When I was a kid, which wasn’t that long ago, the top speed of cars was important. That’s how we ranked them and that’s how we established whether they were quick or not. A 200 kph car was quick, a 250 kph car was an event, a 300 kph car was incredible.
The way engines are built has changed drastically over the years which also had an effect on performance because when it comes to modern cars, it isn’t the top speed that impresses the most, it’s the way speed is built.
Many cars can do 0-60 in less than 8 or 9 seconds these days but it’s how they keep on going once they’re past 60 that matters. The same can be said for the top speed because 200 kph is good, but it is only ever relevant if the car can get to 200 kph within this century.
This brings me on to the McLaren 570S spider, which does 0-60 in 3.2 seconds and it keeps on going all the way to 328 kph (203 mph). And that’s impressive, but not as impressive, in my opinion, as the 0-200 kph time because getting from standstill to 200 kph, which is 124 mph, only takes 9.6 seconds.
When you stomp your right foot on the throttle and floor it, physics happen, and you’re shot forward with the sort of inexorability you expect from a bullet. It accelerates, and then some more, and then some more, and then you get past 5,000 rpm and that’s where the 562 bhp really get down to business. The outside world shrinks as you’re powered forward.
The McLaren 570S Spider is the convertible version, which is actually a “targa”, of the 570, which is part of the Sport Series line-up. It has a retractable roof which takes about 15 seconds to fold back behind your shoulders, and you can do that up to 40 kph.
The 570S spider is relatively light (kerb weight is under 1.5 tons) because the engineers at McLaren have gone to extreme lengths to drop some weight. It has the same carbon fibre monocell as the coupe version which meant that no significant re-engineering for the folding roof mechanism was required. This also has a positive effect on the way it drives because there are no significant structural differences and so this feels like a coupe.
The 570s has a 3.8 L twin-turbo V8 with 570 ps (hence the name) and 600 nm of torque, coupled with a 7-speed gearbox. This is definitely a track weapon but you can use it as a grand tourer. There are three different settings for handling, throttle and brake response. You’ve got normal, sport and track. When you choose a different setting, the car electronically adjusts the throttle response time and it stiffens up the suspensions. If you put it in track mode, the styling of the speedometer changes and, this is important, the car gives you more information about its tyres and fuel consumption. In normal and sport mode the fuel range is indicated in km, just like it is in most cars these days, whereas when you select track mode, you’ll see the remaining percentage of fuel capacity. It will also show you the tyre pressure and tyre temperature for each individual wheel, which is a useful if you’re on a racetrack, and a cool party trick if you’re not.
There’s something else, too. It has launch control, which is great if you want to experience time travelling. It blurs everything around you but don’t worry, because the 570S Spider also has carbon ceramic brakes as standard, with 6-piston calipers at the front and 4-piston at the back, which means that the Spider will go from 100 kph to a complete standstill in just 32 metres.
This car wasn’t designed with urban environments in mind but even so, it copes rather brilliantly with everyday traffic. It is easy to see out of, which can always be tricky in cars like this, and it has a lot of features which can help you deal with the hustle and bustle like hill hold assist, for examples, a rear view camera, which I’m afraid is unrenounceable, and parking sensors. Parking sensors, by the way, are sort of leaning on the side of paranoia but I guess it’s better to err on the side of caution.
The only real issue is the ride height. There’s a lever on left side of the steering wheel to adjust suspensions, raising and lowering the front ride height to clear speed bumps but even so, this is a car you need to drive with caution. Especially when negotiating with speed bumps and the likes, and especially in certain countries where the condition of the road surface isn’t great.
The racing seats are covered with leather but they’re made of carbon fibre, and so is the steering wheel, which is clothed with Alcantara instead of leather to keep the weight down. There’s a 7” touchscreen with iPod/iPhone integration, DAB and which can also be used to set the sat-nav and climate control and all the usual stuff you’d expect from any modern luxury car. The seats are electronically adjusted and seat positions can be stored in memory so you won’t have to do it every time.
The car is beautiful, that’s easy to see, it looks astonishing in this Volcano Orange paint with the all carbon fibre bits and bobs. It draws a lot of attention, and I’ll leave you to judge whether that’s a good thing or not, but it’s amazing when kids come and ask whether they can take a picture of the car with sparkling eyes. Everyone loves it. It costs €214,450 which is a lot of money in absolute terms, but good value considering the amount of engineering work behind it. It is easier to see out of than I figured it would be and, this is important, it has incredible fuel consumption figures. I know the average 570S buyer won’t care but still, I’ve had for four days and used it for about 1400 km and managed 11 km/l (31 mpg imperial or 25 mpg US). And that’s astonishing for a car of this sort.
Supercar makers like to reiterate how you can use their cars on a daily basis and this is one of the cases where this is actually true.
I even called the most fearsome critic I know to be the judge: my dog. He seems happy.
ph credit: Ale Renesis
with thanks to McLaren Milano
this article was previously published on my tribe on Drive Tribe, Game Changers