The first thing I thought when I looked at this car, and its price, was that the McLaren 570S is Porsche-911-Turbo-S money. They’re both supercars, by any stretch of the definition; they both have top speeds of around 200 mph; but only one will make people on the expressway swarm you like angry bees taking photos and trying to race. It’s the McLaren, by the way.
The 570S starts at about $185K. The Turbo S, which Stoy just drove, starts at $188K. They say dramatically different things about you as a driver. If you want to quietly slip through traffic at well above the posted speed limit, not get harassed at gas stations and stoplights and use doors that open conventionally, get the Porsche. If you answered no, no and no, except for the well-above-the-posted-speed-limit part, then the McLaren is your ticket.
I wasn’t sure if this 570S had vertical doors or not, but I was glad it did when I saw the delivery driver hopping out in my driveway. Vertical doors, stock ones at least, are an early sign that whatever you’re driving is something special. The rear bodywork was hot with the engine cooking below, and even 30 minutes later I could still see the heat waves wafting out of the extractors.
The best way to get in to the 570S is to use the door handle, swing and lower yourself in, using the spring of the doors for balance. Getting the seat in the right position is nearly impossible, considering the buttons are on the right side of the bottom portion of the chair, sandwiched in between it and the center console. There are like 20 buttons down there, and I only figured out what a few of them did. I moved the seat forward and adjusted the back, but I couldn’t quite get everything where I needed it to be. A quick fix for that would be to display the buttons on the central screen when you touched them, so at least you’d have some sort of guide. I don’t even think you could see them if you went in head first. The suede buckets are sporty and shell-like, but I would like them a little tighter around the shoulders. A wider man may not need such things.
It’s not very spacious inside — I can touch the passenger side door without bending too much, but there is a ton of space for your elbows to fly around while driving. Both of the “armrests” are too low to use, but that’s probably fine because your hands should be on the steering wheel anyway.
Visibility is better than I expected through the rear window. The engine doesn’t block anything like the 4C, and there aren’t any braces crossing the glass. Backing out of a spot is a little tougher, though the rearview camera does a good job of giving you most of what you need.
The central control screen/radio seemed to work well; I plugged my iPod in, and it worked right away. I could get to climate, nav and media settings without a problem, and the stereo was loud enough, even with both windows down. There’s a weird speaker on top of the dash that throws me off, though. It looks like a microphone pointing at the passengers; I don’t get it. Maybe it’s a tweeter.
Like me, this car is angry when it wakes up. I got in this morning and thought for sure my neighbors were going to come out. It crackles first and settles into a medium C note, which is the same thing I said about the 675LT. I had to lift up the suspension to get out of my driveway, which is done with a little stalk on the column. It’s an extremely useful feature that every supercar should probably have. It automatically lowers when a certain speed is reached.
The gauge cluster has three different looks depending on what mode you’re in — sport, normal or track — each more aggressive than the last. Track mode gives you colored shift lights to keep an eye on as you’re paddling through the gears.
The 570S doesn’t take off like a rocket, like the GT-R or anything else less civilized. When you plant the throttle, it takes about three-quarters of a second to lock the clutch and go. It builds speed slowly for another quarter second, but then the turbos kick in and — whoosh! — you’re gone. Max power is at 7,400 rpm, and it feels like it. As long as you shift over about 4,000 rpm, the 570S has a waterfall of power, never slowing, never ending, until you reach the limit of your courage. Get it above 5,000 rpm and find a tunnel, it’s worth it. Some cars don’t goad the driver in to going fast; this is not one of those cars.
It feels like the same shifting logic as the 675LT, too. In normal mode, shifts are literally imperceptible from the seat of your pants. In sport, it’s a little harsher, and in track it gives you a little kick in the back. Upshifts are instant, downshifts take a split second and I wish there was a way to go from seventh to fourth, if necessary. Sometimes you have to paddle down three to get the momentum you’re looking for, say when a Z06 rolls up on you and you want to let him hear the V8 sing. You’re not going to race the Z06, because it’s a giant killer that’ll take all comers. But it doesn’t sound (or look) like a McLaren!
The brake discs can barely fit under the wheels — carbon ceramics are included — but the yellow calipers look sweet under the black wheels. Speaking of color, there was a gray 570S floating around, but it looks a little too plain to my eyes. I’m glad we got the red. Now back to those brakes. The pedal takes some effort to haul this thing down from speed, but once I got used to it, it was easy to modulate. The pedal was a little too close to the throttle, though; I kept hitting the gas with the right side of my foot when braking, so wear narrow shoes.
Steering is a little lighter than you might expect, and the suede-covered wheel is a little thin. But it’s quick, which is good, and with those Pirelli Corsa tires, I did find a good bit of feedback through my hands.
