McLaren Automotive is about to enter phase two of its ambitious launch plan - led by the 2015 P13 project, which may be badged 500S when it arrives early next summer. Why 500S? Because its badge denotes its lower power output (500bhp) and range position beneath the 650S.
Unlike Ferrari and Lamborghini, who have so far avoided sub-€200k (less than £160,000)sports car territory like the plague, P13 is set to take on high-end 911s like the GT3 and the Turbo. McLaren sees the addition of this third model range as crucial to ensure its long-term viability.
Other designated rivals McLaren has identified for the P13 include Mercedes’ GT AMG, BMW’s M6, Maserati’s Alfieri and the next Nissan GT-R.
Click here for our scoop photos of an early McLaren P13 mule.
How cheap will the 2015 McLaren P13/500S be?
One Woking official we spoke to pegged the asking price at two-thirds of a 12C, which suggests a €140k - or £110,000 - starter cost for the base McLaren P13 coupe.
P13 is the third model built on the same cookie-cutter carbonfibre chassis which was instrumental in curbing R&D, procurement and assembly costs when the new McLaren Automotive hatched in 2011. Although the new 911-fighter is obviously similar in size to P1 and 650S, McLaren decided to invest in a heavily modified monocoque.
Featuring slimmer sills, a roomier cabin, additional storage space behind the seats and an even stiffer clamshell passenger cell (tub and roof are again baked as two separate pieces), the entry-level 500S is designed to be a more practical sports car than the 650S.
What will the McLaren 500S look like? A baby P1?
Although CEO Mike Flewitt describes the shape of P13 as evolutionary, design director Frank Stephenson is promising a breakthrough product with a distinctly different bodystyle. ‘Ferraris must look like Ferraris, and Porsches invariably look like Porsches, but there is no fixed formula for a McLaren,’ he tells CAR magazine.
‘I have all the freedom I need to conceive fresh shapes that have “Desire!” written all over them. We are a very small team, but the creativity is incredible - about 90% Nasa and 10% Disney - which makes for a really exciting mix.’
McLaren P13: tech specs, V8 engine
An engineering driven company, McLaren starts every new product development with a precise technical brief. In future, this underlying DNA will be significantly more flexible, offering greater variation in terms of wheelbase, width and length. Powered by a detuned version of the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 rated at approximately 500bhp, the 500S has been described by one insider as ‘a more credible E-type replacement than the F-type.’ Handbags at dawn…
There will be three different versions, sources say:
McLaren 500S coupe The entry-level hard-top, summer 2015
McLaren 500S Spider The roadster convertible, 2016
McLaren 500S GTS The emphatically sporty lightweight model, 2018
McLaren 500S range facelift 2019
Inside the cabin of McLaren 500S
Although most of the secondary controls will again be grouped in the centre stack, P13 promises to boast much more advanced ergonomics, and not just a bigger and more legible touchscreen.
Unique to all future McLarens is an optional head-up display which uses, for weight and packaging purposes, a transparent fold-down driver-side visor. Also in the works are a more intuitive voice control; a direct-access drive mode selector changing the calibration of engine/transmission, shock absorbers and ASR/ESP; and two new lightweight compound materials named carbomite and alumite, which can fulfill structural or cosmetic functions.