You can’t have everything in a car, right?
Power, precision, poise, prestige, practicality—pick two or three and be happy.
But as I drove outside Geneva last week, past soggy Swiss fields and through those tiny French towns with tiny French diners that charmingly and frustratingly close between lunch and dinner, I couldn’t help but marvel at how generally on-target the 2017 McLaren 570S seemed for all of them. Draw a Venn diagram with each of those attributes, and this piece of art falls pretty close to the center.
The 570S is the latest on-the-market offering in McLaren’s lineup, flanked by a 570GT sister model that is slightly bigger and slower but has a cool glass hatch across the back. Remember back in 2011, when McLaren released the MP4-12C as the first production car from the previously racing-only powerhouse? The 570S is astounding because it shows how far the company has come since then. Like that early car, it is the product of McLaren’s remote, super-high-security research lab in England, but this is the 3.0 edition: polished, refined, smoothed, and evolved into a higher dimension.
This is the McLaren you buy when you own maybe two other nice cars, a high-end sport sedan and an elite SUV, say. It’s the one you buy when you want to drive it (read: show off) around town, year-round, on the regular.
Tight, Lithe Body
The 570S is perhaps the most conventionally alluring of any of McLaren’s beautiful lineup. (You’re supposed to buy it in that famous McLaren racing orange, but it looks good in white and gray, too.)
Look at it from a side angle, twist out the 19-inch carbon-ceramic wheels, and you’ll see a saucy hip jut out like a petulant teen. Glide past fellow drivers, and its ovoid taillights trimmed in a curved red line leave no doubt about who just smoked whom. The car looks most like other McLarens from the front, with its simple swooped nose, small low front grille, and headlights pulled back close to the windshield like the high cheekbones of a supermodel.
One noticeable difference between the 570S and its siblings are its doors, which open higher and tighter than the ones on the other models, allowing it to fit into smaller parking spaces. (Still, similar gull-wing doors in the Lamborghini Aventador and the Tesla Model X SUV swing much lighter on their axis and are easier to close than these.)
Most ingenious, though, is a new cut-out configuration along the baseboards on the outside of the car, which lets you step inside from a closer starting point and maintain your composure, avoiding that bent-over, shuffle/fall-down-type of entry typical of these low-slung sports cars. In addition, the insides of the 570S's carbon mono-cell body along where you get inside have been cut at a slant, rather than straight across, further easing ingress.
Those front and rear LED lamps are new, as are the special aeroblades, side skirts, and carbon rear air diffuser. Visibility in the 570S will feel limited—and it is out the back—until you drive something like the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, and then you feel #blessed.
The midmounted engine sits under a black grille at the rear that allows close inspection of its eight cylinders and the gold and silver tubes running throughout. Visible heat waves rising off the coils are almost poetic to watch.
Engine Like an Athelete
McLaren has given the 570S a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine; it gets 570 horsepower on a 7-speed automatic transmission. Zero to 60 mph is 3.1 seconds. Top speed is 204 mph. The engine sounds like Christmas.
Add to that a sub-3,000-pound body weight, and the formation yields laser-quick acceleration and a feeling of supreme road contact. It's easy to forget that's possible if you’ve been driving rote SUVs and sedans for a while. Push the gas pedal along a straightaway, and you’ll feel McLaren’s F1-famous engineering in your bones.
I drove the car with winter tires on it (it was late February in Switzerland, after all), but the way the 570S crosses corners reminded me of a NFL receiver at the peak of his career, dominating his way up the field: It has the discipline to direct power into a beautiful arch across space. It handled the winding country roads through the rain—and even a few dirt ones as we cut cross farms—like a champ. Driving the 570S is a joy.
There are three drive modes and, new for this year, a start/stop function that helps economize fuel by killing the engine completely the moment you come to a stop and put your foot on the brake. (You’ll probably want to deactivate it as soon as you start driving, but at least it’s there.)
It might be going a bit far to call the 570S practical in the traditional sense—no, you’re not picking the kids up from school in this—but I can offer four elements that help make the case.
1. The 38-mpg superior fuel economy at highway speeds, which is more than double what other cars of this caliber burn. In other words, no gas-guzzler tax.
2. The decent size of the front-placed trunk, which beats the dimensions of similarly placed trunks I’ve seen recently from Lamborghini and Bugatti. (You could fit groceries in there, but why? Go out to eat—somewhere nice. With a well-placed valet.)
3. A push-button lift system comes standard, raising the car to allow more ground clearance for surmounting angular parking garages.
4. There’s a cup holder. (Drivers of Lambos, Ford GTs, and those great racing Porsches, you know the pain.)
Inside the car, the dashboard is clean, with the few buttons and round knobs all oriented toward the driver. The center console computer comes with all the USB, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth capability you could want and is relatively easy to use, though it could stand to be more sensitive to input. And the resolution on the rear-view camera needs an upgrade.
Don’t look for seat massagers, extensive trimming, or a sunroof here. Instead of a back seat, there’s a small ledge for small bags, though using it will likely further impede your ability to see outside. (It’s not so much that you’ll miss seeing cars behind you; it’s that you won’t see anything waist-level or below—pets, kids, stumps, garbage cans—behind you, ever.)
Building a Consumer Brand
It is significant that this is the first McLaren to come with a vanity mirror. The brand is using the 570S to appeal to slightly younger drivers and will make slightly fewer than 800 of them this year—roughly twice than what it’ll sell of the 650S and the new, more-rarified 675LT combined.
It’s also interesting to note that the 570S offers more factory options than we’ve seen before, too. A Luxury Pack that includes 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound, electric and heated seats, soft-close and electric steering costs $6,530; trim packages that upgrade all interior materials cost $2,990; louder sport exhaust costs $3,860. (Consider that McLaren’s nod to those who want to be sure they didn’t sacrifice street cred by buying the company’s more road-friendly model.)
As with Ferrari’s California and Lamborghini’s Huracan, so McLaren’s 570S is the natural step in the evolution of a high-end car company with serious racing heritage as it delves deeper into the world of production models. It means that McLaren is expanding its reach past just the die-hard loyalists (nearly totally white, middle-aged male track fiends) toward people who are more diverse in their lifestyle, demographics, and proclivities. To reach those people, you have to make cars that offer something more polished and applicable to daily life. The 570S does this.
A well-appointed base-model 570S costs $184,900, which saves you $80,000 over the McLaren 650S and about $10,000 from, say, a Ferrari California. It puts it right in range with the $188,100 Porsche 911 Turbo S or a highly tricked-out Audi R8 or Acura NSX Type R.
To my mind, that’s a good price pocket—expensive but still far cheaper than many exotics. And more than a fair bargain for having it all.