After I spent some time with the McLaren 570s, the British supercar company’s entry-level modelÂ for North America, I asked Jack Baruth if he thought theÂ 675LT was worth $200,000 dollars more than the 570S.
I’d driven the 675LT around Los Angeles back in January and Jack’s driven both cars as well. The 570S’ performance impressed me, but I wanted the opinion of someone with more experience drivingÂ six-figure sports cars than I do.
Jack’s reply was simple: “Yes, it is.”
I don’t have the income to afford either car, but I realizedÂ two things upon consideration. The first was Jack was correct: if I had $400,000 to spend on a car, I’d probably go with the 675LT. Though edging into diminishing returns, theÂ differences are noticeable to even a ham-fisted driver such as myself.
The second realization:Â at around $200,000, the 570S is a bargain.
By any standard you want â€” performance, style, or status â€” the 570S appears to have value exceeding its price. Car companies go on about DNA, but the 570S indeed shares much with higher-end McLarens â€” the 650s/675LT “Super Series” cars, and the ultimate, million-dollar P1.
All McLarens use the same basic carbon fiber reinforced plastic tub for the passenger safety cell and main structure of the car. In the case of the 570S, the sills are a little lower and significantly narrower, considerably easing ingress and egress compared toÂ the 675LT. Still,Â it’sÂ not the same as climbing up into an SUV or plopping down behind the wheel of a Camcordata.
The 570S,Â like all current McLarens, has a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 engine, which started lifeÂ as a Nissan-funded racing motor. It’s built by Ricardo for McLaren and puts out 562 horsepower in this application. To get that much powerÂ from an engine that small means burning some fuel and making some waste heat. The back half of the car radiates a greatÂ number of BTUs when the cooling fans kick in.
The 570S has a lot more soundproofing than the track focused 675LT, but you can still hear the engine’s exhaust anytime the car is running â€” and a delicious sound it is too. There’s an interstate highway that has three tunnels within a couple of miles of my home. The McLaren’s dynamic mode switches should include “Tunnel Mode” â€” windows and throttle both all the way down.
The entry-level Macca also shares familial styling with the more expensive McLarens. Some folks who recognized it as a McLaren asked me if it was a P1. I’m not much of a status seeker, but if I was, spending 20 percent of the price of a P1 to get a similar level of status strikes me as a bargain. AÂ Porsche 911 GT3 looks a lot like lesserÂ Porsches. The 570s looks a lot like cars that cost multiples of its MSRP.
So, how does the 570S drive? Surprisingly for a car that’s intended for something closer to the mass market, the 570S is a bit stiff in the suspension department compared to the 675LT, which is McLaren’s track-focused car. That’s probably because the 570S doesn’t share theÂ trick computer-controlled sway bars equipped on upper McLarens. The 570S makes do with conventional mechanical suspension, but it’s superb. The suspensionÂ has three settings â€” normal, sport and track â€” and leaving it in sport mode most of the time, while stiff, I didn’t find it uncomfortable on Michigan’s crappy roads.
In terms of handling, the 570S feels composed and assured at all speeds. On the highway, it’s rock steady, a feeling of security aiding by hydraulic power steering that increases effort at speed. I don’t want to sound too much like an expert here, but I also felt there was just a touch of understeer at speed â€” probably a good idea for a mid-engine car that wants to rotate.
As far as performance is concerned, you’re getting just about all the performance of the far more expensive McLarens at a fraction of the price. Car and Driver tested the 570s at 2.7 seconds for 0-60 mph, with a quarter-mile time of 10.7 seconds and a trap speed of 133 mph. Road Track had the 650S at the identical 0-60 time, though it wasÂ three ticks faster at the drag strip â€” 10.4 seconds at 136 mph. Fully wound out, the 650S will do 207 mph, marginally faster than the 570S’ 204. (Both of those speeds are electronically limited.)
Those are rarefied numbers, but you don’t even have to exceed the speed limit to have fun in the 570S. Perhaps you’d be risking a reckless driving or “driving in a race-like manner” ticket, but it’s big fun to take a 90-degree corner between two major roads at the speed limit.
The McLarens get a lot of street cred as practical supercars; exotics that can be daily driven. Proving that point, I did a grocery run late Saturday night. On the way home on I-696, I was in the left lane, doing my usual 90th percentile 75-80 mph when I heard a noise that was possibly mechanical. I was listening to the Grateful Dead channel on satellite at the time, and the Dead sometimes producedÂ some weird sounds, so I turned down the outstanding Bowers Wilkins stereo to see if it was the music. I wasÂ concerned when the noise didn’t go away, but then in the corner of my eye I caught a Subaru WRX STI coming up fast in the right-hand lane. He wasn’t alone. It was a squadron of midnight flyers out for a high-speed run.
I soon found myself driving next to a Dodge Charger, and I know what the Hellcat badge on the fender looks like. I also know what it means when you’re driving a fast car and someone in another fast car pulls up next to you, paces you, and then looks over with a “wanna go?” grin.
