WHAT IS IT?
It’s a McLaren 570S with a retractable hardtop, but with all of the important stuff intact. That means the same 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8, the same power and torque outputs, the same zero-to-hundred and the same top speed… provided the roof is raised.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
McLaren says the 570S Spider carries few compromises relative to its hard-top sibling, but the burning question is whether driving topless brings new kinds of thrills to the 570S experience.
Performance review: 2017 McLaren 570S Spider review
Ferrari 488 Spider, Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4, Audi R8 Spyder V10 quattro, Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Going sans roof is the best way to enjoy McLaren’s Sports Series line-up, thanks to the better acoustic experience it offers. Unlike some rivals, going for the convertible doesn’t really cost you anything in performance either, making the 570S Spider a win-win proposition – if you can afford the extra initial outlay.
PLUS: Better access to its sound than Coupe, superb balance of handling and ride comfort, few tangible compromises compared to Coupe
MINUS: Engine note still lacks aural appeal, considerable increase in cost over Coupe
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT’S CURIOUS that one of McLaren’s most ‘affordable’ models (there’s some definite sarcasm there) is also one of its most tactile, engaging and appealing offerings. Simple minds might think of an entry-level convertible as being the poser’s choice, but in reality it’s closer to being the connoisseur’s darling.
Read next: 2017 McLaren 570S review
Don’t get us wrong. There’s little to dislike about the bigger-armed options in McLaren’s three-tier product portfolio, whether it be the 720S that sits in the mid-level Super Series or the truly fearsome Senna that resides in the lofty Ultimate Series, but by the same token the 570S Spider that lives in the entry level Sports Series is no junior burger. If anything, it packs an equal amount of emotional pull as its brethren, and its performance is arguably more accessible – and enjoyable as a result.
As with all McLarens the 570S Spider is built around a carbonfibre tub, and its torsional rigidity is such that top-down scuttle-shake is non-existent. The power-retractable hardtop goes up or down in 15 seconds and adds 46kg of extra mass over a 570S coupe, but that’s minuscule. More importantly, the Spider’s 0-100km/h stat of 3.2 seconds is identical to the coupe’s, and so is its roof-up top speed of 328km/h. So much for convertibles being the compromised choice.
What’s more, the roofless Spider delivers something that roof-having McLarens tend to lack – some semblance of sonic satisfaction. An independently-retracting rear screen throbs in more engine noises when the side glass is up, or brings plenty of cross-flow when the windows are wound down, (and there’s also a small amount of storage under the roof’s tonneau cover that’s perfect for slipping a briefcase or soft bag into).
The exhaust note still remains unique amongst the V8 supercar set. Though the 570S’ 3.8-litre is built around a flat-plane crankshaft, like a Ferrari 488, the noise it emits from its twin tailpipes is almost rotary-like in its harmonics and tone. Roof-down, the hiss of both turbochargers cramming air into that 3.8 is punctuated by the faint sneezes of the recirc valves as you lift off, which is nice, but whether the resulting noise is pleasant or not is still highly subjective. Work it hard enough, though (and make sure the Powertrain toggle is set to Sport), and the exhaust will eject warzone sound effects on gearshifts and the overrun.
Granted, a 720S sounds angrier, but where a 720S is a grit-your-teeth-and-pray type of driving experience, the 570S Spider is far friendlier. It’s a McLaren that doesn’t leave you scared and sweaty, but is still road-crushingly fast.
On the road it seemingly shrinks, glove-like, around the driver. The steering is light but communicative, and virtually falls into the road’s camber with the slightest of nudges. The suspension works best on twisty roads when in Normal or Sport mode, but unlike many supercars the 570S isn’t spine-shatteringly firm when dialled up to Track. Its traditional anti-roll bars and conventional multi-mode dampers might not have the technological sophistication of the hydraulically-linked undercarriage in the 720S, but it still retains plenty of pliancy over rough ground.
Front-end grip is massive, and only turns to understeer at truly silly speeds. You can play with its balance though, especially if you trim the (ultra-smooth) stability control into its more permissive Dynamic mode. Hook in hard with the steering and you can use the inertia of that mid-mounted V8 to swing the tail around slightly, and the transition to oversteer is less spiky than you might expect. It’d be a hoot on a racetrack, where there’s more space to exploit.
The twin-turbo 3.8 litre V8 might be at the lower end of McLaren’s horsepower spectrum, but it’s all relative. Its performance is mega when wound beyond 2500rpm where both turbos are at full puff, and with the redline not appearing until 8000rpm there’s a fat powerband to exploit. The seven-speed dual-clutch also manages to be civil enough for daily use, though its take-up is predictably snatchy in stop-and-go driving. Those see-saw shift paddles are a neat trick though, allowing one-handed control of both upshifts and downshifts.
Read next: 2018 McLaren 720S review: Car vs Road
But the best part about the 570S Spider is just how effortless it is to switch from boulevard cruising to back-road blasting. It’s docile and comfortable when the Handling and Powertrain toggles are rotated to ‘N’ (for Normal), but transforming it into a more hard-edged vehicle is as simple as twisting both knobs a click or two to the right – and with those two switches located high and forward on the centre console, right where your left hand naturally falls, customising the 570S’ behaviour can be done entirely by feel.
And speaking of which, there’s only really one ergonomic failing in the 570S Spider’s cabin – the controls for the (cost optional) power seats are located on the bottom cushion itself, between the seat and the centre console. Curious placement, given the rest of the interior and its switchgear are so thoughtfully laid out.
But on the whole, the 570S Spider works with you. Unlike some supercars it doesn’t fight you, and few mid-engined rivals feel quite as user-friendly as the McLaren. The Spider’s ability to throw some sunlight on your scalp and send more decibels to your ears enhances the base 570S experience and introduces hardly any downsides, and perhaps the only real stumbling block you’ll encounter is whether going topless is worth the considerable $40,750 premium over the Coupe.
Model: McLaren 570S Spider
Engine: 3799cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 419kW @ 7500rpm
Max torque: 600Nm @ 5000-6500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Fuel economy: 10.7L/100km (claimed)