McLaren Senna Silverstone, monstered
McLaren’s most track-focused road car so far is insanely fast, yet also surprisingly easy to drive. But mostly insanely fast.
IN MANY WAYS, the McLaren Senna drives exactly as you’d expect: it’s impossibly, can’t-breathe-or-blink fast in a straight line, accelerates just as hard laterally and stops so well you wonder if you might actually injure yourself if you use maximum braking pressure. What you might not expect is that it’s also a malleable, friendly, confidence-inspiring car to drive – crucially, it’s fun as well as fast.
First things first: this isn’t the final production Senna. By the time you read this, it will have been through its final sign-off and the McLaren Technology Centre will be knuckling down to build the final production run of 500 cars.
This is a short, sharp Tabasco taster drive in one of the original validation prototypes, at a sunny springtime Silverstone the day before the Senna’s sign-off. So there were still a few calibration details to finalise, but this car is still very much
representative of the finished article.
Eight-hundred is the magic number
A quick recap: the Senna is road-legal but it’s a car with a one-track mind. It’s built for absolute cornering and braking performance, and the swiftest lap times possible. That’s why it looks the way it does; every surface is there to generate downforce, 800kg of it at 155mph.
Its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 delivers no less than 800 metric horsepower (789bhp) and 800Nm (590lb ft), but without fluids the Senna weighs less than 1200kg.
You’d never describe it as pretty, but it’s quite captivating in person in a way it isn’t in photographs. You need to walk around it in three dimensions, to appreciate the intricacies of its surfaces, and the sheer scale of that rear wing, which actively moves in tandem with the front aero blades to trim drag and downforce, and adjust the car’s aerodynamic balance on the fly.
Fast but not furious
You sit low and reclined, in a figurehugging yet comfortable carbonfibre seat. The wheel wears no buttons, and the door releases and some of the switchgear live in the roof above the rear mirror. There’s minimal clutter, minimal distraction. Good job, too. We’re in Race mode, which drops the ride height by 50mm and increases downforce by 40 per cent. Gearchanges are finger-snap fast, via a seamlessshift seven-speed dual-clutch ’box, steering response is instant – but it doesn’t feel like a racing car, because it’s on road tyres (bespoke Pirelli Trofeo Rs) and there’s a resultant movement in the tread blocks that you wouldn’t feel on slicks. That movement is part and parcel of the feedback through steering and chassis that makes the Senna communicative and surprisingly reassuring.
Before the drive I’d wondered if it might all be a bit too much; that my eyeballs might melt as Silverstone rushed past at unfeasible speed, and that my head might fall off with the g-forces. Okay, it was a very brief drive and I was being very careful, but the main thing I took from the experience was just how friendly the Senna is. Whatever your ability, it can hold your hand as you get up to pace, or egg you on as you whisk it on to light speed.
MCLARENSENNA > Price £900,000 > Engine 3999cc twin-turbo V8, 789bhp @ 5500rpm, 590lb ft @ 5500rpm Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive > Performance 2.8sec 062mph, 211mph, n/a mpg, n/a CO2 > Weight 1198kg (dry) > On sale Now...