Coincidentally, the Hellcat Charger has a top speed of 204 mph, just like the 570S. To get there, though, the Charger needs an extra 140 horsepower or so, because it weighs about 1,50-pounds more than the McLaren, and has to push a lot more airÂ â€” it’s a cinder block compared to the 570S. Power-to-weight ratios favor the McLaren, though Chrysler has claimed the same 2.9 second 0-60 time as McLaren does for the 570S. (Though, when the Charger was tested with drag radials at a prepared trackÂ by Car and Driver, the best the buff bookÂ could do with the four-door Hellcat was 3.4 seconds.)
From a standing start, the Hellcat probably wouldn’t have much of a chance, but in the real world on an 80 mph roll, the competition was decently handicapped. Besides, how often does a Hellcat owner get a chance to drive with something faster than his or her ride?
I decided to indulge the MoparÂ man â€” at least until I thought I wasÂ going way too fast for even midnight traffic. I backed off and let him go. Until I did, I can say with certitude the Hellcat isn’t any faster than the 570S.Â The McLaren wasn’t walking away, but it was gaining by inches. My guess is that once aero became important around a buck twenty five, the Hellcat would have receded quickly in the McLaren’s rear view camera screen (which can actually be activated when you’re traveling forward).
As an aside, ifÂ the McLaren is a bargain at $200,000, the Hellcat Dodges are steals at $66,000. At a price some not-very-rich regular guys can afford, the Hellcats are about as fast as millionaire’s cars. Ain’t America grand?
The 570S isn’t perfect. There were some fit and finish issues, with some of the rubber trim near the door buckling and pulling away from its adhesive. While the subtly pearl and metallic crimson paint was impressive, there was a paint run on the inside of one of the door jambs. Additionally, the flocked coating inside the front luggage compartment was beginning to flake off in a few places, with only about 5,000 miles on the odometer.
A company that builds cars in the hundreds and thousands isn’t going to have the same opportunities to fix things over a long production run, so those issues can be excused. You don’t buy a McLaren for uniform 3 mm panel gaps.
More annoying,Â for a high-tech company, there are some disappointments with the car’s electronics, an issue that goes back to McLaren’s MP4-12C. Critics dinged the C6 Corvette for having an interior that didn’t match the Vette’s considerable performance. The electronics and infotainment on the 570S are not worthy of the car.
There’s a pouch in the front of the driver’s seat cushion for stashing the smart-key fob as the car sometimes has difficulty recognizing it. When the fleet personnelÂ dropped off the 570S, it took a phone call and me walking away from the car, then some power cycling, before I was able to start it. It continued to give me a “key not in car” error, but hitting the unlock button on the fob seemed to do the trick.
Later, whenÂ I stopped for gas, IÂ couldn’t get the car started for ten minutes. It would recognize the key fob, but it just wouldn’t spin the starter. Along with the car’s registration and proof of insurance,Â there was the business card of a McLaren “after sales consultant,” so I called him. He told me to step on the brake pedal harder than I would normally. That did the trick. Afterwards, there wereÂ no similar issues.
I noticed while driving that just tapping the brake pedal would not deactivate the cruise control; you have to actually apply the brakes or use the cruise control switches. Apparently, the starting system and cruise control both rely on the same brake pressure sensor. McLaren’s representative told me that was intentional. ItÂ wants drivers to be deliberate in their actions. For that same reason, throttle response is varied. Only in track mode doesÂ the powertrain deliver instantaneous response.Â Turbo lag and slower downshifts are characteristic of the Macca’s “normal” driving mode.
Also about electronics, theÂ infotainment system is slow. One time,Â the system would not initialize either the satellite or broadcast radio tuners. The touch screen is very small and the rear camera view is tiny, smaller than videos on many cellphones.
Of course, if you hadÂ to pick between McLaren putting itsÂ considerable engineering resources into the chassis and drivetrain or into a better infotainment system, I’m pretty sure I know how you’d pick.
The 570S is a great joy to drive, but I think my peak experience with it wasn’t behind the wheel. As it happened, the weekend that I had the car my older brother was in town from Jerusalem visiting our mom, who just turned 92. Jeffrey is the person who first taught me about cars and how to work on them. He also taught me that going around a corner can be as much fun as a 0-to-60Â standing start. If it hadn’t been for Jeff, I probably wouldn’t be a car enthusiastÂ andÂ you wouldn’t be reading this.
On Friday afternoon, I took the McLaren over to where he was staying to show him the car.
He was walking around it, smiling. I walked over to the passenger side and opened up the dihedral door for myself, gestured to him and the driver’s seat and said, “B’vakasha,” Hebrew for “Please.” As we tooled around the subdivision, I got my phone out to shoot video of his reaction. You won’t ever see a bigger grin.
Clarification and historical note: Some of the photographs were taken using McLaren Engineering’s building in Livonia, Michigan as a background. McLaren Engineering is not part of the UK-based McLaren Technology Group though the companies are, in one sense, related and the U.S. company also uses a kiwi in its logo. Bruce McLaren was from New Zealand. When he raced in North America’s CanAm series in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he used Chevrolet engines and set up McLaren Engines in the Detroit area to build and prep the motors. Engines from that shop won five CanAm titles and two Indy 500 races. McLaren Engineering is now focused on powertrain development and has been part of the Linamar corporation since 2003.
McLaren provided the car, insurance, and a tank of premium gas.