McLAREN’S SPEED KING
SPEEDTAIL! Stunning ‘Hyper GT’ to exceed 400km/h
MCLAREN HAS unveiled its fastest ever road car, appropriately dubbed the Speedtail. The achievement carries some weight, as Woking’s 1990s supercar, the F1, held the title of world’s fastest car for a decade before being supplanted by the Bugatti Veyron. It’s a stretch to call the Speedtail the F1’s successor, but McLaren is understandably keen to draw parallels between the two. The most obvious link is the unique three-seat layout, the central driving position flanked by passenger seats recessed into the chassis. Climbing aboard is made easier by ‘directional’ leather, designed to be slippery in one direction to aid ingress, but grippy in the other to hold you in place. The leather itself is a new construction, using a layer of air to reduce material density and weight by 30 per cent. A quintet of digital screens face the driver, a traditional instrument display in the centre, infotainment and vehicle information on either side and the outer screens receiving a feed from the retractable cameras that replace conventional wing mirrors. Major controls are located in an overhead panel, which along with the steering wheel trim and gearshift paddles, is made from new thin-ply carbon fibre. As you’d expect from McLaren, carbon fibre features heavily on the Speedtail. It makes up both the bespoke monocoque and all body panels, with the front splitter, diffuser and side skirts finished in ‘1K titanium deposition carbon fibre’. By including a micron-thin layer of titanium into the weave, the number of threads can be reduced from 3000 to 1000 and by anodising the titanium, virtually any colour, shape or symbol can be included in the weave. Despite the use of fancy materials, the Speedtail weighs a significant 1430kg dry. This figure can be explained by the car’s significant size – at 5137mm it’s as long as the average limousine – and its hybrid drivetrain. McLaren is tight-lipped regarding the specifics, save that it produces a mammoth 772kW, but CEO Mike Flewitt told sister outlet Wheels “it’s a direct-drive hybrid.” This suggests the Speedtail will adopt a similar powertrain concept to the Koenigsegg Regera, which replaces a conventional transmission with a hydraulic coupling and uses the torque of the electric motors to enable lowspeed operation. Regardless of the actual configuration, the Speedtail’s acceleration is ridiculous. The only claim made is 0-300km/h in 12.8sec, 0.8sec quicker than the Bugatti Chiron and 3.7sec quicker than McLaren’s previous hybrid hypercar, the P1. Unlike the P1, the Speedtail will have no pure EV capability. What it will have is a 403km/h top speed, achieved by selecting ‘Velocity Mode’, which drops the ride height by 35mm, optimises the powertrain for maximum power and adjusts the angle of the active rear aero flaps. V-max is electronically limited due to tyre constraints, but McLaren says it has no intention of chasing Koenigsegg’s 447.42km/h record, regardless. Nonetheless, McLaren has made every effort to make the Speedtail as slippery through the air as possible. The carbon fibre front wheel covers trap the disturbed air caused by wheel rotation and ensure it remains ‘attached’ to the body, while the rear-view cameras retract into the doors when Velocity Mode is selected. The number of body shutlines has been reduced to a minimum and the active aero flaps use hydraulics to flex the carbon fibre rather than hinges. The ability to keep the airflow attached to the bodywork has allowed McLaren to use flush air intakes behind the cabin and in the doors rather than drag-inducing snorkels. It’s a masterclass in airflow management. Another similarity between the Speedtail and the F1 is the number produced. However, while just 106 examples made the latter a financial flop, at £1.75m (AUD$3.16m) each, Speedtail sales will add a healthy £186m (AUD$335m) to Woking’s coffers. And that’s before the virtually limitless individualisation options are tallied up. Still, with all 106 cars reserved, if you’re not already on the list, it’s too late.
ABOVE Controversial carbon wheel spats crucial in keeping the airflow attached down the Speedtail’s flanks
RIGHT Developed in conjunction with watch maker Richard Mille, thin-ply carbon uses ultra-thin layers which form this unique wood-like finish when machined
BELOW Speedtail based on a teardrop, apparently the most aerodynamic shape in nature