The McLaren 570S is part bullet train, part Thomas the Tank Engine

Straight Outta Tribeca McLaren 570S Spider

I tightened my grip on the McLaren 570S Spider’s smashed-crown steering wheel and planted my right foot on the go pedal. A brace of Mitsubishi turbos threw the supercar at the horizon like it hated the world. More specifically, like it hated time and space. Which is just as well. It obliterated both.

So what? There are plenty of supercars that let you drive like your hair’s on fire—but they all feel a little, shall we say, diffident when compared to the “entry level” McLaren 570S Spider, a sports car from The Land of Hope and Glory that makes you drive like your hair’s on fire.

Which is what you might expect from a flyweight two-seater with a 3.8-liter V-8 cranking out 562 horsepower, redlining at 8200 rpm and delivering 433 lb-ft of peak torque at 5300 rpms… A high-revving combination that propels the McLaren 570S Spider from standstill to 60 in 3.1 seconds—assuming you use launch control. If you don’t? You’ll regret it. Below 2500 rpm, the 570S Spider drives a bit like a Honda Civic. The British powerplant is somewhat grumpy and lethargic, in a “this is how we get 23 miles per gallon” kinda way.

Also a bit grumpy is the generic rumble generated by the 570S Spider’s 285-width Pirelli P-Zero Corsas. There are better cars for extended road trips. If you’re a lady or gentleman of a certain age living in a pothole’s paradise, this is not the daily driver you’re looking for.

Until those blowers start blowing.

McLaren 570S Spider door up
Jason Carter

After a “Scotty, I need more power!” moment, the McLaren’s engine wakes up in a psychotic frenzy, screaming, “I’M A RACE CAR!” The brakes yell, “DON’T WORRY, WE GOT THIS!” The steering says, “GO THERE! WHERE? ANYWHERE!” And BAM! The 570S Spider removes any incentive to do anything but go hell for leather.

This ability, to make hyperspace your playground, is both a feature and a bug.

Have you ever seen someone lay out a couple of lines of coke, snort the first, and say, “That’s it, I’m done”? Me neither. If you can drive the McLaren 570S Spider on a clear-ish road at less than twice the posted speed limit, you’re a better man than I, Gunga Din. Says the guy who’s had his license suspended twice for speeding. But who’s counting?

If you’re counting on that “I have arrived” supercar vibe in the cabin, by contrast—fuhgeddaboutit.

The Mac’s interior has about as much sense of occasion as a medium-priced bar mitzvah. The cliff-face dash and higgly-piggly subroutines lack the aesthetic harmony and tactile satisfaction found with Porsche, Lambo, or Ferrari. It’s all there (save Apple CarPlay)—rubber-coated switches for various driving modes, digital driver-facing display, a Tesla-esque center screen for your A/C and whatnot. But the 570S Spider’s cabin lacks Italian flair, Germanic precision, British elegance—or, for that matter, American bling.

On the positive side, the McLaren’s steering wheel is wonderfully, spectacularly, blessedly button-free. The dashboard offers a full-color representation of everything you need to know to give the car maximum Welly. What do you expect from a carmaker whose racing heritage isn’t the only thing, it’s everything?

McLaren 570S Spider side mirror
McLaren 570S Spider interior

That said, if Bruce McLaren were alive today, the legendary Kiwi racer would no doubt offer some profane remarks about the [silence-able] plummy female voice reminding 570S drivers that they’re passing the speed limit like it’s standing still. Again. Still. Constantly.

Would Bruce notice the center screen’s limited legibility or that Thomas the Tank Engine chime that sounds when you lift the 570S Spider’s scissor doors? Probably not. He’d be focused on the idiot lights giving him a heads-up when the transmission and tires are warmed up, ready for action.

