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The Top Gear car review: McLaren Senna
For:The brakes, the grip, the aero, the lack of compromise, the attention to detail
Against:Engine isn’t the most charismatic, no luggage space. At all
What is it?
McLaren claims this is the most extreme road car it’s ever built. That’s kind of what you’d hope given who it’s decided to name it after, and what they’ve decided to make it look like. Needless to say, aesthetic design did not lead the way. The Senna is governed by aerodynamics - up to 800kg of air pressing the mid-engined two-seater into the tarmac at 155mph. It could produce more, but above that speed McLaren alter the wing angles to maximise acceleration.
Clearly, there’s a lot going on here. Not least that vast rear wing, able to swing through almost 90 degrees, and hidden winglets in the nose that work in harmony with it. This is a car that plays with the air, makes it work for the car as it passes over the bodywork.
The Senna is the next step in McLaren’s Ultimate Series range, sitting above the Super Series (720S) and Sport Series (540 and 570) models. It’s not a replacement for the P1, but instead is designed to set new standards in a particular direction - in this case, track performance.
It is road legal - quite an achievement when you think about pedestrian safety and getting a car with this many slats, wings and holes in its bodywork through the legislative process. It’s built around a central carbon tub made up of 170 separate pieces and powered by the familiar 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 from the 720S. For this application the engine has a new camshaft, new pistons, intake manifold, and an Inconel and titanium exhaust. It develops 789bhp and 590lb ft, powering the rear wheels through a seven-speed twin clutch gearbox. The sprints to 62mph and 124mph are taken care of in 2.8 and 6.8secs respectively and top speed is 208mph. Not that top speed matters here - the Senna, as you would hope, has a single-minded focus on lap times.
And it’s weight, not power, that has clearly dominated the engineers’ thought processes. The 4.87kg rear wing is able to support up to 100 times its own weight, each front wing weighs a mere 660 grams, even the door mechanisms have been changed - mechanical releases giving way to electrical, reducing weight by 20 per cent. All told, the Senna weighs just 1,198kg dry, so around 1,300kg with all fluids and fuel.
500 cars, each costing from £750,000, will be built over the next year. All have already been spoken for.