Decoding the McLaren 570S: hands-on in New York

Published: 31 March 2015

► McLaren 570S bows in at Manhattan launch party
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For a car described by its makers as 'transformative' and 'the most important thing we've ever done', the new McLaren 570S got a low-key launch in an 'industrial space' in Manhattan's Hells Kitchen last night. It gets its motor show debut here in New York on Wednesday.

If the blizzard of similar-looking new McLarens with alphanumeric designations that need decoding has left you a little confused, don't beat yourself up. I'm confused too, and I do this for a living. The 570 refers to the power in PS. But this is not just a 650S with less power. Except that it is, sort of.

Where the 570S fits in the McLaren picture

The 570S (and the entry 540C which will follow) are billed by McLaren as a separate model line (the Sports Series) to the 650S, 675LT and Asia-only 625C (the Super Series). So the name alone doesn't tell you what model line each car is from. Nor does a cursory look at the car. The 570S remains a carbon-tubbed supercar with a mid-mounted twin-turbo V8, just like the 650S. The 570S is actually a bit longer. It is not the 911 rival – distinct in design and engineering and maybe a bit cheaper – that we thought we might get when McLaren Automotive announced its three-model strategy back in 2010.

But the 540C and 570S will still do what the junior McLaren was always intended to do: take the new McLaren Production Centre from its current 1600 car-per-year output to its capacity of over 4000, and complete the line-up. With the Super Series starting at bare minimum of £195,000 in the UK (and most will cost their owners deep into the two hundreds)  McLaren can position the Sport Series a notch above the 911 Turbo, yet still make it significantly cheaper than the 650S. Expect the 540C to cost around £135,000 and the 570S around £145,000, before (expensive) options. Open and lightweight versions will follow.

At these prices, the Sports Series can still offer the same basic layout as the Super Series, giving it a major perceived tech advantage over rivals like the 911 Turbo to add to the appeal of the McLaren name. And just as importantly, it saves McLaren (still a relative minnow among carmakers) the huge capital expense of developing another, cheaper platform. This will be a very profitable car for its maker.

The wider landscape

So this 570S is essentially a decontented 650S, and that's no bad thing. It still has the carbonfibre Monocell, but it has been redesigned to reduce the bulk of the sills, making entry and exit more graceful and the car more usable. McLaren says that 30% of the engine has changed – for the worse, presumably. The panels are mainly aluminium rather than carbonfibre, the active interlinked suspension has been replaced by more conventional adaptive dampers and anti-roll bars, and the active aero has been nixed.

It's hard to know what McLaren customers will make of the new car. Fifty grand counts for less than us mortals might imagine at this level. Such cars are largely bought on finance and moved on quickly, ideally before they've depreciated much. The cost of financing the extra might not be that significant to a buyer who, if he's going to have a McLaren, wants the best. Equally, the loss of some power that most owners will never use and some active aids they lack the skills to exploit may matter little when the cheaper car will still offer ballistic performance and massive visual and aural impact. And you might like the idea of a McLaren with a more conventional chassis.

Either way, as long as McLaren can avoid the teething problems that plagued the early 12Cs, that factory is going to be busy.

McLaren 570S

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features

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