BALLSY, BEAUTIFUL AND BRITISH
The sexy McLaren 570S Spider seduces Neil Lyndon
Connoisseurship can apply to cars as much as to any item in daily use. As a unique creation that combines toupee-ripping performance, ineffable luxury and sublime qualities of craftsmanship, the McLaren 570S Spider stands in relation to a car like the Kia Picanto (which is an excellent product in its own right) in the same way as a cut-glass champagne flute stands in relation to an off-the-shelf Ikea beaker. One is a mass-produced utility: the other is as refined a piece of work as human beings can produce.
At £164,750 (plus about £30,000-worth of extras on our test car), the 570S Spider may cost more than the average house in Fife, but this McLaren is, in fact, the entry-level car for the range. It’s the one they turn out for people who are almost ordinary. If you had bought their P1 – the plug-in hybrid supercar for which McLaren charged in excess of £1m – you would be paying £25,000 a year just to service the thing. For the 570S, the service charge would be a mere £1,000.
Even so, this bespoke car with its hand-finished aluminium body and its hand-stitched interior, is deliberately targeted at connoisseurs of good things. Those people are as likely as not to be female.
Despite its 570 bhp, 200+ mph top speed, and 0-60 mph acceleration in 3.1 seconds, McLaren’s intention with the 570S Spider was to make it enjoyable and rewarding to drive on the road at all speeds. That ambition communicated itself on the recent launch in Spain from the moment we fired up its glorious 3.8 litre, V8 and selected ‘drive’ on the seven-speed seamless shift gearbox.
Tractable, compliant and so civilised that it could be comfortably managed by a learner, the greatest difficulty for the driver in Barcelona’s rush-hour traffic was to avoid the cars, scooters and mopeds that buzz and veer constantly around the 570S Spider, while their drivers and riders tried to snatch photographs on their mobile phones.
Painstaking efforts have been made to civilise the volume of engine noise in the cabin with the consequence that, even when the racket from the engine behind the seats is at its most raucous and exhilarating, conversation remains possible at the level of the polite boudoir.
Cars whose shapes are determined by wind-tunnel results all tend to come out looking essentially the same from the front view, but their rear ends are, effectively, a blank canvas.
It is from this angle that the 570S Spider particularly excels. While the car behind us in the rear view mirror on the test route might have been mistaken for a Ferrari, the one in front could only have been a McLaren. With its aggressive pillars, its delicately sweeping light clusters and its resolute exhaust tailpipes, the sight of the Spider which people are likely to see most frequently is also the one that gives most aesthetic pleasure.
Compared with the coupe version, the Spider’s retractable hard top makes a world of difference to the experience of enjoying the 570S (not least because, when it is lowered, the seats are about twice as easy to slide into and haul yourself out of) but it makes almost no difference to the driving experience (0.1 of a second on the 0-60 mph acceleration and about one mph off the top speed).
During our 400 km drive into the Catalonian Pyrenees near Andorra, we actually forgot to alter the transmission and suspension settings so we could try out their higherper formance options. The standard settings were more than enough for us to manage on a day of rapturous pleasure.
Similarly, it only occurred to us at the last moment to check our fuel consumption on the inboard computer, and when it came out at a shameful and shocking 16.7 mpg (compared with the 26.6 mpg McLaren claim) we were only mildly surprised that our wildly excessive enjoyment of the car had used so much fuel.
‘This is as refined a piece of work as human beings can produce’