So at this base price point, exotic buyers are looking at the Audi R8, the Porsche 911 Turbo and maybe the Lamborghini Huracan. The Ferrari 488 starts about 50 grand more. All are enviable supercars and all are sickeningly fast. I don’t think any are offered with a manual transmission and only this McLaren and the 488 have rear-wheel drive. If that’s the deciding factor, and you can’t spring for that extra $50K, AND you like to be harangued at local gas stations, this car is for you. If not, get the Turbo and watch other drivers disappear into your rearview mirror.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
There aren’t many cars more anticipated than the new Acura NSX. Saying the old car had just a cult following would be doing a disservice to its rabid and massive fan base. Fanboys—still …
The McLaren 570S is distinct from anything else I can remember driving. It feels very deliberately engineered: rigid and immensely strong where it needs to be, yet still precise and delicate, like an airplane fuselage or an eggshell.
At the same time, there’s a V8 that, after you get over first gear tip-in lag, feels grunty and meaty. It’s pure muscle, routed to the ground through aggressive rear tires and controlled precisely — almost telepathically — by that slim steering wheel.
If there’s one thing about this car that sums up its singular sense of purpose, it’s the steering wheel. Save for the horn, there are no switches, dials or buttons on it. It’s just a steering wheel. You don’t even realize how rare that is until you see a wheel that’s stripped down to the basics.
In fact, the only other one I can think of right now is the Alfa Romeo 4C — a wonderfully focused, if somewhat raw car that, in its purity, actually reminds me a bit of this McLaren. (Note that even the MX-5 tacks cruise control, volume adjustments, etc. to the helm.)
Now, if there’s any automaker that could get away with putting switches galore on the wheel, it’s McLaren — it’s got the race history to justify the F1-inspired bells and whistles. You’ll find that stuff on the P1 GTR, and to a lesser extent, the P1.
But the 570S isn’t about smashing lap records. It’s about enjoying every drive you make in it, and, yes, putting on a show for passers-buy in the exotic tradition. It doesn’t have the most intuitive infotainment system on the planet, and there are very few driver convenience technologies on board — this car won’t try to keep you in your lane or massage your back or anything like that — but so what?
We can’t seem to resist the phrase “everyday supercar” for describing everything from the old Acura NSX to the new Lamborghini Huracan. I’m probably guilty of it, too. You’ll have to give up some of the fancy tech that comes with, say, the Audi R8 to enjoy the 570S, and it’s certainly not a comfy, borderline-practical tourer like the 911 Turbo.
But by not trying to do it all, the McLaren winds up carving out its own highly focused, enjoyably distinct niche. I’ll admit that I didn’t really know what McLaren’s purpose was in an increasingly crowded super-sportscar field; its boring numeric model system didn’t help. I’m a little closer to getting it now, and I think I’d rather have this than its comparably priced competitors.
–Graham Kozak, associate editor
Tooling around town for a night in a McLaren 570S, I thought about all the cars that are close to this in price — I think they’ve all been mentioned, but I’ll list them anyway: Porsche 911 Turbo S, Lamborghini Huracan, Acura NSX or an Audi R8. None of which are known to be particularly bad; in fact, I’m sure they’re all spectacular, which makes it a hard to throw down the cash it takes to drive home in this McLaren — until you take a seat inside it.
Sure, the seat controls aren’t intuitive at all, the media screen and navigation is poor at best and the outward visibility isn’t good either, but the overall experience you get in the McLaren makes you feel like you’re in some homologated race car. The sacrifice of creature comforts found in an Audi or Porsche made me feel like I was sneaking a race car away for a night of shenanigans downtown. The shriek of the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 only added to that.
The McLaren also looks more interesting than the competition, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. In a Porsche Turbo S, you’d be able to sneak around at warp speed AND get gas without having to talk to people about the doors. But if you are looking for attention, you’ll find it with the McLaren. Nearly every time I was stopped at an intersection, or was rolling around in traffic, people had their eyes fixed on the shiny red paint.
Driving around pothole-riddled Detroit, I learned that city driving is, sadly, best done with the nose in the lifted position. Sure, the car looks better when it’s slammed to the ground, but the risk of beaching yourself inside one of this city’s many bottomless holes isn’t worth the style points.
I think that if you’re trying to buy a $200,000 supercar, and want to make the biggest impression possible, this will do it. It might still lose to a Porsche 911 Turbo S on the track, but it’ll certainly stand out in a crowd at your local cars and coffee.
–Wesley Wren, associate editor
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $187,400
As Tested Price: $229,100
Drivetrain: 3.8-liter DOHC twin-turbocharged V8, RWD seven-speed DCT
Output: 562 hp @ 7,400 rpm; 443 lb-ft @ 5,000-6,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,256 lb
Fuel Economy: 16/23/19 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: Carbon fiber exterior upgrade pack ($9,380); carbon fiber roof ($9,000); lux pack ($6,530); carbon fiber interior upgrade ($6,220); vermillion red paint ($4,150); sports exhaust ($3,860); vehicle lift ($1,500); yellow calipers ($1,060)
Pros: Feels like a bolt, shot from a crossbow
Cons: Can’t be sneaky