First drive: 2016 McLaren 570S in the UAE
When you think “entry-level,” it conjures up images of Hyundai Accents and call-centre workers. However, in the world of premium cars, even “entry-level” has a wholly different meaning. And we’re not talking about stuff like BMW and their 1.6-litre 1-Series. We’re talking about McLaren and their new 570S, part of their entry-level Sports Series cars that are positioned as a rival to the Porsche 911 Turbo S, which is essentially the flagship of Stuttgart’s legendary rear-engined range.
We were invited by McLaren to try out the 570S for a day. The two cars on hand were actually Bahraini-registered pre-production examples, as first deliveries are still a few weeks away. Having built around 1,600 last year, McLaren expects the 570S and its slightly softer-tuned cousin, the 540C, to bring up their total annual production to around 4,000 cars, which is pretty much the production capacity at their exclusive factory, so we were told not to expect any other new models, such as 4x4s, although we can expect more variants of their existing cars.
Picking the orange one of the two cars, we could immediately see details on the body that are not visible in photos, such as the separate panels at different depths that make up the door skins, as well as subtle aerodynamic paths for air to go around the car, such as through the doors and along the “flying buttress” rear C-pillars. Unlike the pricier McLaren 650S which is made up entirely of carbon-fibre and composite body panels, the 570S additionally uses a few aluminium panels to reduce costs. It still has a carbon-fibre tub, modified to allow easier access into the cabin without pulling a leg muscle, though still not easy enough for geriatrics.
And that’s the theme of the 570S really. It’s built to be more practical for everyday use, with scissor doors that open wider and close with a soft touch, while offering features such as more a/c vents, useable cup-holders and extra storage spaces. We’d have taken a peek in the boot up front too, but the lid did not open. Neither did the engine-compartment lid. Pre-production, remember?
Otherwise, everything else worked, including the good stereo and the portrait-positioned touchscreen. We were able to figure out how to change radio stations and connect our phones, but try to have a Bluetooth conversation at the same time as reversing, and the rear-camera view gets distorted for several precious seconds initially. It’s possible the final version will have sorted out these issues.
The cabin trim is perfectly done, with beautiful stitched leather all over the dash, doors and seats. However, we’d say to just get the regular seats and skip the manually-adjusted racing buckets as seen here, because the latter are very, very cramped.
Powered by a 562 hp version of McLaren’s usual 3.8-litre turbo V8, the different tuning is readily apparent. Compared to the McLaren 675LT we drove earlier, the 570S feels more subdued, still fast but not throwing all that power at you with the same level of violence at lower revs. The motor is a fair bit quieter under 4000 rpm, and spins below 2000 rpm at highway speeds, just like a Toyota Camry. The engine is always audible, but it’s more of a docile hum, opening up to a throaty roar only on full throttle.
The gearbox is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic affair, making for quick nearly-seamless shifts if left to its own devices in “sport” mode. It’s also very responsive when using the paddles manually. It’s reasonably quick to move off from idle, not particularly affected by the delayed responses that afflicts many other dual-clutched cars. However, there is an obvious rubber-band effect in reverse gear, with the car lurching unevenly on mild throttle inputs when backing up.
As for the handling, we didn’t get enough time to take the car to its tyre-squealing edge, but whatever corners we did take indicated very high limits, with no obvious body roll. The steering offers moderate feedback and is surprisingly light at lower speeds, while firming up nicely at higher speeds. The carbon-ceramic brakes are strong and the pedal is easy to modulate linearly, unlike the jerky action in earlier McLarens we’ve driven.
The Sports-Series 570S uses less-complicated suspension than the Super-Series 650S, but that isn’t readily apparent as the ride quality is pretty decent on good road surfaces, while not being hugely jarring over bumps and imperfections. It is also quieter than the 650S, although cabin noise remains at moderate levels while doing 120 kph.
The 570S is less frantic than its bigger brother — well, not really ‘bigger’, as the 570S is actually the same size at the 650S — and is therefore a much more agreeable car that can be driven on a day-to-day basis, just as McLaren intended. It makes for a far more interesting alternative to a 911 Turbo S, maybe not beating it in outright performance, being rear-wheel-drive versus the all-wheel-drive German, but surely offering that unmistakable supercar vibe in terms of design that was missing in this segment.
For prices and specs, visit the McLaren buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury & McLaren.