Spider has a 46kg weight premium compared to 720S, roof takes only 15 seconds to open or close

Spider has a 46kg weight premium compared to 720S, roof takes only 15 seconds to open or close

The Sports Series is McLaren Automotive's best selling model line, with some 2,500 units of its 540 and 570 cars due to be built this year. The latest, the 570S Spider, expands the range to three body styles.

McLaren continues to plough fully one quarter of its turnover into R&D, an extraordinarily high number.

After just six years of existence (MP4 12C production began in May 2011), McLaren Automotive claims to now be not only tidily profitable but far more importantly, self-funding. It continues to plough fully one quarter of its turnover into R&D, an extraordinarily high number, especially for a firm which outsources major parts of its cars, such as carbon fibre monocell and monocage chassis, as well as engines and gearboxes.

Commencing in 2019, chassis will no longer be supplied by Carbo Tech's Salzburg plant in Austria. Instead, monocells will be made at the McLaren Automotive Components Technology Centre. This is an an under-construction facility based close to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Sheffield. The company says it remains very happy with its supplier but the deal was for eight years and it ends in 2019. McLaren Automotive also wishes to have complete control over all aspects of this vital component.

At a recent media event, I had the opportunity to drive the new Spider version of the 570S, the price of which starts at GBP164,750 before options. Adding even some of these can easily make this a close to GBP200,000 car. A tracking system is GBP640, the Luxury Pack is an eye-watering GBP7,280 (heated and eight-way electrically adjustable sports seats [six-way ones are standard], electric adjustment for the steering column, branded floor mats, soft-closing doors and a 12-speaker B&W audio system), and the car I drove had GBP3,560 worth of 'elite' paintwork.

Should you feel the need for parking sensors, these are part of a Security Pack. Which costs GBP4,090.

You can go crazy and add a sports exhaust (GBP3,370) or have the folding roof painted in 'Dark Palladium' instead of body colour and that's a further GBP2,190. Or how about GBP2,690 for 10-spoke alloy wheels? Want them with a diamond-cut finish? Of course. They're a snip at a mere GBP1,550. Should you feel the need for parking sensors, these are part of a Security Pack. Which costs GBP4,090.

The acceleration is Tesla-quick (0-62mph in 3.2 seconds) and the top speed is claimed to be 204mph, which is 328km/h. Just as impressive is the stated braking distance from 200km/h to a dead stop which is 130m thanks to carbon-ceramic pads and discs.

Surprisingly, weight is more than I had been expecting, at 1,486kg DIN, as the car is fairly compact at a mere 4,530mm long. Call it Qashqai-sized. It's a bit lower to the ground, mind, at only 1,202mm high.

Those dihedral doors are easy to pull down once you've placed your legs in and swung your posterior into place. The steering wheel is tiny and lovely to hold and there is not one button on it. Many of the controls are dark plastic press on-press off switches positioned between the seats, or else on the dashboard behind the wheel. That's where you'll find the automatic parking brake, for example. Nothing is intimidating and if you've driven, say, an Audi R8 or Porsche 911 it feels sort of familiar in that you're low to the ground but without any feeling of vulnerability from trucks or SUVs.

What does take time to get used to is the attention that the 570S creates. There would never be a quick trip to a filling station.

What does take time to get used to is the attention that the 570S creates. There would never be a quick trip to a filling station. You'd be earning loads of Nectar or Tesco points too, with the Urban average as low as 16.6mpg, although Combined is 26.6mpg. Call it low twenties using the car day to day. The official CO2 output is 249g/km.

The test route, which lasted about an hour, sent me around the Cotswolds from a base near Tetbury. In 30mph zones the 570S was perfectly quiet but floor the throttle on a couple of wonderfully long, straight sections of the Fosse Way and the turbo V8 would willingly spin up towards 8,000rpm. Maximum power is developed at 7,500rpm, by the way.

There is absolutely no play in the steering but the downside is that on Britain's criminally neglected A roads and B roads, bumpy, clapped-out tarmac feeds back into your fingers. It certainly does keep you alert, even in Normal, the softest of three suspension settings. I'm just not so sure I would want to take this car to the top of Scotland and back. Having said that, it is exciting and yet I wanted more noise. Lowering the electric back window with the roof up didn't do much, and roof down there is a disappointing lack of, scream, rumble or snap-crackle-pop. And the press review car was fitted with that optional exhaust system mentioned above. Different modes were tried; none allowed anything like the drama of a Jaguar F-TYPE SVR. Maybe McLaren wants to persuade buyers who like a thumping V8 soundtrack that they may need to step up to the 4.0-litre 720S. It's a gloriously smooth engine and the seven-speed dual clutch transmission matches revs perfectly up or down the range.

Ultimately, this car is almost too fast for roads in the south of Britain.

Ultimately, this car is almost too fast for roads in the south of Britain where you rarely find an empty one. The overtaking ability of the 570S Spider is devastating although being so low, it can be tricky to see past trucks and buses until you learn to hang back and be ready to surge out and past and in.

Is the 570S Spider worth the money? The company says ordering one today in the UK means March delivery so there are clearly plenty of people out there who want one. It certainly looks fantastic and most onlookers know what it is. Well they're aware that it's a McLaren but the Sports and Super Series names are a tad confusing even to enthusiasts. Better to say it's a 570S Spider and mention that the number is the engine's power in PS. And hope that they don't reply with "couldn't quite stretch to a 720S eh mate?".

What's coming next?

There are some obvious derivatives missing from the second generation Super Series. Expect a 720S Spider and potentially a GT too. This would have the same style of side-hinged or as McLaren calls it, a 'grand piano' opening. We might also see some cars with less power and a lower price: 680S? 690S?

An additional model is due to be revealed to potential buyers later in 2017. It will be positioned in the model range above the Sports Series and Super Series but below the GBP1.6m 'BP23'. The model name is not yet known; only the P15 project code. Some have claimed that power will be up to 800PS.

McLaren released this information to the media in October:

To be publicly revealed in the first quarter of 2018, it will be delivered ahead of a second future Ultimate Series model codenamed BP23 which aims to be the world's first Hyper-GT. As members of the McLaren Ultimate Series, both will be produced in very limited numbers and all examples are already assigned. Ultimate Series models are positioned above McLaren's core Super Series and have a distinct focus. Previous examples of the Series include the McLaren P1 and McLaren P1 GTR.

This next model to join the Ultimate Series will be the ultimate track car but will be road legal. Daily usability is being sacrificed to give the most intensive driver experience around a circuit. Its design, described as brutal, will be the purest expression yet of the company's 'form follows function' philosophy.

More details, including the car's name, will be revealed before the end of this year.

What of the BP23? This won't be its model name, incidentally. The project code is an abbreviation for Bespoke Project 2, three-seater. Like the long ago F1 which this car is meant to succeed, 106 will be made and there will be dihedral doors, though unlike those on the BMW-powered monster from the 1990s, BP23's will be powered. All cars were reported as sold when the project was announced in November 2016. The price was a breathtaking GBP2m.

We can probably think of BP23 as the successor to P15 in that both are classified as Ultimate Series cars with the P15 due to be built in 2018 and then BP23 following one year later.

In 2020, we will likely see the next generation of McLaren's least expensive line, the Sports Series. This is expected to have its world premiere at the 2020 Geneva motor show and to use the same basic platform as the second generation Super Series (720S), which premiered at the 2017 Geneva show. The development code is rumoured to be P16. The second generation Sports Series might be one of the first cars to have its chassis manufactured in Sheffield. It will probably also come with some form of hybrid powertrain.

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