McLaren’s magical open-top 570S Spider simply redefines the term ‘sportscar’, blogs Road Test Editor Howard Walker
We’re cruising for caffeine. Carmel, south of San Fran, down Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur. God’s driving road. Thirty-odd miles of serpentine twists and turns. Frothy Pacific to the right, towering rock faces to the left. We’ll be ready for that cappuccino on the deck at Nepenthe.
This should be a tourist sightseeing meander. Speedo stuck at 30, ready to dive into every scenic overlook. Ready to stop and gaze in awe at crashing waves and the marvel that’s the Bixby Bridge. Not today. PCH is our racetrack. We’re here to carve curves. Fast, open sweepers, pinch-tight rights and lefts. Nothing less than asphalt roller coaster ride with lumbering RVs and dawdling Dodges to act as rolling chicanes!
The stopwatch is ticking. Not to measure zero to 60s, but to count down three hours. That’s our time allocation to sample, to tame, to rein-in, one of the world’s most thrilling, most rewarding Supercars money can buy; the $211,300 McLaren 570S Spider. The car has already won more accolades than Game of Thrones at the Emmys. Accolades for its laser-precise handling, its slingshot performance, its single-minded focus on lightness and agility. Right here is arguably the most driver-focused convertible out there. It’s time to find out what this screaming projectile is all about.
Press a hidden button and the up swinging scissor door – ‘dihedral’ in McLaren-speak – hinges upwards. It’s a McLaren trademark that never fails to draw oooohs and aaarrrs from onlookers attracted to the car like moths to a flame. This is a low, low beast, so clambering in is never elegant. Yet dropping down into the beautifully form-fitting driver’s seat gives this instant feeling of entering a fighter-jet cockpit. Only the oddly positioned seat controls – they’re out of sight and near impossible to reach – detract from an otherwise brilliant design.
Now for the party piece. Toggle a center console switch and the two-piece composite top lifts, folds and disappears into a well behind the seats. Gone in 15 seconds. And at speeds up to 25 mph. Mechanical ballet at its finest. But enough with the features, the clock is ticking. It’s time to play. Prod the start button, listen to the raw snarl of the 570’s mid-mounted 562-horsepower twin-turbo V8 as it ignites, hit D-for-drive and ease away.
Instantly you are aware of the car’s incredible lightness; at around 3,000 pounds, there are supermodels that weigh more! With every squeeze of the throttle, the car surges forward like a greyhound from a trap.
Turn on to Highway 1 – the PCH – and as soon as you leave Carmel’s beachfront ‘burbs, the road opens up with an arrow-straight stretch. Pull back on the paddle shifter, floor the gas, and feel this tumultuous forward thrust. Thrust that can lunge you from standstill to 60 mph in three seconds flat, and on to a top speed of 204 mph. Thrust that can knock the air out of your lungs!
And oh the noise. It’s not obnoxious Lamborghini-loud. Here it’s a deep, urgent, intense howl made even more thrilling by having the top open and the windows lowered. The first series of fast curves will have you grinning like a hyena as you discover the sheer brilliance of the McLaren’s steering. It’s old-school hydraulic-assist rather then modern-day electric. But the sheer level of feedback, the perfect weighting, and the astonishing precision is undoubtedly this car’s greatest attribute.
As PCH snakes southwards, clinging to the cliff-face, soaring and diving like some asphalt Space Mountain, the 570S at speed transcends into this magical machine that knows nothing of understeer or oversteer. Just grip and precision, poise and balance. Plus insane performance. There’s true go-kart agility here. Through one demonic set of pinch-tight turns, approached at speeds way above my skill set, the McLaren never flinches, firing through as if running on invisible rails. We arrive at the legendary cliff-top coffee shop that’s Nepenthe, heart racing, breathless with excitement. I felt that I’d just driven something that redefines the very term sportscar, and moves the road-car handling needle off the chart.
Perhaps I’ll skip the caffeine. No supplementary stimulants needed here!
For everything you need to know about McLaren’s drop-top Supercar, including how to have one built for you, please visithttps://cars.mclaren.com/sports-series/570s-spider