This British supercar delivers effortless pace, intuitive handling and surprisingly comfortable open-top touring
What we liked:
• Cracking twin-turbo V8 power
• Steadfast handling and grip
• Build quality and aesthetics
Not so much:
• Convoluted centre screen interface
• Roof-down cabin acoustics
• Offset pedal box
To say the 570S fits in the ‘entry’ series of the McLaren range seems peculiar given its $379,000 asking price – even more so when you consider the $435,750 list price (plus on-road costs) of the 570S Spider tested here. But this is supercar territory, a rarefied and esoteric arena graced by only the finest of scalpel-sharp, powerful machines. In the company of such exclusive metal – or carbon-fibre, as the case may be – the McLaren 570S Spider is perhaps the ultimate paradigm of the breed, combining effortless pace with intuitive handling and surprisingly practicality.
Along came a Spider
The 570S Spider joined the McLaren Sport Series range late last year, giving prospective supercar buyers an open-air option to the 570S coupe – and one with very few compromises.
Here is a car that’s as agile, fast and stylish as its fixed-roof sibling; the only real compromise comes from a $56,750 price premium.
Like the coupe, the 570S Spider focussed heavily on day-to-day liveability and driveability, upping luggage space (150 litres front, 52 litres rear) and interior storage to ‘useful’ levels. Well… useful for a supercar, that is.
The luxe teardrop-shaped cabin remains as personalisable as the coupe’s with upholstery, headlining and trim garnishes galore joining 35 exterior paint colours, 10 alloy wheel options, seven brake-caliper colour choices, 11 optional feature packages, and a 1280-Watt Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker premium audio system (fitted).
Standard cabin equipment includes manually-adjustable sport seats, hand-stitched leather trim, an electrochromatic rear-view mirror, dual-zone climate control and a heated rear window.
Infotainment and connectivity extends to a 7.0-inch portrait-oriented IRIS touch-screen display hosting AM/FM/DAB radio, Bluetooth audio and telephony, USB interface, reversing camera, sat-nav and 240-Watt four-speaker sound.
The 570S Spider draws much of its styling from the McLaren P1 hypercar, including the all-LED slimline head and tail-lights, open mesh rear valance for engine cooling, flying buttresses, visible engine compartment and ‘floating’ diffuser.
As tested, the ‘Muriwai White’ 2018 McLaren 570S Spider features a range of carbon-fibre styling elements, heated and electrically-adjustable seats, yellow seatbelts and brake callipers, volumetric alarm and nose-lift kit for a total list price of $537,310 (plus on-road costs).
Contrary to popular perception, convertible versions of high-end supercars are usually heavier than their hard-top siblings.
Apart from structural reinforcements, the additional struts and bracing required to support the opening the roof leaves behind often adds sizeable amounts of weight to these carefully crafted machines, resulting in gentler acceleration times, compromised handling and slower top speeds.
But not the McLaren 570S Spider… Constructed of carbon-fibre technology borne of McLaren’s experience in Formula 1 – making it a claimed 20 times stronger than an equivalent steel body – there’s next-to-no additional stiffening.
The extremely rigid structure provides almost all the strength required to relieve the cavity created for the Spider’s retractable two-piece aluminium hard-top.
In all, the 1359kg dry weight of the 570S Spider is only 46kg heavier than its coupe counterpart; convertible versions of rivals like the Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan and Porsche 911 add 228kg, 183kg and 166kg respectively to their donor’s chassis.
McLaren’s Carbon Monocell II frame also serves to support the 570S Spider’s trademark dihedral doors which, as well as being stylish, are crafted to guide air over the radiators cooling the all-aluminium 3.8-litre V8, its twin turbochargers and the seven-speed Graziano Trasmissioni ‘seamless shift’ dual-clutch tranny.
Feather-light to open, the Spider’s striking soft-close doors make ingress and egress of the two-seat cockpit an almost effortless exercise, and add to the feeling of exclusivity that a supercar should impart.
A numbers game
As crucial to the supercar ownership experience as the exclusivity, craftsmanship and technology associated with the McLaren name are the astonishing performance and acceleration times laid bare in the brochure.
According to McLaren, the 570S Spider accelerates to 200km/h as quickly (9.6sec) as most mainstream passenger cars hit 100km/h, and breaks triple digits in a physics-defying 3.2sec – as per the coupe – with the aid of launch control.
