Test Drive: 2016 McLaren 570S

The McLaren 570S comes across as a racecar that wants to be a road car, whereas the others are road cars aspiring to go in the other direction.

So you’ve got a quarter-mil burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking for a “junior” supercar. Well, life just got a bit more complicated.

Top of list might be the blue-chip Porsche Turbo S that opens at $214,800 – 580-hp, all-wheel drive, blazing acceleration, seven-speed PDK dual-clutch, unassailable build along with near-luxury-car coddling. As a year-round supercar, you can’t do better. Plus it has back seats – sort of. But perhaps a tad too aloof? And soooo common…

If you need more flair, more edge and a wicked soundtrack, the second-generation $213,900 Audi R8 Plus could be the one. It’s now lighter, faster, handles better, has a terrific seven-speed dual-clutch 'box, and that epic over-square naturally aspirated 610 hp 5.2L V10 screams to 8,500 rpm. One of man’s greatest accomplishments.

And holy crap. You can get essentially the same car wrapped in the sexiest of Italian duds. It’s called the Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 and that will cost an additional 50 grand, give or take.

But wait. What’s that sound? It’s not real pretty but it sure means business. That would be the racy blare of the McLaren 570S, launching itself into this wafer-thin slice of the market with all the bona-fides you could ever hope for. And a starting price of $219,000.

The 570S checks all the boxes. Its mid-rear-mounted 3.8L twin-turbo V8 drives the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. 562 hp and 443 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm, thank you. Visual punch? It’s an erotically sculpted door-stop that drop-kicks all who gawk right into the middle of next week. Especially in this $4,530 optional screaming orange paint. And just to be sure, the 570S brags the most supercar-ish of affectations – scissor doors.

About the only thing the McLaren 570S lacks is weight. With its carbon-fibre tub and aluminum skin, it comes in at a paltry 1,446 kilograms. That’s about 170 kg less than the Porsche Turbo S, and boy, can you feel it. This car separates itself from the competition in a big way. The McLaren 570S comes across as a racecar that wants to be a road car, whereas the others are road cars aspiring to go in the other direction.

If this is your cup of tea, the tingling 570S will provide no end of thrills.

The "More Practical" Model: McLaren Announces the 570GT

The McLaren experience begins before you even fire up the engine. Doors swing up, people stare, and you glide in gracefully because you’ve been practicing. Supercar guys and gals do not whack their noggins on the door and groan while folding themselves over the car-fibre flying buttresses and into the terrifically snug and yes, comfortable Alcantara-trimmed sport seats. No, we’re just a little too cool for that.

Once ensconced, you’re dicking around with a set of obtuse seat adjustment buttons that live on the lower right corner of the chair. Hey, this car is British. Then it’s time to press the starter button.

Just about every car built since… oh, 1974 has an engine that catches pretty much the second the starter motor commences to spin. Not here. Whirrwhirrwhirrwhirrwhirr… blam! It makes you think there’s a guy in a fire suit behind, ramming a remote starter up your… oh, never mind. Is this clever and manipulative programming on the part of McLaren, or just the way this exotic rolls?

One could ask the same of the exhaust sound. Fitted with the optional and non-defeatable $4,210 Sport Exhaust (a must have) the 570S kicks out a nasty, guttural soundtrack that, when not parting your hair, says, “I’m a badass racecar, and I sound like this because I didn’t have a herd of engineers fussing over my aural signature. Take it or leave it.”

Of course, the 570S might sound like this precisely because there was a herd of exhaust-tuning engineers giving a rat's ass.

Either way, all this folds expertly into the McLaren’s character. The ride is choppy even in the Normal setting, and the cabin fills with engine and tire noise at speed. Unlike the seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions in the Porsche and Audi, the McLaren’s is not particularly happy negotiating stop-and-go traffic. The engine doesn’t like the dreary ordeal of city driving either. Those big turbos spell lag. Not much happens under 4,000 rpm, after which all hell breaks loose.

The 570S is a quivering bundle of energy that just wants to be let off its leash. And when you do that, it makes a whole lot of sense. Actually, it makes no sense – on public roads. I didn’t get anywhere near the limits of this car. Sure, I experienced a few wide-eyed blasts of vertigo-inducing acceleration and attacked a couple of on-/off-ramps at hyper-legal speeds, but most of my time was spent making noise while whipping up and down through the gears with the fabulous shift paddles – and getting stared at. Which in reality is how most 570S’s will spend their time.

Still, within the confines of legality, the 570S is thrilling. It’s incredibly agile, and the electro-hydraulic steering is a living, breathing entity that wriggles in your hands, constantly sending back detailed information on every aspect of your drive. This is a car that feels intimate, wrapping itself around you the more you get comfortable with it.

Ahead of the row of buttons on the console for gear selection, you’ll find two rotary switches – one for Handling, one for Powertrain – each with Normal, Sport and Track settings. I kept the handling in N and the powertrain in S – a combination that nicely balanced civility with the occasional anti-social blast.

The centre stack has a vertical touchscreen/nav interface that would get a “meh” in any other car. Here? Who cares. Gotta love the HVAC icon dude – he’s wearing a helmet. The Bowers and Wilkins audio (that I assume is part of the $6,750 Lux Pack) sounds great until the engine starts.

Up front there’s a good-sized trunk and behind the seats is a useful parcel shelf. There seems to be a decent amount of interior cubbies too.

This tester had about $34,000 in upgrades that included various interior and exterior carbon-fibre bits, special orange interior trim, lightweight forged wheels, coloured brake calipers, the aforementioned paint and sport exhaust, plus a front-end lift system.

Surprisingly, many people know a McLaren when they see one. At least here in the GTA. Perhaps the most memorable “McLaren spotting moment” happened when I was crawling my way down Queen Street in the Beaches neighbourhood. It was the annual Beaches Street Music Festival and I was playing in one of the dozens of bands lining the street. Looking for a place to unload my gear, a little boy no more than five holding his dad’s hand pointed at my orange apparition and blurted, “Is that a McLaren, Daddy?”

“Why don’t you ask him?”

So he did.

And I replied, “It sure is! Good eyes!”

The smile on the kid’s face was worth… oh, about a quarter of a million dollars.

Competitors:
Acura NSX
Audi R8 Plus
Ford GT
Lamborghini Huracán
Porsche 911 Turbo S
2016 McLaren 570S Coupe
articles_PricingType 2016 McLaren 570S Coupe
Base Price $219,750
Optional Equipment Lux Pack $6,750; elite paint $4,530; carbon-fibre door mirrors $1,900; carbon-fibre side intakes $2,750; Sport Exhaust $4,210; Stealth Exhaust $560; Designer Interior-Sport $3,260; carbon-fibre interior upgrade $3,240; 5-spoke lightweight forged wheels – silver finish $2,610; stealth wheel finish $1,450; special colour brake calipers $1160; vehicle lift $1,630; coloured seatbelts $509
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $6,990
Price as Tested $261,399
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.8
10 Exterior Styling
6 Comfort
9 Interior
5 Fuel Economy
9 Performance