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Review of the 2018 McLaren 570S Spider

The McLaren name invariably evokes the ultra-exclusive world of Formula One. For many, what they know of the company begins and ends there: a company with a glorious F1 past, though now fallen on harder times as the orange-coloured team’s association with Honda produces only mediocre results.
 
For some, the McLaren name also brings to mind the 1990s, a period in which the small manufacturer decided to go after speed records for production cars, and succeeded, with a model it dubbed simply F1.  With its central driver’s cockpit (and two recessed seats), its gullwing doors, its centrally placed engine borrowed from BMW (a V12 heavily reworked by the British automaker’s engineers) and its sequential transmission, the McLaren F1 won over many fans despite its merely functional silhouette.

McLaren today
In recent years, McLaren has returned to the land of the exotic car, producing impressive machines like the MP4-12C, the 650S and the incredible P1, rated in the top class of supercars. You might even spot one on our roads nowadays, the manufacturer having established a foothold in the larger Canadian cities.

Of course, with a starting price hovering just under the $200,000 mark, the McLaren 570s is not what you’d call a bargain. Still, for those fans with means, this entry model into the brand’s lineup is certainly a more original option than a Porsche 911 Turbo S, Audi R8 or even a Lamborghini Huracan. In fact, these three remarkable models are all more popular than the creation of the McLaren team in Woking, England. So that makes the McLaren 570 S Spider a way to display your originality at the same time as you rediscover the joys of driving on a daily basis.

McLaren Canada invited me to discover these joys at the wheel of the 2018 570S Spider, a car that, by the way, is guaranteed not to fly under the radar, so to speak, no matter what corner of the planet you’re in. The temptation to see if this convertible delivers an ideal day of fun under the sun was too much to ignore.

A wide range of technologies
Entry-level model it may be, but the 570S features a range of technological features every bit as impressive as the other models in the McLaren lineup. From the chassis made entirely of carbon-fibre, with no need of reinforcement even without a roof, to the elytron doors, to the centrally mounted twin-turbo V8, the 570S Spider is a smorgasbord of advanced tech.

The Spider designation in the model’s name refers to the fact that the rigid roof can be folded down behind the passengers, in just 15 seconds. The 570S Spider also distinguishes itself from the coupe version with its slightly higher spoiler, the aerodynamics of the Spider being different from those of its hardtop sibling. Speaking of the roof, it adds 46 kg to the weight of the car, bringing total weight to 1,503 kg. This is about the same as a base model Hyundai Sonata, and it confers on the model a weight-power ratio of 2.7 kg per horsepower. This places it squarely in the average for its exotic-car category.  

The 3.8L twin-turbo V8 engine is the same found in all the recent models produced by the automaker, with the exception of the most recent 720S, but it has been adapted specifically for the Spider. In other words, McLaren can easily adjust the power delivered by its engine.  

$48,670 in options
The McLaren 570S Spider comes with a $247,500 starting price in Canada, but as is often the case in this rarified segment, the list of available options can easily inflate that above the $300,000 mark. The car used for this road test carried $48,670 in options. Here’s the breakdown: An exterior carbon fibre package ($4,290), interior carbon fibre package ($7,300), luxury package ($7,240), special paint finish ($1,900), sport exhaust system ($4,470), palladium-coloured roof ($2,900), McLaren Designer interior ($3,400), lightweight alloy wheels ($3,560), diamond-cut wheels ($2,050), special-coloured brake calipers ($1,210), clearance-raising system for the car ($1,700) – very practical when driving over rougher roads, I should point out – protective canvas ($610), lithium-ion battery charger ($250) and carbon fibre case ($7,610). This beings you to a grand total of… $296,170. Before transportation and preparation. Of all these goodies, the ground-clearance and sport exhaust systems and the lightweight alloy wheels are the essential ones for driving fans who plan on using the car often.

At the wheel… of a comfortable rocket!
My first drive in this exceptional car illustrated for me to what extent the manufacturer excels when it comes to its vehicles’ suspension elements. An exotic car is supposed to be hard on the driver's rear end, especially in a region with hard-scrabble road surfaces, like Quebec where I drove it. But the McLaren 570S Spider laughed off the road imperfections it encountered. Much as pushed the car (up to a certain limit), the car never faltered; even better, I returned home relaxed and soreness-free as if I had been at the wheel of a super-comfortable sedan.

Now don’t go thinking that this sports car is boring to drive. On the contrary, the McLaren 570S Spider is anything but ordinary to pilot. You can count on enjoying a happy blend of adrenaline, beautiful engine sounds, incredible road grip, sharp braking capacity, etc, etc. I could keep on dropping the superlatives!

The steering wheel of the 570S – probably one of the best I’ve ever gripped in my career – features carbon-fibre paddle shifters that grow on you with use. Driving position is easily adjustable, even if the positions of the knobs are a little odd. Best to keep your preferred seat setting in memory. All of the gearbox commands are located between the two seats; the small knobs allow for adjusting the interior temperature to suit your mood. Most impressive is that the Track mode is available for use on the road.

Though my time in this 570S Spider was somewhat limited, I was able to fully appreciate the sensations it delivers. When a car is fun to drive even at low speed, it means that fun only increases as you pick up the pace. As is the case with many high-end cars these days, the McLaren is almost disconcertingly easy to drive. The steering is highly responsive to the condition of the road, the gearbox shifts so quickly it’s impossible to follow, and the power delivered by the turbocharger is frankly incredible. It’s child play to cruise at 200 km/h in such a car. What’s more, even though it’s just a two-wheel drive, the 570S Spider never betrayed any weaknesses on the roads I travelled in it.

The last word
As I mentioned, time allowed by the manufacturer in vehicles of this sort is limited, so you’re left feeling kind of unsatiated at the end of the test drive. I would have liked to rack up, say, 1,000 km in it, and a few laps on a track would have been highly instructive regarding the capacities of this incredible car. Most modern cars are too powerful for everyday driving, and the McLaren 570S Spider probably falls into this category. Of course, I say that knowing full well that this exotic car could well serve as an everyday car for someone with the means to treat themselves to a daily dose of adrenaline!

I’d have to say that it would be worth it!