What’s in a name?
McLaren is fairly adamant its 570S is not a supercar. As a member of McLaren’s ‘entry level’ Sports Series range, the 570S is instead a sports car, the supercar label reserved for Woking’s Super Series models like the new 720S.
Having spent a day and several hundred kilometres behind the wheel, however, we’re reminded of the phrase, “if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck...”
The 570S certainly looks exotic enough, the prototypical mid-engined layout resulting in a low, wide wedge-shaped body.
Its presence is helped by the Mantis Green elite paint job, however, even in a more sombre shade the upward-opening dihedral doors guarantee heads will turn.
They’re also a real help in tight parking spaces. Entry and exit are reasonably painless, though easier if you’re fit and flexible, the driving position is excellent and supremely adjustable and forward vision is very good for a car of this type.
Unusually, given the typically loaded specification of test cars, our 570S had a virtually standard interior.
Almost uniform in its blackness, the unkind would call it dull, though some contrast stitching and selective use of carbon fibre would improve it no end, something easily achieved via McLaren’s extensive options list.
Despite the standard cabin, our 570S still had more than $40K of options on top of its $379,000 price tag.
The graphics for the IRIS infotainment system may not be cutting edge, but it works reasonably intuitively and there are a number of small details that hint at both McLaren’s racing heritage and its impressive attention to detail.
The figure displayed on the HVAC screen is wearing a helmet, for instance, and the ‘ESP off’ light is a tiny McLaren rather than a generic car.
There is a purposeful minimalism to the interior, typified by the unadorned, thin-rimmed steering wheel, which feels absolutely perfect in your palms.
A press of the centre console-mounted starter button fires the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 into life. It wakes with a bark before settling into the raucous buzz typical of a flat-plane bent-eight.
Quite a lot of throttle is needed for the seven-speed ‘seamless shift’ dual-clutch gearbox to engage and take-offs can be juddery unless you’re decisive with the accelerator, but once up to speed the shifts slip through unobtrusively.
To control the McLaren’s mood there are two switches on the centre console, one for the drivetrain and one for the chassis, each with three settings: Normal, Sport and Track.
Oddly, flicking the switches does nothing until you press the ‘Active’ button between them. On the one hand it makes switching between calm and crazy a breeze, but the ease with which settings can be adjusted does make it seem rather redundant.
In its quietest settings the 570S is an undemanding everyday accomplice.
Despite lacking McLaren’s clever hydraulic Proactive Chassis, with the dampers set to normal the ride is generally good, only getting choppy over very rough surfaces.
The steering is light and throttle response dulled almost to the point of stupor – the days of poor-mannered exotics are definitely behind us.
It doesn’t take long for curiosity to initiate switching the powertrain to Sport and the right foot to meet the floor.
Even the very best turbo engines need a moment to literally take a breath, but the resulting acceleration is intimidating in its intensity.
The 570S might be McLaren’s baby, but with 419kW/600Nm it still manages 0-100km/h in 3.2sec, 0-200km/h in 9.5sec and 328km/h flat out. Not a supercar, you say?
At full noise its pace verges on uncomfortable; on paper it’s the fastest car in its segment and it puts a physical strain on your neck under acceleration.
Built by British engineering specialists Ricardo, the engine isn’t evocative in the same manner as a Lamborghini V10, but it sounds and feels like a race engine, with a hard-edged growl as revs build and a massively broad spread of power, right to the 8500rpm redline. The gearbox feels similarly focused.
Its programming in auto mode is top-notch, instantly grabbing lower gears as soon as substantial brake pressure is applied, while manual shifts are instant.
Upshifts punch you in the back, but without the mechanical harshness of some rival ’boxes.
Given the 570S feeds its enormous power through just the rear wheels, thankfully the chassis is also up to task.
It’s inherently friendly, especially with heat in the Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber, though a spike of boost at the wrong time can catch you out.
Thankfully the Track ESP setting is brilliantly calibrated, allowing the car to slide under power – there’s no limited-slip diff, however, McLaren’s Brake Steer system is every bit as effective – while still keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.
The brakes are sublime; there’s little assistance so they need a firm push to give their best, yet they are so progressive it’s like applying your foot directly to the carbon-ceramic disc.
Keeping weight on the nose is key on corner entry as the 570S has very narrow front tyres – just 225mm wide compared to the 285mm rears – and they’ll persistently push wide in slow corners if you’re impatient.
Outright pace is staggering, but your typical bumpy Aussie back road does trip the 570S up somewhat.
In order to relax the ESP the chassis needs to be in Sport, which stiffens the dampers and has the car skipping over bumps and sending kickback through the steering wheel.
Initially there doesn’t seem to be much front-end communication either, though relaxing your grip and just guiding the car with your fingertips improves matters.
There’s the sense that the 570S would be utterly devastating on track, but perhaps the slightly softer 540C or 570GT might be the optimal choice for road work.
Some of this may seem like nitpicking, but this is an incredibly competitive segment packed with amazing cars. The McLaren 570S is right up there while occupying its own niche.
It’s rawer and more exciting than a 911 Turbo without being as flamboyantly theatrical as a Lamborghini Huracan. There are a couple of ergonomic quirks that need ironing out, but its performance and dynamics are generally top-notch and you can feel McLaren’s motorsport heritage in its DNA.
The 570S may not be a supercar, but it is a super car.
4.5 out of 5
Likes: Crazy speed; entertaining handling
Dislikes: Lacks a little compliance; ergonomic quirks
Engine: 3799cc V8, DOHV, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 419kW @ 7500rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 3500rpm
0-100km/h: 3.2sec (claimed)