What is it like to drive?
Full disclosure: I used to have a McLaren MP4 12C Spider as a longtermer for TG Garage, and it had so many niggles - wayward sat-nav, imaginative tyre pressure sensors, windows that didn’t work, phantom engine lights and the like - that it made me wary of McLaren as an entity. It was also, with the computers switched fully off, a bit of a handful. As in have-your-hand-off-at-the-wrist handful. In the intervening years, I’ve driven more and more product, but it wasn’t until the 650S/P1 that I thought McLaren might have cracked it. And the 570S Spider proves the point. Even with less horsepower than ‘my’ 12C, it feels like it is 20 per cent faster in normal hands, easier to drive, more friendly. Better.
The ‘box is smoother, the delivery more linear, the reactions at the limit more easily translated, even in Track mode. Where the 12C would play dumb right up until it snapped, the 570S warns more, understeers a bit, has more of a conversation about what’s going on. The front end is ridiculously reliable - a bit fast Porsche-like in that respect - and when you do push, everything happens in real time, rather than the 12C’s insistence on blood. There might be more weight in a really dynamically inconvenient place in the Spider, but to be honest, without a back-to-back assessment, I couldn’t tell much difference from the Coupe or the GT. And so, what you get is a car capable of really rather respectable cross-country ability in Sport setting, but without the demanding nature of the more extreme versions. When you want to pootle, Comfort mode takes the creases out of lateral ridges and calms everything down a bit. The steering - straight electro-hydraulic in this instance - gets a special nod; it works beautifully, with a tactility and precision some makers can only dream of. All in all, these are happy, friendly, indecently rapid McLarens that ride and handle in a way that mere mortals can get a hold of without immediately burying themselves into the nearest wall/hedge/bus queue. Yes, a 675LT isn’t that hard to drive and live with, but the 570 polishes the daily edges off, and you don’t need to be heroic to get the best out of it. Basically, it’s more flattering more of the time, and that’s not because it’s got more horsepower/sets a faster ‘Ring time.
And yes, compared to most other stuff, it’s still blistering. In-gear and standing start shenanigans with boost or launch control is eye-widening, though if you plant the throttle in a high gear, you have to wait until 3k or so to get thrust going. There’s also the slight issue of the noise, even more important in an open car: it doesn’t sound bad, but a naturally-aspirated engine sounds better - this is more about moving/disposing of air than playing tunes with it. Still, it’s got all the good bits of being a ‘supercar’ - the mid-engined vibe, cartoonish looks, drama doors, lovely balance - that make it fun, without the chuntering and slight feeling of driver inadequacy you get with the big stuff. Maybe that’s just me.