The way it drives: steering, chassis, brakes, traction
Not as cosy and habitable as some rivals
What is it?
The entry-level McLaren. Sport Series, in their terminology, placing it below the 720S (Super Series) which gains moveable aero devices and cross-linked hydraulic dampers that are denied junior. Top of pile is the Ultimate Series – the limited edition stuff such as the Senna, Speedtail and Elva. But even at the bottom end, McLarens are hardly lacking in speed or ability.
Like all McLaren road cars ever produced, the Sport Series is built around a carbon tub. All versions are powered by a 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 engine, available with a choice of three different outputs. The base car was the now discontinued 540C with – obviously – 540bhp. Above it you have the 570 and then the 600LT. If we’re being pedantic they actually develop 562 and 592bhp respectively, although both produce the same 443lb ft of torque. The 570 is the bread-and-butter model, available in three body styles: coupe, convertible and GT hatch. The 600LT, available as drop-top as well as hard top, is a track weapon: harder, sharper. All versions are rear-wheel drive only.
The 540 and 570 are everyday supercars: seating for two, twin clutch gearbox and enough practicality and habitability to make them usable. It’s a competitive area, putting the Sport Series into conflict with the likes of the Audi R8, AMG GT, Aston Martin Vantage and Porsche 911 Turbo.
The McLaren is lighter than any of its rivals, just a little over 1,400kg, and this, combined with superb launch control, gives it immense sprinting ability. As we found out when we drag raced it. 0-60mph is done in just 3.2secs, 100mph in 6.3secs and top speed is 204mph. Those acceleration times? Identical to those achieved by the fearsome and fabled F1...
Launched in 2015, only ten per cent of parts were carried over from the older 650S, chiefly the front and rear wishbones, braking system and IRIS infotainment. Although it retained the same capacity, the engine used new injectors, turbochargers and cam phasers, and a bespoke exhaust and manifold. Suspension is by conventional spring/damper units and (a first for any modern McLaren) there are actual anti-roll bars. The driving experience is key, of course, but McLaren did also drop the sill height and make sure the upward-opening doors rise further and twist outwards more in order to improve access. There’s a sizeable boot in the nose, and if you have the GT, another larger one over your shoulder.
While the 540C was available, prices started at £126,000, running up to £201,500 for the 600LT Spider. The regular 570S is £150,815.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
There isn’t a faster or more rewarding ‘entry-level’ supercar. An Audi R8 makes a better noise and has a nicer cabin. The Porsche 911 Turbo (a new one is due in 2020) is more versatile and secure. An AMG GT is more thunderous. But if speed and handling count above all, the 570 takes some beating. And yes, the 570GT is softer, but not by much. And the 540C is slower, but you’ll never notice it.
The arrival of the Sport Series in 2015 was an important milestone for McLaren, bringing clarity and structure to the model range. It remains the handling benchmark in the £150,000 class, and although it lacks some of the features seen on the 720S, it’s still underpinned by a carbon tub and a sense of occasion that very, very few cars can match.