A rarely considered similarity between hypercars: poor or nonexistent configurators. The Ferrari LaFerrari configurator let you choose between three colors. Bugatti once let you change the colors and wheels on the Chiron, but no more. McLaren didn’t bother with a configurator for the P1. Only the digital playground built for the Porsche 918 Spyder bucked the trend. That’s likely because as soon as an MSRP requires two commas, shoppers become “clients,” and clients deserve hosts in Hermès to help them navigate the party. No supercar better demonstrates this trend than the McLaren Senna. And, it just so happens, McLaren invited Autoblog to Beverly hills to roleplay as one of the 15 LA-area residents who bought Sennas. I’d be assisted in the act by two MSO Bespoke Liaison Managers – Katie Newell and Emily Monk – who were on an international jaunt shepherding actual buyers through the process.
MSO doesn’t send the duo on global tour dates for every offering, only the limited, special ones. When I asked what the personal service accomplishes, McLaren said, “The benefit of working directly with a MSO Bespoke Liaison Manager to spec your car is that they are deeply familiar with the ins and outs of the vehicle, and understand how different fit, finishes and options will interact together. They also understand what is feasible from an engineering, manufacturing and paint perspective given the years of experience they have building P1, 720S, etc.” Boiled down, that means institutional knowledge, and they also know when to propose curbing your egregious enthusiasms. There will be no whale penis leather here, thank you, now let’s move on.
Ultimately, a configurator is a configurator – the mechanics of selection and dialogue boxes apply equally to cars, dress shirts, and pizza. The difference with the Senna is in having oh-so-many-more dialogue boxes, as well as two Ye Olde Worlde assistants, champagne, and petits-fours. And this comes before one casts about for unique electives. I heard a client from a previous car sent half a hair dryer to be color-matched – just the kind of fantastic eccentricity I expect from the word “bespoke”.
An MSO briefcase on the table in front of me provided abundant starting points: exterior paint swatches, carbon fiber colors, stitch types and thread colors, laser-etched accelerator pedals, different finishes for the rather large key, a sample of the 24-carat gold engine bay heat shield. The configurator explodes the magnitude of choice, presenting 15 menus, each commanding a multitude of possibilities for component particulars such as exterior paint, stripe patterns, wheel lock nut color, aero blade finish, and rear wing end plate color. After that come 21 “Yes/No” options for items such as a fire extinguisher, MSO Push-to-Drink system, parking sensors, and floor mats. McLaren said the process usually takes about 1.5 hours, yet that must represent an average of extremes; analysis paralysis is real, so you either go in knowing what you want, or you spend four hours making love to six different shades of periwinkle.
I normally buy black cars with black interiors, a routine I’d have been happy to maintain with the high-tech Erector Set Senna. I’m not alone: of the 11 Sennas seen on the road as of writing, ten of them wore dark, solid colors.
But where’s the client roleplay in that? I swung for deep left, asking if I could get an ochre-like exterior paint. The configurator didn’t have that, but naturally I could have ordered it. I then requested the red carbon fiber body, but the screen made the red look purple, and I wasn’t ready to put my name on a purple Senna. I ended up with Silica White, offset by one of the five available stripe patterns in Amazon Colorstream, a lustrous, chromatic turquoise-y hue that changes with the light. Emily told me she didn’t think anyone had specced stripes in a Colorstream finish, which I took as configurator victory. Wheel lock nuts in Amazon Colourstream secured Graphite Grey Ultra-Lightweight nine-spoke alloys, with Fistral Blue brake calipers behind.
Except for the McLaren Orange three-point seatbelt and six-point harness, I held back on the inside. Even on the giant screen, the cabin appeared so intimate, and there were so many trim pieces available to color, that the aesthetic could quickly veer into Skittles. That meant Carbon Black Alcantara throughout with clear satin carbon fiber accents. Clear Gorilla Glass for door uppers and lowers and the rear bulkhead, and door struts in Amazon Colorstream, would forestall any dungeon sensations. I opted for the Super-Lightweight Carbon Fiber Race Seats, in the Touring size for my American hips. And I splurged on an adjustable passenger seat, because of course. I chose the Owner’s Manual and System Language in U.K. English, because I’m posh. I said yes to every other option, like air conditioning and the seven-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio, because fantasy configurator money never runs out.
Including all of my questions, the process took just over an hour. If I were a real client, though, I know I’d still be there, stuck in protracted philosophical debates as to which of the 12 tints of black best expressed my élan. My advice to any future clients: even if you know what you want, bring lunch.