Does It Make Up For Its Previous Shortcomings?
If you’re shopping in the world of supercars, boy, do you have some difficult decisions to make. Between gasoline-powered options, hybrid variants benefitting from battery assistance and full on electrically powered vehicles coming to market, there are an awful lot of choices.
I feel confident though that if you’re seeking the certain experience that gets your blood pumping, you’ll want something that leans towards the pure side of the spectrum. An auto that’s connected to the road is vocal and gives you full control to determine your experience.
Having had the chance to drive some of the world’s most insane products, there’s no question in my mind that U.K.-based McLaren delivers a certain “X” factor that isn’t being replicated across the usual suspects – Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. And although its vehicles have been critiqued as being a bit too clinical and lacking emotion, I took an opportunity to sample its latest addition to the Sport Series portfolio, the 570S Spider.
Having limitless headroom in a supercar certainly dials up the fun factor. But, is it enough?
Upon taking delivery of the 570S Spider, I was confronted with the awfully familiar design. When the car first debuted in New York to the world, frankly, I wasn’t in love with it. Fast-forward a couple of years and now I am appreciating its proportions, integrated vents as well as small details like its side view mirrors.
While it can’t be said for most convertibles, one thing I noticed – once I put the roof down and observed it from all angles – is that the 570S Spider is one of those rare instances where the drop top looks better than the coupe. Why? I believe it all comes down to the roof’s buttresses whose lines flow into the long rear decklid. Bonus points for that that nifty kink provided by the integrated rear spoiler. It just looks…right.
Upon opening the 570S’ dihedral doors, you’re welcomed into the rather minimalist cabin. Everything of the utmost importance for a driver is located in the vehicle’s gauge cluster, which includes your tire pressures and temperatures at each corner. McLaren is sending us a clear message: Serious drivers only need apply.
If you’re looking for a bit of spiciness, you’ll note the switches that control the McLaren’s driving dynamics are located beneath the portrait-oriented infotainment screen in the center console. For both Handling and Powertrain, you’re provided three options: Normal, Sport and Track. Unless I was driving in Manhattan, I always had the switches dialed to Track mode. That’s because I always wanted the 570S at its most lively. There’s something neat and a bit fighter pilot-like when you push the Activate button. That’s when things get exciting. You feel the 570S firm up, the exhaust gets a bit chattier and your instrument panel changes to a race car-inspired cluster. In other words, you know damn well you’re not just driving a sports car any more.
But here’s the impressive bit. It’s easy for a sports car to feel very dialed in; however, it’s difficult for a supercar to also remain comfortable. And, the McLaren manages. With the vehicle dialed to its most relaxed settings (e.g., Normal mode), it handles New Jersey and New York’s worst roads with poise. Although it’s certainly not as luxurious as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class – no sports car is – it is very impressive when compared to its competition in form of the Ferrari California T and Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet. Bumps are not overtly jarring and, overall, the 570S feels solid.
I attribute this to the 570S’ carbon fiber tub construction as well as thoughtful suspension engineering by the McLaren team. While the aforementioned vehicles have squeaky tops and groan when angling into steep driveways, the McLaren feels as though its machined from a solid block of metal. That’s a reassuring feeling you want to have as you explore triple digit territory.
This speaks to a bigger point: Each McLaren I drive feels better built than the last one I piloted. It’s clear that the automaker is really buttoning up its build quality from when I first drove a 650S Spider several years ago. That felt more like a kit car. The 570S Spider, on the other hand, feels more like a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. This is a very welcome finding.
Let’s get serious though. How does one of the latest McLarens perform?
Equipped with a 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V8 motor, the 570S Spider produces 562 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque. All of this grunt is sent to the rear wheels. Coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, shifts happen in a speedy fashion as you’re rocketed to 60 mph in just over three seconds. It helps that the Spider weighs about a feather over 3,300 pounds wet. Although it boasts a massively quick acceleration time, it doesn’t feel that dramatic or squirrelly. Everything happens in a surprisingly controlled fashion.
Personally, I find the best part of the 570S Spider is how it handles. Thanks to that carbon fiber tub construction, it is rigid and taut as you work your way through twisties. Rather than feel compromised because the roof has been removed, it feels equally as good as the coupe as you change direction and feed the “go” pedal.
There is neither scuttle shake nor off-putting vibrations through the chassis. Well, aside from when you come to a stop and you feel the V8 pulsing through the cabin. It feels alive and it reminds you that you’re not in something…ordinary.
Armed with plenty of grip and a low center of gravity, as a driver you feel very confident pushing the boundaries of the McLaren. When you exceed your talent it doesn’t bite your hand off either. You simply course correct and you continue to motor on. Surprisingly, it’s playful, which is not something you can say about other cars of this caliber.
Helping provide this grade “A” handling is the 570S’ steering setup. McLaren is right up there with the best of them. This is because the manufacturer decided to leverage a hydraulic steering rack rather than go electric. This translates into a car that provides drivers with feedback, something that’s long gone even in today’s latest supercars.
Having a communicative experience with a sports car is a rarity today. Because I feel more comfortable putting the McLaren through an apex at speed, it equates to more fun. Simply put, there’s a certain purity here that makes the 570S Spider stand out from the pack.
To me, it’s one of today’s top five handling cars. That’s not an easy accomplishment to attain.
And being that this is the drop-top, it is the most fun Sport Series vehicle. While the Sport Exhaust could sound better, it’s still far more enjoyable to put the hardtop down and blast around country roads. Because of McLaren’s engineering prowess, there’s zero penalty for selecting the Spider over the coupe or GT.
Well, except for price. Then again, it’s only money.
By Richard Posluszny