It’s always good to talk with Rob Melville, McLaren Automotive’s design director. He’s enthusiastic about what he does—specifically in creating new McLarens but also with respect to design philosophy in general. He’s a straight talker, no obfuscation, no superfluous adjectives, and no exaggeration. Although he’s relatively young (40) for a top designer, he’s quite experienced, having been with McLaren for the past decade. He and his team are working fast to produce the multiple models in the company’s product pipeline.
“We were concerned to simplify, to reduce the number of cutlines on the body, not only for appearance, but for aerodynamics,” Melville says about the philosophy behind the new Speedtail hypercar. He goes on to emphasize the single-piece rear body skin, which incorporates what I’d call trailing-edge flaps but McLaren refers to as “ailerons,” discernible only by the cuts at their sides; their outer skin is contiguous with the greater body surface, which is itself flexible. “They’re actuated automatically and also serve under braking to keep the rear wheels down,” he says of the ailerons. A great deal of attention was also paid, Melville says, to the interior, always stressing lightweighting, even in the way the leather is treated, resulting in both lower weight per square foot and better wear characteristics.
When I suggest the cabin looks a little cold and clinical in photos, Melville counters that there’s a richness of color and above all of feel—an incredibly soft and welcoming touch to all of the cabin. It’s “pretty much completely leather lined, even the floor mats,” but that needs to be seen to be appreciated. Many of the cabin details are laser-cut in laminated carbon-fiber films, each only 30 microns thick and said to resemble flowing water when the carbon is milled to expose multiple edges.
I’m pleased by Melville’s candid hope that the exceptional Speedtail will be on the lawn at some far-off Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance. “We were thinking about future Concours as we designed this one,” he says. You can well imagine the Speedtail will not only be admitted to the party but will also be a strong contender for Best of Show in 2045. Melville’s hopes are pretty much certain to be fulfilled.