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.

CAR (UK) - - Contents - By James Tay­lor

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 0’62mph, 211mph, n/a mpg, n/a CO2 > Weight 1198kg (dry) > On sale Now...

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