At full noise the rear/mid-mounted M838TE V8 cranks 419kW (at 7500rpm) and 600Nm (over 5000-6500rpm) to swing the needle past 328km/h with the roof in place, or 315km/h top-down.
McLaren says the 0-400m dash takes just 11.0sec.
Like many of its ilk, the McLaren’s twin-turbo bent-eight never really needs to brush its 8500rpm redline; the insurgence of torque available some 2000rpm earlier more than adequate for traction-challenging starts.
The 570S Spider sends drive to the rear wheels via sticky 285/35-series 20-inch Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, and steering and stopping duties are tasked to 225/35-series 19-inch rubber of the same variety.
Perhaps as impressive as the acceleration on offer in the 570S Spider is its deceleration. Mammoth six-piston callipers grasp mega 395mm carbon-ceramic rotors up front with four-pot clamps arresting similarly gargantuan 390mm graphite discs in the rear.
McLaren Brake Steer (or torque vectoring by brake) helps the open differential and adaptive dampers keep the nose in line through corners, the entire package aiding a claimed stopping distance of 32m from 100km/h or 133m from 200km/h.
McLaren continues to offer electro-hydraulically assisted steering in the 570S. Although it’s light, it is transparent enough in its feedback to engage the driver when push comes to shove.
It’s not as talkative as some in this class, but does a great job of eliminating the front-end’s tendency to track and wander over creases in the asphalt, a mannerism many wide-wheeled supercars suffer from.
A liveable supercar?
It takes 11 days to hand-assemble a McLaren 570S Spider from its myriad parts – and that level of dedication is clearly evident in the quality of finish and materials on offer.
Whether it’s the bodywork and paint, the upholstery and trim, or even the attention to detail paid to the inside of its various storage compartments, the standard of workmanship is pretty hard to refute.
It’s also pretty hard to argue with the tenacity of grip from the chassis. Although the 570S doesn’t offer the interlinked Pro Active Chassis Control hydraulic damper system of the Super Series and Ultimate Series McLarens (remember, this is a Sport Series McLaren), its conventional anti-roll bars and three-mode adaptive dampers provide an outstanding ride/handling compromise which – importantly – is adjustable independently from the driveline via the Active Dynamics panel.
Depending on the road, track or simply your mood, the switchable H (Handling) and P (Performance) dials allow three discernibly different modes: Normal, Sport or Track.
The 570S Spider moves from comfortable and quite reserved in its response to throttle inputs – with clean, easy shifts to match – to sharp and eagerly responsive. Full manual mode and stability control off are available at the touch of a button.
Interestingly, despite of a notable change in damping, the ride remains quite comfort focussed. In fact, the only real detractor to the feel behind the wheel comes from the offset pedal box.
The inboard skew of the brake and throttle – owing in no small part to the ingress of the wheel well – makes stop-start driving a chore, and can impinge the accuracy of right-foot braking. The brake pedal stroke itself is also rather brusque, and takes a little muscle to activate effectively.
The only other criticisms stem from an instrument panel that never properly dims – attenuation of contrast is a poor substitute for a dulled screen at night – and a light but nonetheless present buffeting of wind across the top of the head restraints at highway speeds (sans roof, obviously).
Some passengers also felt the exhaust lacked soul at middling speeds, but I think it suits the ‘well-engineered’ premise of the McLaren brand – and sounds terrific when the taps are fully opened.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it really is difficult to review a supercar without descending into hyperbole.
But when you consider the effortless pace, intuitive handling and surprisingly comfortable open-top touring the McLaren 570S Spider offers, it can be hard to not get carried away.
No, it isn’t perfect, as we’ve pointed out; but it is so fantastically capable and strikingly styled that you tend to forgive its trivialities.
For me, the 570S Spider ranks right up there (or perhaps even higher than) the very best of its contemporaries.
If you happen to find yourself with a lazy $537,310 kicking around, I’d strongly recommend a test drive.
How much does a 2018 McLaren 570S Spider cost?
Price: $435,750 (plus on-road costs), $537,310 (as tested, plus ORCs)
Engine: 3.8-litre eight-cylinder twin-turbo-petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Fuel: 10.7L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 249g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety rating: N/A