With its 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 cranking out 588kW and 800Nm, the McLAren Senna is driven by the most powerful combustion engine ever developed by McLaren’s road car operation. Granted, those figures are put in the shade by the McLaren P1’s total system output of 673kW/980Nm, but that car had an electric motor to help it out. Even so, the Senna accelerates just as quick – and is almost as fast – as the mighty P1.
The Senna’s 0-100km/h and 0-200km/h sprint times are identical to the P1, coming in at 2.8 seconds and 6.8 seconds respectively. Launch it down a dragstrip and it’ll trip the beam in a mere 9.9 seconds, just a tenth of a second behind the P1.
Top speed is a shade under the P1’s 350km/h figure, with the Senna v-maxing at 340km/h – likely a result of the extra drag imposed by the Senna’s high-downforce aero kit.
The flipside is the Senna’s bodywork generates a whopping 800kg of downforce at 250km/h to help glue it to the road (or track), and while its styling may not have the simple elegance of other cars in the McLaren range, the huge vents and intakes all serve to make the car grip harder and go faster.
See those shovel-like scoops behind the front cheek vents? They’re electronically controlled winglets mounted inside ducts, and they can be trimmed at high speed to reduce downforce and keep the suspension from bottoming out. The aero gets even wilder at the rear, with another adjustable wing taking care of the bulk of downforce generation and working in concert with a sizable diffuser. Dramatic slashes in the Senna’s carbon-fibre engine cover help evacuate heat from the engine bay.
McLaren says you can’t follow a single body line from stem to stern without it being intersected by an intake or vent, something which will no doubt arouse tech geeks.
The exhaust has also been crafted with aerodynamics in mind, with the trio of hexagonal tips being cut on a slant to be flush with the rear deck and direct exhaust gasses away from the rear wing. The Senna may not have conventional beauty, but the company says it’s the “strongest expression yet of McLaren’s form follows function philosophy”.
Downforce, aero and prodigious power are key to the Senna’s performance, but it’s light weight that’s the real secret sauce to making the non-hybrid Senna as quick as a P1. Tipping the scales at just 1198kg, the Senna weighs less than a Toyota 86.
Its bodywork only contributes 60kg to that total, and McLaren elected to equip the Senna with a more traditional fixed pedal box and sliding seat instead of a fixed seat and sliding pedals (fast becoming the hypercar norm) all in the name of saving weight. Meanwhile, ultra-light forged alloy wheels encase carbon-ceramic rotors that weigh a fraction of conventional iron items – and take seven months to manufacture.
And speaking of rolling stock, though it might say “Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R” on the sidewalls of the Senna’s 19-inch (front) and 20-inch (rear) tyres, they’re a custom compound and construction that’s designed to resist squirm during hard cornering and perform best on dry race tracks. They’re far from off-the-shelf rubber.
The Senna is the lightest McLaren since the original F1, and while its 491kW-per-tonne power to weight figure is astonishingly not the biggest in the hypercar realm (the Bugatti Chiron makes 560kW/tonne), its more holistic approach to merging aero, weight reduction, power and grip is what makes it special.
Too bad there’s only ever going to be 500 Sennas made, and too bad they’re all spoken for.