Driving from England to Geneva, the McLaren Way
We take the long way to Switzerland in a pack of fabulous supercars.
There it is. A perfect stretch. It's flat, straight, and long. I bury the pedal, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 roars with approval, and its furious sonic detonations burrow into the back of my skull as the car hurtles forward. The speedo reads in kilometers per hour, and I'm not exactly taking time to do the calculations to miles per hour: 250 kph … 260 … What little traffic exists retreats wisely to the right two lanes; it seems as if it's almost stopped as our gold 720S streaks by.
By the time we hit those magnificent miles of unrestricted German autobahn, we are already a couple of countries deep from our starting point at McLaren Automotive's gleaming glass headquarters in Woking, England. Destination: Geneva for its annual auto show. Our pack of 720S Spiders, 570S Spiders, and 600LTs first shot over to the mainland via the Channel Tunnel, a.k.a. the Chunnel, in order to get to the European continent.
As we waited to load the cars onto the train to France, it quickly became a scene. People appeared like moths drawn to our techno-colored, mid-engined British supercar flames. Photos were taken, questions asked. It's rare enough to see one McLaren in the wild, let alone half a dozen. A similar scenario played out wherever we stopped; one woman was so jubilant at being able to take a photo with a car at a gas station that she gave my startled driving partner a big hug.
We took the long way to the land of watches and chocolate, traversing six countries in all. One thing we learned hopping from McLaren to McLaren was that multiple-hour runs along the restricted-speed highways weren't that much of a burden to endure. In fact, miles passed by in relative comfort; the Bowers & Wilkins stereos proved sufficient, the navigation setup acceptable.
But we all know what McLarens are made to do, and when it was our day to play in the 600LT, one of our 2019 All-Stars, we got after it with a vengeance over a delightfully twisted asphalt playground in Germany's Black Forest. Then as we approached Geneva after a long, tedious Swiss highway run, we were tipped off to another fabulous mountain pass. With dusk descending, flames puffed from the Longtail's massive tailpipes. It's a magical sight.
More magic awaited us at the Geneva show after we reluctantly handed back the keys. We marveled at what is arguably the ultimate McLaren, the Speedtail, which we recently covered in some depth. It's even more breathtaking in person, a stunning carbon-fiber Ultimate Series realization of how far McLaren has been able to stretch the talents of its engineering and design teams. McLaren folks we talked with at the show are confident the Speedtail will do what the company's devastating F1 did some 20 years ago—set records. Duck and cover, Bugatti.
Speaking of Bugatti, Geneva never disappoints as a showcase for astonishing supercars like Bugatti's latest, the one-off, Chiron-based La Voiture Noire ("the Black Car" in French), which one gazillionaire bought for somewhere north of $18 million after taxes. All-electric mega-machines are also becoming more common, with Pininfarina's $2.6 million Battista being the most extreme example. Ferrari's longtime design partner says its first ground-up creation will be good for roughly 1,900 horsepower. No, that is not a typo. Pininfarina claims it will be the most powerful street-legal car of all time.
Outside of the certifiably insane Battista, EVs of all shapes, sizes, and prices continue to proliferate at shows like Geneva, cars like the Polestar 2. The Volvo-associated Polestar is just one of a slew of marques that plans to flood the market with all-electric offerings in the next year or two.
The Volkswagen Group, especially, is electrifying so fast it may have to change its logo to a charging plug. At Geneva, it showed off one of its most expressive offerings to date, called the ID Buggy. Based on VW's new, small-car electric platform known as MEB, the dune-buggy-style vehicle has no doors or roof, and it nods to the famed Meyers Manx and vehicles like it, which originally used Volkswagen air-cooled engines to provide their power.
We got a walk-around of the Buggy with VW design chief Klaus Bischoff, who broadly hinted that it would be built by a third-party automaker as a specialty vehicle of sorts as soon as two years from now. He called it "pure driving fun." That's exactly what we want to see and hear when it comes to EVs, cars created for the joy of driving, cars like the amazing McLarens I had the privilege of piloting to Geneva in order to catch another glimpse of the future.