McLaren 570S Spider: Sun strike
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The most important control inside the tastefully simple cockpit of McLaren’s new 570S Spider may possibly be the lever on to the steering column that allows you to raise and lower the car’s nose.
Because it doesn’t matter how confidently you turn into any given driveway; as you approach the curb, it feels like you have the depth of a credit card to play with between unyielding tarmac and all that low-slung expensively-engineered hardware.
Pull the lever, however, and the McLaren 570S Spider’s front end rises up hydraulically in a matter of seconds to mitigate scrapes.
Of course, this performance car’s manoeuvrability in low-speed “garage gear” scenarios isn’t what anyone signs up for.
It’s the bark of that mighty V8 and — in this, the drop-top version — the lure of hyper-speed wind-in-hair motoring that are the 570S Spider’s headline acts.
Not so many years ago, the convertible version of anything was often seen as the lesser option. Your average weekend warrior was hardly going to show up at the local track day with a folding metal hardtop.
The truth is that convertible versions of sports cars are usually heavier than their fixed roof counterparts due to all the extra body bracing required to make them rigid.
These days, however, manufacturers of note aren’t shying away from ensuring their top track-focused models can also offer a modicum of summer cruise potential with the roof down.
Two worthy adversaries of the McLaren — the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster and the Audi R8 Spyder — follow the same formula pretty darn closely and are no worse off for it.
Auckland | Grey Lynn
$265.30 p/w $1,061.20 p/m
But, anyway, back to this yellow cabrio. Like any modern performance car worth its salt, the McLaren 570S Spider can be more things for more people than you may imagine.
Yes, it is a $360,000-plus supercar, so that lifts it beyond the mainstream before you even glance at specific attributes. However, within that single-digit audience percentage it can perform as a racer, a cruiser and, yes, even as something to go shopping in. If you wanted to.
The 419kW twin-turbo V8 is epic (with a soundtrack to match) and, if the tachometer is anything to go by, revs out to an astonishing 8500rpm. I certainly wasn’t about to try myself.
As a part of the McLaren Sport Series, the 570S Spider is designed to be an easy-to-use supercar though, without some of the more ragged-edge histrionics of the bigger 720S (Super Series) model.
As a result, you don’t need to fang everywhere in Ride of the Valkyries-style; press the accelerator just a little bit and the engine note rises in a civilised fashion, just like a serious, grown-up car.
With the zero-to-100km/h sprint taken care of in a shade over three seconds, however, motorway on-ramps will prove far too tempting to stay too restrained for long.
The brakes take some getting used to, especially when cold; carbon ceramic race-style discs deployed via a pedal that travels down to the floor for disconcertingly longer than I was expecting.
This made for late, jarring stops on a handful of occasions early on in my time with the Spider.
Like anything, you do get to anticipate and predict the action over time.
Out on the highway, the McLaren is easy to drive. Sticky Pirelli P Zero
Corsa tyres make for a settled ride, even in relentless spring rain.
Outward visibility is perfectly good and — cramped seat controls aside — everything in the cabin works well. I like McLaren’s infotainment system, which is logical to use.
The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is perfectly weighted and, as to be expected, steering feel is direct and go-kart-like at any speed, regardless of the 570S Spider’s 1503kg kerb weight (it would be a lot more if it were not for all the lightweight carbon fibre in the car’s Monocell structure).
Speaking of the cabin, our test car featured an impressive customised interior, thanks to McLaren Design colours and a Luxury Pack, which includes under its bulletpoint a 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo system (unused: see note re: sonorous V8 engine noise above), heated sports seats with memory settings, a powered adjustable steering column, McLaren floor mats and soft-close scissor doors.
These extras cost a not-inconsiderable $14,599 (and one wonders what McLaren’s scissor doors are like to operate without the soft-close feature), so the cabin as seen here is accentuated above the norm.
Mind you, before you think McLaren is being a tad ridiculous with its options list, the local distributor includes a Security Pack as part of the purchase price, too.
This includes properly useful additions such as parking sensors, a rear camera, an upgraded alarm system, car cover and, yes, that nose-lifter lever. All that makes a lot more sense here.
As do the party tricks of those previously mentioned rivals; especially the ferocious Mercedes-AMG GT 4.0 Roadster, which is a bit of a steal at $267,000 when compared with the McLaren 570S Spider’s sticker price.
The McLaren has more skunkworks fizz than an Audi R8 — it’s more of a mad boffin machine in the face of the competent science project that is Ingolstadt’s most powerful drop-top — but the AMG beast presents an overwhelming alternative.
Regardless, top-down motoring has never been so wilfully brutal, nor casually charming. The McLaren 570S Spider can be both if you want.
McLaren 570S Spider
Engine: 3.8-Litre V8 twin turbo (419kW/600Nm)
Price: $369,000 ($426,269 as tested)
Pros: Drivability, power, pedigree badge
Cons: Price of options, worthy competition in this rarefied segment of the market