BARCELONA, Spain – CAR editor Steve Smith travels to Spain to drive the drop-top version of one of this publication’s favourite cars: the McLaren 570S…
So, the McLaren 570S loses its roof. Has it made any difference?
Yes and no. Actually make that no and yes.
In terms of performance, ride and handling, the 570S Spider feels exactly the same as its coupé sibling, which of course, is a very good thing. Having driven that coupé quite extensively during a comparative test we did with the Audi R8 V10 Plus and during our 2017 Performance Shootout, it’s clear that the 570S is one of the great driver’s cars.
So losing the roof has not compromised the chassis torsional rigidity in any way?
Not in the slightest. Thanks to the inherent strength and stiffness of McLaren’s MonoCell II carbon chassis, the Spider requires no extra supportive bracing and displayed not the slightest creak or wobble despite us chucking it around some very tight mountain passes north of Barcelona. The Spider is a tad heavier than the coupé – some 46 kg – but that’s only extra mass courtesy of the Spider’s folding roof mechanism.
Tell me about that bit then…
Like the mechanism employed in the 650S Spider, this is also a three-panel composite hardtop that origamis back beneath that twin-cowling tonneau in 15 seconds. And, like the 650S Spider, with the roof up, you can also lower the rear window and invite in the screams and blips of the 3,8-litre twin-turbo V8. This M838TE engine isn’t naturally the sweetest sounding powerplant, but fitted with the optional sports exhaust as our press car was (it adds a sound-enhancing resonator tube that channels exhaust sonics to the cavity where the top stows) it certainly made a much improved show of bouncing 8 200 r/min guttural screams through the valleys and mountain passes along our 600 km route.
Let’s talk ride and handling. You mentioned earlier that its as good as the coupé. Did you not feel that extra 46 kg?
I really didn’t. The extra mass is negligible in a performance car with outputs of 420 kW/600 N.m and that weighs in at a 1 498kg. The Spider’s claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 3,2 seconds and top speed (roof up) of 328 km/h also matches that of the coupé.
As context, the Audi R8 V10 Plus is around 200 kg heavier and the Lamborghini Huracán around 180kg. And that you do feel. Like the coupé, the 570S Spider is the most lithe and engaging road car I’ve driven. Other favourites like that Audi and the Porsche 911 GTS may genuinely be everyday supercars, but neither are as scalpel-sharp as the 570S. McLaren has dialled in purist driving dynamics without tipping over into out-and-out race car in the way the Ford GT has (and must do, to be fair, it was designed to win Le Mans).
Crucially, this is not an intimidating supercar to drive either. Yes, it will bite you on the butt if you overcook things, but the 570S Spider is so good at sending early butt-biting warnings that you can progressively explore its abilities.
There’s such fantastic feel through the hydraulically assisted steering that weights up beautifully through corners. And the while it may not have the interlinked hydraulic “Pro Active Chassis Control” system of the Super Series and Ultimate Series McLarens, you can still alter its characteristics through an Active Dynamics panel that changes the powertrain’s responsiveness and suspension stiffness through conventional anti-roll bars.
You’re starting to sound a little gushy here.
It’s hard not to, trust me. Given some time behind the wheel, with Sport mode engaged, you’re not going to find a more engaging and playful performance car to drive on the road. Like all contemporary McLarens, the driving position is perfect, giving you sight of the two front corners, and turn-in is so precise that hooking up a series of corners is absolute automotive joy. Everything – engine, gearbox, steering, brakes and grip – operate in balanced unison. And even in the most hardcore Track mode – one we spent a fair amount of time in so smooth were some of the Spanish roads – the handling characteristics are progressive enough to explore the car’s limits without abject fear.
Initially, with that whole “yes and no, actually no and yes” thing, you intimated that there are some things that are different. So what is the “yes”, then?
Well, it does look a little different. The nose is the same, as is the rear light cluster and bumper, but the twin-cowling black fold-top roof does make quite a visual difference, both when stowed and in place. The black accentuates the flow line from front to rear and by isolating the lower half of the car, creates more visual muscle over the rear wheel arches.
The rear spoiler is also slightly different – 12 mm taller to compensate for the flatter rear deck and provide the extra downforce the Spider’s deck profile now negates.
And the price, too, is different. Here in South Africa, the coupé goes for R3,2-million … and we’ve just learned that the Spider will cost R3,7-million.