SPEED­TAIL! Stun­ning ‘Hyper GT’ to ex­ceed 400km/h

Motor (Australia) - - FRONT END. PACE NOTES -

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

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