A few years ago (2014), the partnership between Mercedes and McLaren that gloriously produced the Mercedes SLR McLaren came to an end. There have been mixed results.
On the racetrack, Mercedes definitely stepped it up a notch in F1, as you all know, whereas McLaren is still struggling (chiefly because of the Honda engine). When it comes to road cars however, things are a little different. I’ll be frank, I’m writing this on a train that’s been delayed by 45 minutes and that’s probably the reason why I want to cut to the quick:
the McLaren 570s spider is fabulous and the McLaren 720s is astonishing.
McLaren 570s Spider
So there’s a Serbian girl and an Italian guy and an orange spider from Surrey… It starts out in Modena, which is where most motoring tales take place. I’m here because I have to pick up Serbian Girl (she lives in Modena) who’s coming with me today. She’s coming with me because I asked her to. Serbian Girl is running late, spectacularly late. “Should I wear heels or sneakers?” “Well, I think that…” “Jeans or a skirt?” “Well, you see, I think…” “I’m gonna go for sneakers.” “Yeah, absolutely. You look..” “No, I changed my mind.” “No problem, heels are…” “Skirt?” “Sure, whatever makes…”
I guess you can imagine the rest of the conversation. It went on like this for about an hour. By which time we were really late. Now I don’t normally like to rush people but I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of the orange car from Surrey. When we reach the location for the press preview, Palazzo Varignana in the hills around Bologna, she immediately went for a glass of prosecco. And I immediately went for the orange car.
“I want the orange one” I said. “We also have…”
“I want the orange one” I said again. After which point, Serbian Girl was having her second glass of prosecco.
The car you see here is the brand new McLaren 570s spider and while the numbers tell you a fraction of the story, they don’t tell you the truth in its entirety. What it has, it has a 3,8 L V8 with 562 hp (570 PS, hence the name); what it does, it does 0-60 in 3,2 seconds and 204 mph (with the roof up). What it is, however, it is a blast. It’s alive. It’s an animal. I’m nearly stationary, barely moving at all waiting for the gate of Palazzo Varignana to open and the car rattles and shakes and gurgles. Bang and clang, it’s all over the place. In a good way. It feels like it’s telling you it wants to go. Like a very angry and eager dog that wants to play. “Now? Is it now? Are we going now? I wanna go. Let’s go”
Some cars feel like they wanna kill you, some feel like they like you but this is the first car I’ve ever driven that feels like it’s poking you. It’s wearing a constant expression that says “so what now?”. It’s hilarious.
And Serbian Girl liked it. “I’m glad you picked up the orange one”, she said. And because she wasn’t going to drive, she got another glass of prosecco.
Palazzo Varignana, Bologna, October 2017
It is a big car. Well, it isn’t a big car but it feels like it’s wider and longer and shorter than it actually is. Like a hunkered down black tiger that’s waiting on a signal to eat you. But it wears a funny expression, or whatever the automotive equivalent. The shape of its front grill and lights make it look like it’s smiling. It looks like an Alpaca. It brightens your day.
But then it would do that because the 720S has a 4L twin-turbo V8 with 720 ps. It’s a rocket. It’s as aggressive as a tiger and as fast as cheetah. Yet it feels more civilized than the 570s. Where the 570s is an attack dog, this is an ocelot. It can be quick and dangerous, but you just get the feeling that it chooses the moments when it can do that, when it won’t do that, and when it wants you to go fast.
The real issue with the McLaren 720s is that, while it is very easy to drive at normal speed in your daily life, there’s no getting away from the fact that this car is too quick. On the motorway, you barely give it some throttle and the car fast-forwards and world becomes blurry. It is easy, smooth, effortlessly quick. You’ll end up overtaking other cars on the road without even trying.
Milano, November 2017
The 720s is the perfect car to take you from the silver platters at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris to the racetrack at Silverstone. The 570s, is the car you want to drive on the track when you’re there.
words & photo credit: Ale Renesis