EL SEGUNDO, California—Automotive enthusiasts can learn a lot about the current state of the supercar by referring to Moore’s Law. Coined in 1965 by Intel founder Gordon E. Moore, it’s an observation that the number of transistors inside an integrated circuit doubles every two years or so, in turn driving technological advancement. It follows, then, that the more transistor-dense the latest integrated circuit gets, the more accessible lesser versions become. In effect, Moore’s Law is a good explainer as to why your $500 smartphone outclocks multimillion-dollar supercomputers from just a couple of decades ago.
Of course, outside of the used market, brand-new supercars are far from accessible, even at the lower end. Outright performance, on the other hand, is more egalitarian than ever. After all, the gulf in capability between a 1967 Lamborghini Miura and a current Volkswagen GTI is nearly as deep as it was between the Miura and the 1910 Mercer Raceabout.
However, the progress promised by Moore’s Law stagnated somewhat a few years ago, and many critics and hardware industry experts consider it a dead observation since the pace of advancement slowed considerably in 2012. In the same way, we’re not seeing the same gulf of performance exist between generations of cars—the highest performers are all clustering together around a relatively similar point.
Which brings me to the bright orange 2019 McLaren 570S Spider I recently had at my disposal for a weekend. In an age where I can inflict whiplash with a 707-hp full-size Jeep and detach retinas with a mid-size electric sedan, it takes a rather hefty accelerative gutpunch to impress, no matter the price. When everything is quick, nothing is.
Therefore, it stands out that the rear-wheel-drive, 562-hp McLaren 570S feels so tremendously, gut-rippingly quick. On the trot, the 570S pulls harder and more violently than do the Audi R8 and Acura NSX, almost matching those all-wheel-drive segment mates to 60 mph with a 3.1-second sprint. Of course, that manufacturer estimate feels underrated. With enough practice, there’s little doubt you’d see that figure drop below the three-second threshold in the real world.
Tricky math surrounding the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 is the likely culprit. Snoop around, and you’ll find some stunning dyno numbers from tuning houses and curious media outlets. Plug the industry standard 15-percent drivetrain loss into a baseline dyno result of 533 horsepower, and you get a whopping 626 horsepower at the crank. That makes a lot more sense. Of course, this is a crude, pie-in-the-sky calculation based on averages and unknown variables—not the gospel truth.
However, McLaren has a history of sneaking some real firebreathers into production with curiously low power figures. We’re not the only ones noticing. A recent dyno test of the 600LT by our pals at MotorTrend found that car (factory rated at 592 horsepower) put down 530 wheel horsepower on K&N’s dynomometer, concluding the 600LT “either makes 640 horsepower or sacrifices just 10.5 percent drivetrain loss.” If you need more, some folks strapped the bigger, badder 720S to a dyno and came up with close to 700 whp—or a hypothetical 800 hp at the crank. Cheeky stuff, McLaren.
I digress. Beyond hypotheticals, overboosting, and modest numbers, the 570S Spider stands as an incredible package. My short weekend with the Spider was an auspicious one; a McLaren-loving friend from Oklahoma flew in to L.A. for the first time just for the occasion, so we had plenty of ground to cover if we were to get the full SoCal experience.
Bouncing between night life, beach bumming, sightseeing, and overspending, I marveled at the 570S’s versatility. Aside from a dearth of cargo stowage space and the constant risk of scraping that low front end, it was as easy to drive in and out of traffic as a Miata. Leave the suspension in the Normal setting, and the ride is as pliable as you’d never expect from a strung-out, carbon-monocoque supercar, and it’s able to soak up most of the worst of I-405.
Smooth ride and general livability are known hallmarks of McLarens, tracing back to the first MP4-12C. Following a first drive back in 2011, we wrote the first modern McLaren “delivers comfort and composure around town and on rutted roads, along with less roll while cornering on the track than most will have ever experienced.” The 570S doesn’t have the same trick hydraulic-damper setup as the big Maccas, but the traditional coilovers it does pack have more refinement than I would have ever imagined.
Swap to Sport or Track handling, and it sharpens up enough to carve up any type of road, circuit, or autocross. The engineers in Woking famously didn’t fettle with much when converting the 570S coupe to this droptop version—the carbon-fiber MonoCell II structure is so rigid, the Spider carries no extra chassis bracing or significant changes to the drivetrain.
This composure, combined with that 3.8-liter charge of C4 mounted amidships and the hydraulic steering that guides it all, makes for a near-perfect high-speed cruising experience. I’m sure it’s blistering on a track—but leave that to the edgier 600LT. The Spider is for crushing mountain roads, slithering down coastal ridge highways, and making sure you’re seen as the status quo in the ritzier Los Angeles neighborhoods.
When it’s time to leave the G-wagens and Bentaygas behind, the buzzy 3.8-liter snaps into focus with a bang. There’s noticeable turbo lag in McLaren’s entry-level cars, but it neither slows things down nor detracts from the fun. A full-throttle run usually starts off with a gasp from the passenger seat that soon crescendos into laughs and breathless exclamations. For just over $200,000, there isn’t much that can keep pace, top down or otherwise.
On the subject of bespoke features and personalization, your checkbook is the only limiting factor, but our “McLaren Orange” test car was well-equipped at a $238,110. A good portion of that went to interior trimmings, wheel options, and the paint, but it also wore a few “must-haves” that should be your first stop on the order form, including the $4,090 sports exhaust and $1,560 front lift system.
Forget the Turbo S Cabriolet and strut on by the R8 V10 Plus Spyder—as much as we love them—the McLaren 570S Spider is about as well-rounded as a supercar can get.
2019 McLaren 570S Spider Specifications
|BASE PRICE||$211,300/$238,110 (base/as-tested)|
|ENGINE||3.8L twin-turbocharged DOHC 32-valve V-8; 562 hp @ 7,500 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD convertible|
|EPA MILEAGE||16/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||178.3 x 76.0 x 47.3 in|
|0–60 MPH||3.1 seconds (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||204 mph (mfr)|