New Mclaren 570S Spider looses its top – First drive and more
So maybe the McLaren 570S Spider was inevitable. Maybe McLaren’s designers penned it a few years ago, right alongside the coupe, knowing from the start that the carbon-fiber MonoCell II tub underpinning the company’s Sport Series cars could shrug off a fixed roof without going all wet-noodly in the corners. Maybe they had fun, keeping us waiting.
With this new arrival, the 570 trio is complete at last — it can now be said that there is a McLaren Sports Series offering for everyone in the market for a space-age $200,000-ish two-seater. You’ve got the coupe, the luxury-oriented 570GT and now, the open-top toy that is the Spider…
…except that the Spider is more than an open-top toy. We know that convertibles traditionally come with a certain set of penalties: They’re heavier and often also slower. They creak and groan and sometimes flop their way down the road. They cost more. Yet the new McLaren dodges most (though not all) of these bullets, asking you to make very few real-world compromises to get that open-air experience.
And it even gains an extra 52 liters of cargo space over the coupe with the top up. Practical!
On paper, it looks a lot like the rest of the 570 family. Specs are similar to the coupe: 3.8-liter turbocharged V8, seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive. Double-wishbone suspension with adaptive dampers and three selectable drive modes (each one noticeably different). Responsive electrohydraulically assisted steering.
It’s fine to be this showy if you can back it up with performance.
Summer is in full swing, and that means it’s time for some top-down driving with uncomfortably warm wind in your hair and a gallon on sunblock on your face. One could always re-enact the Vanilla …
True, the 570S Spider weighs 101 pounds more than the coupe (all in the hardtop mechanism, not structural reinforcements). Yet McLaren still says it’s eager to take on all comers in a battle for lower curb weights, probably because it knows that’s the sort of battle it can win. Thanks to its maker’s mastery of lightweight carbon-fiber construction techniques, the 570S Spider is, at 3,302.5 pounds, a few hundred pounds lighter than the Audi R8 Spyder (which, granted, has a pair of extra cylinders and a quattro system to haul around) and even shaves a few dozen pounds off the Ferrari 488 Spider’s curb weight. Totally dry, it manages to come in at under 3,000 pounds.
A lower curb weight might not be as scintillating a spec as acceleration (for the Spider, still 0-60 in 3.1 seconds) or top speed (204 mph top up, 196 mph top down). But less mass makes for a livelier car no matter the output of its engine or number of driven wheels, and McLaren’s obsession with weight is heartening — a sign that remains focused on building driver’s cars, roof or no.
Who could say no to extra cargo space?
In our tester’ eye-searing coat of Lamborghini-esque Curacao blue rounded out by McLaren orange brake calipers — a sort of deconstructed Gulf livery — the 570S Spider comes dangerously close to feeling frivolous. Something you cruise around a resort town in, stuck in second gear so everybody notices you.
You certainly can do that, and people certainly will notice you. But as soon as you escape the gridlock and find an open stretch of road, you’ll discover that this car is wasted on low-speed displays. McLaren brought us to sunny Barcelona for the 570S Spider launch. The program didn’t include a track drive component (though the car would have been up to the challenge). The area’s beautifully constructed and perfectly maintained roads were a great substitute — a series of flowing, winding ascents and descents peppered with tight switchbacks that failed to elicit even a hint of cowl shake.
The car isn’t 4C-sized, but it does shrink around you. Tucked behind the wheel, you’re low to the ground and feel immediately connected to the road; McLaren is known for building techy cars, but they are predictable, intuitive cars at their cores. The low mass, precise electrohydraulic steering system — exactly zero slack on center — and punchy engine (provided you’re on boost) give the car a sense of immediacy we’ve never quite felt in in the competition, no matter how competent it may be.
The brake pedal, which controls a set of carbon ceramic discs, is almost the opposite — it’s very stiff and responds to pressure more than it does travel. It takes a little mental recalibration to get on top of it, but the setup is ultimately intended to provide linear, predictable stopping power whether you’re tearing up a track or touring the back roads. You may or may not like it, but it’s a McLaren thing.
If you haven’t already done so, take a minute and really look at the McLaren 720S — in person, if you can find one, but photos will do for now. It’s long, low, wide: everything a supercar …
Of course, nothing here couldn’t also be said about the 570S coupe, but we did it all with the top down. Sunscreen was provided.
All of our test cars came equipped with sport exhausts, which might as well be mandatory; when it comes to discovering its voice, the twin-turbocharged soundtrack can use all the help it can get. Wind it up to toward that 7,500 rpm horsepower peak and it screams, especially in those rocky tunnels blasted out of the Pyrenees (why can’t we drive in tunnels all the time?). Below 3,000 rpm or so, it doesn’t have much to say. A Ferrari V8, this motor is not.
But even if it isn’t the most progressive, organic-feeling V8 in the world, the twin-turbo 3.8-liter excels at delivering more than ample blasts of power, and the seven-speed dual-clutch is very good at handling it. Automatic mode is effective and generally pretty difficult to throw off-kilter. Switch to manual mode and use the wheel-mounted shifter paddles, and it is possible to bog yourself down while exiting a corner if you don’t set yourself up in a low enough gear. That’s partly a function of the motor’s powerband, but we actually like the fact that the car’s computer brain won’t override your poor decision-making — it makes manual mode feel more, well, manual, and less like a thin veneer of control.
(There’s one other complaint, so small in the grand scheme of things that we almost feel bad mentioning it. But here it is: The center-mounted infotainment screen is effectively rendered invisible by polarized sunglasses, which wealthy prospective buyers have been known to own and wear, and even if you take them off, the glare from the sun hitting its high-gloss surface makes it impossible to read anyway. Maybe an anti-glare screen protector would help?)
McLaren is proud to note that all of the switchgear in its cars’ cabins is custom-made — no parts bin sifting here.
Unless you have some philosophical objection to the concept of convertibles, or you plan to spend a lot of the time at the track where every superfluous ounce is an enemy, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t opt for the 570S Spider over the coupe. We didn’t have the chance to probe vmax with the top down (or up, for that matter), and if you hadn’t told us about the extra weight, we wouldn’t have known it was there.
There is the matter of cost: With a starting price of $208,800, the 570S Spider carries a $20,200 premium over the coupe. That’s a lot to pay for an extra 52 liters of cargo space, but since they threw a folding top in with the deal, we’ll say it’s a bargain.
Be warned that if a 720S rolls up next to you, it will make your 570S Spider feel a little bit dated; the more expensive Super Series car wears such a radically different look that it makes the rest of the McLaren lineup — to say nothing of the competition — seem last-gen. We hope McLaren’s fresh design language and growing expertise cycles down to the Sport Series when the 570S’ replacement comes around.
But that’s potentially years away. The 570S Spider is an excellent car right now, whether or not you’re typically the convertible-buying sort. Like the coupe, it has a few imperfections but no worrying flaws. It’s versatile — with its folding hardtop, arguably more versatile than any other 570S — but still feels like an occasion to drive; there’s something special about the 570S’ combination of almost delicate lightness and rigidity and meaty, raw power, and not a bit of that specialness is lost in the translation to the Spider. It feels distinct from the competition. It feels like a McLaren.
McLaren expects that maybe 50 percent of 570S sales going forward will be Spiders. Considering how little you have to give up over the coupe to get the open-sky experience, that should come as no surprise.