McLaren Elva: an 800bhp roadster with Senna DNA

Published: 13 November 2019

► McLaren Elva channels Senna DNA
► Roadster first Teased at Pebble Beach

► Just 399 to be made, £1.4 million each 

McLaren has revealed its first open-cockpit road car, and it’s called the McLaren Elva. Featuring a turbocharged V8 powerplant from the same family as the Speedtail and the Senna, the new Elva packs in Ultimate Series performance, with state-of-the-art aerodynamics – but leaves out a roof or even a windscreen.

As you’d expect from its superhero looks and Ultimate Series tag, Woking’s Ferrari SP1 rival is going to be pretty exclusive cars: just 399 will be made and a list price of £1,425,000 means the Elva sits very much at the top of the range.

'McLaren continues to push the boundaries of supercar and hypercar development in pursuit of outstanding and unparalleled driving experiences for our customers and the McLaren Elva epitomises that pioneering spirit,' said McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt. Well, he would, wouldn't he? 'It’s fitting that the new McLaren Ultimate Series roadster – a uniquely modern car that delivers the ultimate connection between driver, car and the elements and with that new heights of driving pleasure on road or track – acknowledges our rich heritage with the Elva name.'

McLaren Elva: it looks good, right?

On the outside, the Elva looks like a mixture of Ferrari SP1 and McLaren’s own 720S – but that’s clearly no bad thing. There’s no roof or windscreen (unless you specifically want one) but McLaren claims passengers won’t be blown around by buffeting, either.  

Enter McLaren’s new Active Air Management System (they do love a good acronym in Woking, don't they?). Essentially designed to manhandle air around the cabin, AAMS forces slipstream away from the cockpit at speed, so passengers can enjoy all the benefits of the outdoors without the turbulence.

The system uses the large vents on the bonnet of the car to manipulate airflow at higher speeds, directing it through a 130-degree radius and keeping it away from the cockpit. 

You’ll want to experience the sensations of open-air motoring, McLaren style: Elva features a titanium quad-exit exhaust that uses F1-approved Inconel, so it’ll likely have the soundtrack to match its looks. 

How will it drive?

Very fast. Very visceral, we expect. The Elva will use the familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, good for 0-62mph in under three seconds, and 124mph in just 6.7 seconds – faster than the McLaren Senna, then. Generating around 800bhp, the McLaren motor is mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox. 

Of course, an engine is only half the equation, but a bespoke carbonfibre chassis and body, carbonfibre seats – and a total lack of roof – means the Elva promises to be the lightest, purest McLaren road car made in recent years. Electro-hydraulic steering promises confidence-inducing feedback on turn-in, while 390mm carbon ceramic brakes will get the Elva stopped in the braking zones. Woking's new car will ride on a linked-hydraulic active suspension. 

A full-width active rear spoiler, along with a rear diffuser, will help it stick to the tarmac, and the latter uses 'fences' to help maximise efficiency – just like an F1 car. 

And that Elva name?

What’s up with very, very fast cars having very, very odd names? Unlike Lotus’s Evija however, the Elva’s name hasn’t been plucked out of thin air.

Woking’s latest supercar actually gets its name from a couple of Bruce McLaren-designed race cars in the 1960s.

Called the M1A and McLaren Elva M1A, they were customer versions of the Group 7 McLaren race cars (below). So it's an authentic badge for a very special car...

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast