Few things in life leave a lasting impression you. Some things sad, others joyous. But the fact that moments resonate within you tells you something about the magnitude of the occasion or experience. Good or bad, if something leaves an impression on you, it’s hard to get the thought out of your system.
The McLaren 570s Spider is one such car that left an unshakable impression on me. Not because it was fast and has the looks of a proper bedroom wall poster, but because the entirety of the package comes together to form one of the purest, most hardcore cars on sale in South Africa today. And what also makes this car so special is that despite it being the “entry-level” McLaren, it offers supercar-rivaling performance.
When one looks at the 570s Spider, it’s very easy to assume it to be an exceptionally fast car. This might not come as a shock, but it is. Though supposed to be the smallest sibling in McLaren’s range of cars, the Spider can run with the very best the automotive world has to offer. Powering this sweltering piece of machinery is a turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 petrol engine that develops – wait for it – 419kW and 600Nm of torque. It’s a ton of power this, but it gifts the McLaren with astounding levels of punch and performance, with virtually no turbo-lag whatsoever.
The 570s, part of McLaren’s Sport Series, is the successor to the 650s, which in turn, was the successor to the legendary MP4-12C. So it is only fitting, then, that both the hardtop 570s and the Spider offer insane levels of performance to accompany the looks. And here’s where it gets scary. Weighing only 1 500kg when fully fuelled and with two passengers on-board, the Spider will clear the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.2 seconds. Six seconds later and you’re past 200km/h! It’s insane how ridiculously easy it is to hit those speeds, but there was no way that McLaren’s claimed top speed of 328km/h was going to be put to the test. Just… nope.
The car stands a mere 1.2m high in its boots, but it’s the ground clearance of 93mm that will put your nerve to the test. Holding up traffic while navigating over speed bumps will have road users honking their horns to great effect, but thankfully the Waterfront’s understanding residents were quite accommodating to wait a few extra seconds. (Thank you, friendly people of Cape Town!)
Inside the cabin
Access to the cockpit is gained by opening, what McLaren calls, the dihedral doors. In a smooth, cool motion the doors flip upwards to reveal the cabin. But the doors are not just for show; no. When shut, it channels air via the side intakes into the radiators when the car is on the move. Clamber inside and immediately one notices that the carbon fibre tub that plays host to the interior is quite different to the 650s and MP4-12C. That’s because it’s the second-generation of this MonoCell, designed to be more efficient for entry and exit.
Not only that, but the total weight of this tub is a mere 75kg. Glance over the interior’s ergonomics and layout of dials and one is quickly confronted with just how well-placed everything is. Hand-stitched leather surround both driver and passenger and in the middle sits a seven-inch touchscreen. From here one can control various functions, including satellite navigation, cell phone connectivity, and cabin temperature. The car does feature a 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound audio system, but the radio was switched off for the entirety of the drive. Not because there wasn’t anything to listen to, but because the raging V8 engine behind the driver had more than enough acoustics on offer.
Out on the open road, with the roof down and cruising along at 120km/h, occupants can have a decent conversation without speaking at the top of their lungs. It undoubtedly highlights the advancements in the realm of supercars of making these cars adaptable to everyday life. If you so choose to have the roof erect, it will set up automatically in 14 seconds. And it can be done while driving up to 40km/h.
Though the 570s Spider is quite comfortable in the city – or as comfortable as a supercar can be – it will not be enjoyed most for what it has to offer. Prodding along will be more rewarding for onlookers, but on a racetrack it will serve greater purpose to the driver/owner. And if you can’t get to a racetrack, quiet backroads or a mountain pass will serve just as good a purpose. Which is what the McLaren had to deal with.
Pushing on gently out of Cape Town and away from the bustling traffic, the Spider was ready to stretch its legs. At this point I’d just like to mention that I’ve added a few new words to my vocabulary, because after setting off it became abundantly clear that this was not going to be an ordinary drive… With the Handling dial switched into normal and the Power dial in sport (there are normal, sport, and track modes), the McLaren offers blistering performance without an overly hard suspension. The car moves, rocketing through the seven-speed gearbox! It’s both enticing and endearing as the grippy Pirelli P Zero tyres cling around corner after corner, bend after bend.
The 570s Spider unleashes relentless attacks on the horizon as the 3.8-litre engine screams at full tilt, the sound bouncing off the hills and valleys, spurring you on to explore the car’s limits. The suspension, though in its softest setting, retains some of its stiffness to credit the car with assured dynamics. Steering is best described as alive between the driver’s hands as car, road, and pilot communicate as one. Despite all of that power being sent to the rear wheels only, the positioning of the engine on top of the rear axle helps to keep the backside from sliding out.
It has no end, this 570s Spider, it continues to build momentum and speed as inclines are scaled in what feels like lightning speed. And when it comes time to call halt to proceedings, the carbon ceramic brakes offer ample of stopping power to bring things back to normality.
Returning the 570s Spider to McLaren, while driving at sedated speeds, allows for time to reflect on the experience. This is not just a car; it’s an experience. It’s a symphony of elements coming together for a moment’s enjoyment that far outweighs the best roller coaster in Cape Town. Perhaps even Johannesburg! This is a car that stirs the soul with its sonorous exhaust note and powerful engine. The McLaren 570s Spider is not just a car made for brief fun. It’s designed for almost-unrivalled driving dynamics whilst at the same time taking its driver to motoring nirvana.
The experience still resonates within me.