It seemed like a fun idea at first, to contrive a low-slung, matte gray sinister British invasion of the Dream Cruise. We cruised last year in a McLaren 650S, after all, and jumped at the chance to sample the 570’s modified Monocell II carbon-fiber tub, which was designed with greater interior comfort as well as easier ingress and egress in mind. But the Detroit faithful stand firm in their ranks, and the colorful parade of American muscle kept its hold on the hearts and minds of Cruisers from Birmingham to Pontiac.
“Go the hell back to Pebble Beach!” comes the bark from a lifted F-150, its operator scowling with disdain. He’s right, by the way. Despite many thumbs-up from passersby, we did not belong at the Woodward Dream Cruise in a 2016 McLaren 570S.
Whatever. The sharp bite of the McLaren’s standard carbon-ceramic brakes is a bit much in stop-and-go traffic, anyway.
Clearly having outstayed our welcome, we made for twistier — and less gridlocked — roads. With a roll on the throttle, we’re roaring through the gears of McLaren’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and onto the highway, eyes wide and palms dampening the cushy, blessedly button-free Alcantara steering wheel.
Almost immediately, as traffic bleeds into nothingness past our view from the cozy cabin, we wonder aloud why anyone would shell out for the pricier 650S. Yes, the 562-hp 570S is down on power compared to its 641-hp big brother. And yes, the 570S uses a traditional suspension setup with anti-roll bars in place of the 650S’ fancier, more advanced ProActive Chassis Control and its hydraulic dampers. But for once, the brilliance and genius of a true supercar is something that can be easily felt and enjoyed at any speed and on any road, not decided by lap times and drag races.
The “entry-level” McLaren’s price tag is anything but, costing nearly $211,000 as tested with a base price of $187,400 including destination fees. That money gets you an aluminum, mid-mounted 3.8-liter V-8 with a flat-plane-crank that sends 562 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque just the rear wheels — in this space, all-wheel drive is the norm (e.g. the Porsche 911 Turbo S, Acura NSX, and Audi R8); the only other big player relying on rear-wheel drive is the Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2. Nonetheless, McLaren claims a 0-60 mph sprint of 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 204 mph. It’s not mussing about.
As we exit the highway and begin to slice up a set of winding pavement, beset on each side by emerald forest and still water, the optional sport exhaust ($3,860) spits decidedly un-British waves of fury. The engine has the right amount of torque to comfortably hang with normal traffic, but as soon as the turbos come alive and peak torque arrives at 5,000 rpm, it becomes genuinely difficult to resist sending yourself into orbit. For maximum cardiac acceleration, let the revs build to 8,000 rpm — just past peak power at 7,400 rpm — and bang off a lightning-quick upshift with a gentle yank of the carbon-fiber shift paddle.
Speed is only one ingredient here, though. Part of the joy is how balanced and refined the chassis feels, the way the steering delivers clear feedback to your hands, the way tiny body movements and weight transfers are communicated over uneven surfaces and elevation changes. We chalk most of that up to lightness — the 570S tips the scales at just 2,895 pounds thanks to its carbon tub and aluminum body panels. The car even looks like all unnecessary fat was removed via liposuction, leaving only an exposed, extruded system of lean muscle and alien sinew tightly hugging sculpted bone.
The cockpit of the 570S wisely toes the line between supercar and luxury car. We wouldn’t blame anyone for finding it a little plain, but the blend of Alcantara seats, leather-wrapped dash with red accents, and quality black plastics where necessary really works. It doesn’t feel frivolous or showy, but suitable and serious. Even better are the power-adjustable sport seats, which are plenty cossetting for public roads — and a far cry more livable than the optional fixed bucket racing seats. And with a reasonable 3.5 cu. ft. of cargo room under the nose — enough for a pair of weekend bags or one road test editor — there’s little reason for practical worries when it comes to spiriting the 570S away for a long trip.
It’s downright challenging to make a car that’s this much fun simultaneously so playful and totally approachable; most supercars miss the mark. That McLaren has managed it at such an early point in the company’s production car timeline is even more surprising, although not all remnants of growing pains are gone. The infotainment screen looks pretty, but it’s tricky to figure out, and the rear-view camera is so blurry and useless that it might as well be a kaleidoscope. Every time we’d shut the driver’s door, the window would get confused and drop half-way open. Open and close it once more, and it would slide back up into place. Obsessive as Woking has proven, there seems to be no dodging the foggy specter of British electronics.
Oddly, those minor quirks are part of the 570S’ charm. It’s a perfectly livable everyday supercar, but there’s enough individuality here to make it feel miles more special and exotic than a 911 Turbo S or an R8. The same reason we were banished from Woodward Avenue is the same reason we’d live in exile from here to kingdom come — as long as the McLaren 570S was our chariot.
2016 McLaren 570S Specifications
|Price:||$187,400/$210,760 (Base/as tested)|
|Engine:||3.8L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/562 hp @ 7,400 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 5,000-6,500 rpm|
|Transmission:||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||19/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||178.3 x 82.5 x 47.3 in|
|0-60 MPH:||3.1 sec (est.)|
|Top Speed:||204 mph|