks to a surprisingly supple suspension system and a cabin that offers good visibility and an optional 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system. The test car is equipped with the optional snug-fitting carbon-fiber racing seats. On the track they deliver a delightfully tactile sensation of the road. You do not feel as strong a connection with the pavement when sitting in the standard seats, but they are cushier and more suited to long-distance and daily driving.

Open the 570S’s dihedral doors, which swing out and up as they do on every McLaren, and in the cabin you will see carbon-fiber trim that hints at the lightweight structure beneath the car’s aluminum body panels. The carbon-fiber MonoCell II chassis weighs only 165 pounds and is a major reason why the car is as light as it is. 

In addition to the good sight lines and superior sound system, the 570S’s cabin features a compact, vertically oriented multimedia touchscreen that appears to float above the area between the two seats. On the dashboard directly in front of you is a digital thin-film transistor instrument panel that displays what look like analog gauges and McLaren’s first turn-by-turn navigation system. The interior is lined with Alcantara and napa leather, which are available in a range of color and design combinations. The 570S also features McLaren’s first-ever vanity mirror, further signifying its identity as an everyday vehicle, not a supercar. 

The overall polish and engineering refinement make the 570S a more suitable daily driver than you might expect from a brand known primarily for its obsession with speed. The car’s balance of athleticism, technology, and drivability shows how rapidly McLaren has evolved in the five years since it launched the 12C in a purely performance-numbers-focused quest for supercar supremacy. With the 570S and the Sports Series, McLaren has homed in on other qualities that also matter to most drivers.  

McLaren Automotive, cars.mclaren.com

 

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