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The email arrived unexpectedly. “I don‘t think we‘ve ever met, but I‘m the PR Manager for McLaren in North America,” it began. My pulse quickened as I continued reading. “We‘ve got a 570S Spider that is making a quick appearance in the Chicago area for a few press loans, and I was wondering if you might be interested in scheduling a quick loan for a review?”
In the year or so I have spent reviewing cars at Ars, in addition to my usual managing editor duties, I‘ve generally stuck to SUVs, crossovers, and minivans. Some of them can go very fast—the , , and the come to mind—but the McLaren 570S Spider is quite a different beast. After a quick chat with Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin, I replied with a “yes, please.” A week later, I found myself pulling out of the garage at the McLaren dealership in downtown Chicago behind the wheel of a $235,340 supercar.
When it comes to McLarens, the 570S Spider is toward the low end of the price spectrum. New for the 2018 model year, the Spider is a convertible version of the 570S, a model that itself hit the market in 2015. Capable of a top speed of 196mph with the 101lb (46kg) roof down, the 570S Spider can hit 204mph with the hardtop in place. Speeds like that come naturally to a car that has a 3.8-liter V8 twin-turbo engine and weighs just a hair over 3,300lb. The 562hp (419kW) engine offers 443lb-ft (600Nm) of torque and is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch seamless-shift gearbox.
The 570S Spider also has an adaptive-damping, double-wishbone suspension that offers a firm and stable ride. Any concerns that I would be helming a rattlebox were allayed after a couple minutes of driving. [The on the 650S is a lot better—Ed.]
Normally, after laying out the car‘s specs, I‘d move into a review. But most of us are never going to buy a supercar, let alone a McLaren. So let‘s talk about what I learned from driving one for a few days.
It’s not like anything I’ve ever driven before
- I got to drive this for three days.
- And it was very, very fast.
- Unfortunately, we couldn‘t remove the engine cover to take pictures of the 562hp 3.8-liter V8 underneath.
- Some massive air intakes to help keep the brakes cool. Bradley Warren Photography
Supercars have a distinctive look. They‘re low-slung, aerodynamic, and have engines behind the seats. As a result, they drive differently.
Most obviously, they‘re faster. If you‘re in a situation where you need to punch it, that punch will land with explosive force. There may be a bit of horizontal wiggle in back as the car picks up speed, so make sure your hands are at 10 and two and your eyes are looking down the road.
Steering is much more responsive as well. The merest twitch of the steering wheel translates into movement. If you crave immediate feedback from your vehicle, the McLaren delivers in spades. It handles differently, too—the grip was amazing, imparting a feeling of being glued to the road.
Seeing a supercar is a big deal for some people
If you are the kind of person who hates being the center of attention, don‘t drive a McLaren. Heads will turn as you drive by, and other cars will try to match speeds with you so their occupants can gawk at the car. Teenage boys are fascinated.
Thirty-six hours after getting the Spider, I had to put some gas in it (surprise!). As I stood next to the gas pump, a man came up to me and started asking me questions about the car. That soon segued into more general car talk and then his showing me pictures of his 1971 Mercury Cougar—a gorgeous machine if you‘re into the early-‘70s muscle-car look. After about five minutes of chatting, I folded myself into the Spider and bid him a good night.
My final evening with the McLaren, I came to a stop at an intersection and noticed a policeman in an SUV stopped next to me.
“Good evening, sir! I may or may not have driven this car in excess of the posted speed limit, but if it happened, it was outside of your jurisdiction,” I told him after rolling down my window.
He laughed and said he just wanted some pictures.
I came to dread getting in and out of it
- Dihedral doors are the best option for a car like the McLaren 570S Spider.
- Open sesame
- With temps not getting any higher than 55°F/13°C, this was the only time I had the top down. Getting in and out was still a chore.
- I had to maneuver myself under the steering wheel.
- And those seats sat low.
I had just dragged myself out of the McLaren with great effort after backing into the garage, closing out a full day of driving. Walking to the front of the car to grab my laptop bag out of the “frunk,” I noticed I hadn‘t pulled in far enough. I was going to have to pretzel myself back in, reverse about four inches, and exit once again.
When your ride is less than four feet (1.3m) tall, getting in and out can be an ordeal. McLaren cars have dihedral doors to make life easier, but easier is a relative term when you‘re on the wrong side of 50 and have bad knees.
The technique I eventually settled on for entry was to slip my right leg in first, slide it under the steering wheel, and then gradually maneuver the rest of my limbs and torso inside. Lastly, I‘d tilt my head to the left to fit it under the hardtop (late October is no time to go topless in Chicago) and take a seat. I also had to figure out where to put my size 13EEEE feet. I‘m a manspreader when driving a larger car, but McLaren don‘t play that, leaving me with exactly one place to put my left leg.
Once ensconced in the cockpit, it was surprisingly comfortable, despite the sensation of being wedged in.
Getting out required bracing myself against… something. But that something needed to be an object I could push off against, not just some random piece of carbon-fiber trim.