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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’

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