McLaren 570S first drive review
The 570S sees McLaren taking on the best of the sports car market, most notably, the Porsche 911. Can it compete?
First published: 14th October 2015
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Auto Trader verdict:
The 570S is a bit less technologically sophisticated than McLaren’s other models, but it’s no less enjoyable. The handling is sensational, the ride is comfortable and the engine delivers truly blistering pace. Chuck in the appealing interior and looks that are more exotic than the pricetag suggests, and you have a very tempting sports car package.
Need to know:
- First offering in McLaren’s new (more affordable) Sports car series
- 3.8-litre V8 developing 562bhp, 0-62mph in 3.2 sec
- On sale now starting at £143,250
What is it?
An all-new sports coupe that’s the first in a new family of more affordable McLaren models. You see, as of now, McLaren’s cars will be available in three flavours; the Ultimate Series at the top of the scale (P1, P1 GTR), the Super Series in the middle (650S, 650S Spider, 675LT), and the Sports Series at the bottom. That’s where the 570S sits.
Later on, the Sports Series will be expanded to also contain a lower-powered version of the Coupe called the 540C, plus a Spider version and another mystery bodystyle that McLaren won’t yet let us in on. While these cars might be cheaper than the firm’s other offerings, McLaren promises that the Sports Series will still provide all the driving pleasure that its demanding customers expect.
Of course, the word ‘cheaper’ is relative, especially when you’re talking about a McLaren. The 570S starts at a little over £140,000, making it a rival for cars like the Porsche 911 Turbo S and the Audi R8 V10 Plus.
What is it like?
Well, it’s an entirely different beast to the other McLarens we’ve driven. Central to this is the fact that the 570S doesn’t have as much technological wizardry as more exotic McLarens. For instance, it has conventional anti-roll bars rather than the hydraulic system found on the 650S that acts as a substitute; and it does without the clever active aerodynamics system that automatically moves the rear wing around to maximize downforce in a variety of driving situations. Part of this is down to cost, but it’s also due to McLaren’s design philosophy for the Sports Series, which is more about the engagement and sensation you get from the car, rather than maximising speed and trimming lap times.
What the 570S does have, though, is a reworked version of the carbon fibre tub that underpins all McLaren road cars, to maximize both lightness and stiffness. It also has a neutrally balanced rear-drive, mid-engined layout, adaptive dampers that harden up or soften off depending on the suspension mode you select, and a fettled version of the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 found in the 650S, dialled down to give 562bhp and 443lb ft of torque. It all adds up to a very special experience, despite the absence of a few technological gizmos.
First of all, it’s very, very fast. The 0-62mph time of 3.2 seconds is only a fraction behind that of the 650S, and identical to that of the Lamborghini Huracan, a car that costs around £40,000 more than the 570S. Thankfully, the engine is actually quite docile and manageable at low speeds, making the car easy to drive smoothly, but crank the revs up into the middle of the range and beyond, and the engine starts to become more and more ferocious. By the time you hit the redline, you’re absolutely screaming along, and then you tug on the upshift paddle - which delivers a satisfying metallic click - and you repeat the same process over and over again until one of two things happens: either circumstances dictate that you have to lift out of it, or, you keep going until the car tops out at its maximum speed of 204mph.
The transmission, too, is a joy to operate. The fully-automatic shifts are quick and smooth in Normal mode, but select a sportier setting, and the gearbox holds lower gears for longer and makes the changes feel more aggressive. The ‘box also does a brilliant job of selecting the right gear for the job at hand, and when you take over cog-swapping duties yourself by using the paddles, you feel in even greater control of the car.
So far, then, so McLaren, and the same is true with many aspects of the handling. The lightness of the car makes it feel very agile and pointy when changing direction, and the rock-solid body control, along with the super-fast responses you get from the controls, also contributes to the car’s nimble, darty nature.
It's nevertheless true, however, that the 570S has a character all of its own, despite the fact it displays all these classic McLaren traits, and it’s mostly down to the amount of grip that’s available. The absence of that trickery, along with a narrower set of tyres, means that there’s quite a bit less than many McLaren drivers will be used to.
Now, believe us, that’s no bad thing. Granted, it does mean that you can’t pound around corners at the same break-neck speed, with the same unshakeable faith that the car will stick. But, it also means you’re able to explore the limits of grip at far lower speeds, and at the same time, enjoy the benefits of that wonderfully balanced chassis, and maybe provoke the odd bit of tail-happy naughtiness.
The steering is the other big difference-maker. It feels much quicker than that of other McLarens, both to react and to turn, and this adds an extra element of freneticism and excitement to the handling. It could perhaps do with providing a shade more feedback, but there’s enough to keep you feeling on top of the action, and it’s perfectly weighted.
Despite all this ability in the corners, the 570S also delivers an impressively smooth ride. Whether you’re plodding along battered urban streets or pelting along the motorways, there’s enough compliance in the suspension to keep you comfortable and relaxed. The 570S is a surprisingly refined car, too, which allows it to play the role of grand tourer very effectively when the need arises.
It’s not just on the road where the 570 impresses, either. The glamourous styling makes it look (to our eye, at least) like a much more expensive and exotic car than it is, and that on its own will be enough to persuade many prospective buyers to sign on the dotted line. The interior is also much more imaginatively styled than other McLarens, and with lush-feeling materials and a vast choice of colours and finishes, the cabin is a very pleasant place to sit.
Visibility is also incredibly good for a car like this, with a clear view all around. And, while the portrait-oriented touch-screen infotainment system isn’t the most polished you’ll ever encounter, ergonomics are generally pretty good, with a simple and uncluttered dashboard layout.
There’s generous space surrounding the two impressively supportive seats, and a large storage shelf behind them, along with various cubbies and cupholders dotted around the cabin. Just as well, really, as you won’t fit much in the small 144-litre luggage space located under the bonnet.
Should I buy one?
With the comparatively attainable price tag of the 570S, more people will have more chance of achieving McLaren ownership than ever before. And, if you’re one of the lucky people who have this amount of money to spend on a car, then you should definitely give the 570S some serious thought. It’s a wonderful car that’s deeply impressive to drive, easy to live with and, compared with rival sports cars of equivalent power, reasonably affordable to buy and run.
Is it the finest car of its type? Is it a match for the most powerful versions of the Audi R8 and Porsche 911? Well, we wouldn’t like to say until we’ve tried the lot of them back-to-back, but it’s definitely in with a big, big shout. We love it, and if you can afford one, we know you will, too.
- Model: McLaren 570S Coupe
- Price: £143,250
- Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo petrol, seven-speed twin-clutch
- Power/Torque: 562bhp/443lb ft
- 0-62mph: 3.2secs
- Top speed: 204mph
- Economy: 26.6mpg
- CO2/BIK tax liability: 249g/km/37%
- Boot space: 144 litres
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