We drive the McLaren 570S Spider in Spain, Kiwi pricing revealed
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Times of late have been rather tough for McLaren. Formula 1 hasn't been too great to them, with former team boss and key shareholder Ron Dennis recently selling up and forcing a company restructure.
However, the horizon remains very bright for their booming production-car sector. The release of the Super Series 720S scooped the marque well deserved critical acclaim, and now the new 570S Spider is set to help further increase sales among the brand's ever popular Sports Series range.
Equiped with a starting price of $369,000 for the New Zealand market, the 570S Spider slots in at the top of the range; $74,000 ahead of the entry level 540C, but more importantly just $30,000 ahead of the 570S Coupe upon which it's based.
First drives of the new model have taken place in Barcelona — the Spanish city providing a warm and colourful backdrop punctuated by tight, twisty, and challenging roads that snake through the countryside.
Arriving in Barcelona in the final week of the launch cycle, we were tossed the keys to a Sicilian Yellow 570S Spider, with a keen interest in relating the differences of the new car back to our positive recollections of what its coupe cousin is capable of.
The problem, however, is that by and large the Spider feels extremely similar to the coupe … If you can call that a problem.
This isn't typical for convertibles, given how many tend to pile on the pounds as manufacturers fit them with added structural aids underneath their skin. The added weight tends to result in a raft of other changes in areas like the suspension, with the result often coming across as a more sanitised flavour of the original.
It's not so much the case here. Despite the disparity in time of release, the 570S Spider was styled alongside the coupe. The pair share the same advanced and stiff carbon-fibre tub, the same suspension set-up featuring independent adaptive dampers and dual wishbones, and the same 419kW flat-plane crank 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 slotted in the middle.
The goal from the start was for the Spider to defy the system and be able to grab onto corners and put power down in the same gleeful way that the coupe did when it was launched two years ago.
And, on first impressions, McLaren have pulled this off.
While other manufacturers have to make do with convertible and spider variants that can weigh around 200kg more than their coupe counterparts, McLaren's Spider manages to weigh just 46kg more than the standard 570S.
What it means is that a majority of the car's performance figures remain unchanged. Just about the only one to have taken a 'hit' is the 9.6-second acceleration time from 0–200km/h — in which the Spider drops just a tenth to the coupe. Top speed is identical between the two cars with the roof up, while with it down the Spider's top speed drops by just over 12km/h.
Handling remains largely the same, too. Grip and balance are present in droves. On these treacherous roads, the Spider could gobble up any sequence of corners without much in the way of fuss. With my co-driver behind the wheel, the speed of our tester peaked at around 200km/h, on roads that were rarely very smooth.
Aggressive driving is made achievable via an exceptional combination of steering, suspension, and transmission characteristics.
Like in the coupe, the Spider's steering is hydraulic instead of being electric. McLaren's engineers say that this means that the car has improved steering feel and remains true to what constitutes what they call an “authentic sports car set-up”. And they're right — the wheel is a continual source of feedback, playing games underneath the driver's fingertips constantly.
The suspension and the SSG transmission are sweet too, with the suspension in particular still impressing with its balance of supple ride quality over even quite harsh bumps in the road.
Mulling over the issue of the addition of weight over lunch, our group's opinions were divided. That 46kg weight increase occurs at the top of the vehicle, and was something that a selection of journos had felt over the course of their stint behind the wheel. Others meanwhile had a more neutral view; that the difference was difficult to feel unless one was giving the car plenty of grief through Barcelona's tightest corners.
In some ways, such minute handling differences are a moot point anyway, given the market in which the 570S Spider will be fighting. According to McLaren, the demographic who are most likely to sign their name on the dotted line for one of the marque's Sports Series cars is less focussed on performance, and 91 per cent likely to be new to the McLaren brand.
The Spider “isn't all about ultimate track force” according to Tom Taylor, Product Manager of the Sports Series. Nice to know, though, that so-called ultimate track force isn't very far away.
The retractable hardtop at the centre of this car's purpose folds away in just 15 seconds, and at speeds as high as 40km/h. In the raised position the car looks identical to the coupe, and when the roof is lowered it folds away into a space behind the cockpit where it's then covered by a tonneu cover.
Which segues to one of the more curious changes in the Spider. An optional new sports exhaust directs some of the engine noise into the storage space in an attempt to make it sound a little meatier than the coupe — one of the most common criticisms of the 570S. And it somewhat works. The car sounds louder and angrier than before with the roof up.
One of the less successful additions is the glazed wind deflector behind the head rests that can be raised or lowered while the roof is in either position. Its most useful intention is to reduce wind noise and buffeting while the car has its roof down, however in practice it only seems to make a difference at lower speeds. At higher speeds it's rather ineffectual, with some even saying that they experienced less buffeting with it completely down.
But, regardless, the 570S Spider is an essential player in this GT and sports car convertible game. McLaren's big target is 2022, by which point they aim to have a 15-car range; half of them hybrids. It's a lofty target, but with the 720S juggernaut now truly in full swing and the volume-seller Sports Series now better than ever, I can't see why they can't achieve.
Read our full impression of the new McLaren 570S Spider in next Wednesday's edition of Driven.