2021 McLaren Elva Hypercar: $1.7 Million, 804 HP, No Windshield
This open-cockpit missile promises insane performance—plus plenty of stares.
Superlatives are grossly overused these days, from the White House press room to the comments on any given Instagram post. So it's easy to blow off something like McLaren's Ultimate Series as yet another substance-free attention grab. But that would be wrong, as evidenced by the latest and greatest addition to the lineup, the windshield-less, roofless, 804-hp McLaren Elva.
Named for the McLaren-Elva sports cars Bruce McLaren designed in the 1960s, the new Elva is spiritually, if not technologically, connected to the heart of the McLaren legacy, specifically the M1A and its McLaren-Elva successors. "The McLaren-Elva M1A [Mk1] and its successors are in many ways the true spiritual forerunners of today's McLarens—superlight, mid-engined cars with the highest levels of performance and dynamic excellence. It's fitting that the new McLaren Ultimate Series roadster—a uniquely modern car that delivers the ultimate connection between driver, car, and the elements and with that new heights of driving pleasure on road or track—acknowledges our rich heritage with the Elva name," said McLaren Automotive chief executive Mike Flewitt.
Just 399 examples of the Elva will be built (that number was changed to 249 in April 2020), starting from a base price of $1,690,000 (plus delivery, taxes, and fees), though McLaren cautions that "final price will depend on level of personalization by McLaren Special Operations (MSO)." Well, then.
Mounted just behind the two seats, the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 engine is rated for 804 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, enabling a run to 60 mph in "less than three seconds" and a 6.7-second 0-to-124-mph acceleration time. This V-8 comes from the same family of engines that powers the Senna and Senna GTR. On top of all that power, McLaren says the Elva is also the lightest vehicle it has produced in the modern era. How much does it weigh? That figure, along with final performance numbers, are still being determined.
Hold up a second—how is anyone going to scream up to 124 mph in under seven seconds without all that wind smacking them in the face? McLaren has an answer for that, naturally, and it's not just "wear a helmet" (though you can, of course, if you want to). Dubbed Active Air Management System (AAMS), a complementary set of ducts, outlets, and vanes, plus a small movable deflector (which can rise up to 5.9 inches) combine to redirect air around and over the cabin, creating a small bubble of relative calm within. The AAMS system is speed-sensitive, automatic deploying when needed.
So what is it made of? Carbon fiber, mostly, from the 390-mm (15.4-inch) sintered carbon-ceramic brake discs to the tip of its spoiler. In addition to the chassis, the body is also made of carbon fiber and composite, the weft and warp of which is revealed with the selection of the Gloss Visual Carbon Fibre Body package. At just 1.2 mm (0.05 inch) thick, the one-piece front clamshell is light but also destined to be fragile should it come into contact with curbs, despite meeting all of McLaren's structural integrity targets. McLaren also offers a range of color tints for both interior and exterior carbon fiber, and will even develop a custom tint should the buyer desire. Thin-ply carbon (TPT), first used on the Speedtail, is also found on the Elva. Here, it's used in the inlay of the (optional) 18-carat white gold or platinum badges. A 24-carat gold engine bay heat shield is also available.
With no side windows, no windshield, and no roof, the McLaren Elva sits at the nexus of earlier days before crash regulations dictated the basic outlines of nearly every roadgoing car and the automotive technology of tomorrow. And yet, somehow, McLaren managed to get this completely open car homologated for road use in the U.S. (although there are five states that require some sort of windshield; for those states, one will be fitted).
The AAMS system isn't the only active aero on the new Elva. At the trailing edge of the rear bodywork lies a full-width spoiler, which automatically adjusts its height and angle to balance the car's aerodynamic load. There's also an airbrake function, and it takes into account whether the AAMS system is operating to properly distribute the aero drag force. There's a load of traditional passive aerodynamics, too, including a completely smooth underfloor ending in an expanding diffuser. The diffuser works in concert with the spoiler to maximize downforce.
As for creature comforts, there are some, but among the notable omissions is an audio system, although a marine-rated sound system can be added back in for no additional cost. The seats are carbon-fiber shells, the bottoms of which are shortened somewhat to allow the occupants to stand in the footwell of the car to ease ingress/egress. There are some luxurious touches, however, despite the focus on hard-core performance and low weight. An optional "enhanced full aniline leather" package offers weather-safe interior leather upholstery, while an "Ultrafabric" option made of four layers combines moisture resistance and a grippier surface to improve driver control in the seat.
For the Elva, McLaren has taken a new approach to its Active Dynamics control layout. Usually placed at the front of the lower center console area, the controls for the system are now attached to either side of the instrument cluster, putting them close to the gearshift paddles and thus closer to hand while driving. An 8.0-inch touchscreen display mounted to a carbon-fiber arm aimed at the driver offers multitasking functions that let apps run in parallel much like your smartphone—handy when you want to use the McLaren Track Telemetry app and still have access to the climate control. Should you need to bring things along, there's a stowage space under the rear tonneau cover. The manual lid opens to reveal space for a pair of helmets and various other odds and ends.
There are, of course, essentially no limits to the ways you could customize your McLaren Elva, thanks to the minds at MSO. Of the limitless array of possibilities, one featured by the MSO team is the blended full-body "contour" or "velocity" paint schemes, which mix multiple colors along the length of the vehicle to create a completely bespoke result.
Look for more details on the McLaren Elva, including final performance figures and (hopefully!) lap times, in the near future.