As with the current Porsche 911 Turbo, when you turn, the McLaren goes ’round. Only even better. The Brit practically swivels around a corner—at speeds at which any rational person wonders if the handling nannies have their back. Which might be the case. In “H” for Handling mode, the 570S Spider’s computer keeps the tail firmly in check. “S” for Sport mode increases the size of the rev counter and gear indicators (reducing the speed display, of course) and indulges a modicum of drift (a reported 35 degrees). Allowing what the McLaren owner’s manual calls “dynamic freedom.” Fun? Danger? Is there a difference?

If danger is your business, put the 570S in “T” for Track mode. The dashboard display creates a larger tire pressure and temperature readout (100+ degrees is ideal). Nanny takes a break for a nice cuppa, leaving you to wag the McLaren’s tail. Alternatively, you can switch off the entire system and do donuts (void where prohibited by maturity and law). It should be noted that in typical British shade-tree fashion, there’s a button you have to press in order to make the other buttons work.

Electronics schmectronics. All hail the McLaren’s second-gen MonoCell II tub; a frame stiffer than a cricket watcher’s Pimm’s; more than rigid enough to make the 570S Spider’s folding roof a non-issue. Equally, if not more importantly, the carbon-fiber carcoon helps keep over-enthusiastic or unlucky drivers alive, should giant push come to highly unfortunate shove.

The hydraulically-assisted helm is pure old school; competing carmakers have been singing the tiller electric for quite some time. But you can’t argue with the McLaren’s ability to change direction with just a gentle turn of the wheel.

McLaren 570S Spider
Jason Carter

The 570S Spider deploys rear brake-based torque vectoring to keep it on the road. It’s an odd though historic choice, banned by F1 (in Max Mosley’s infinite wisdom) and eschewed by Ferrari, BMW, et al. But the stability control system is effective, or so I’m told. My co-pilot and I never felt it. Which is exactly as it should be.

The 570S Spider’s six-piston carbon brakes are a touch frightening at first; they’re the walking dead at a walking pace. As with the engine, once you get the banzai Brit up to speed all is well, and then some. The 570S’ stoppers git ’er done, as our cousins across the pond would never say. The seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox lives up to its name, ensuring uninterrupted progress from zero to felony. The rocker style shift paddles are a boon for on-the-go hydration, and equally helpful at eliminating opposite lock confusion.

Bottom line? At speed, the 570S is more composed than a Mozart symphony.

More good news: McLaren doesn’t void your warranty when you take the whippersnapper to the track. My Houston hub is more than happy to check your car before and after you reduce tread life with extreme prejudice, as are the other dealers in McLaren’s slowly-expanding network.

Once the tires are warmed up, track day devotees—and who isn’t?—can finally explore the 570S’ outer limits (the supercar has supernatural control of both the horizontal and the vertical). Let me know how that goes. A competing magazine declared that the great Brit “lacks racetrack composure.” To use British understatement, I don’t think the experience would be entirely unpleasant, regardless of composure.

There’s nothing understated about the McLaren’s design, at least once you get past the nondescript nostrils. From the back, our volcano orange tester looked like Lilo’s Stitch tanned to Trumpian excess and squashed flat. From the front, meh. It’s clear McLaren thumbed through ye olde supercar playbook. I spy with my little eye a Honda NSX, a Ferrari 360, and the spitting image of the Lamborghini Huracán.

McLaren 570S Spider front 3/4
Jason Carter

To be fair, ask the same questions in a wind tunnel and you get the same answers. And the 570S Spider’s swoops, curves, and slats aren’t what I’d call a farrago. Even so, I reckon the supercar lacks the final measure of what the Germans call überholprestige (German for “get the hell out of the way”). The 570S Spider’s design inspires respect rather than awe. Presumably, the shock is reserved for customers of the 720S and Senna, both of which command significantly more of that lower-case fiat currency.

Speaking of shock and awe, let’s torque about price.

The McLaren 570S Spider starts at $211,300. Ours stickered at $242,930, complete with the full Nappa leather interior, interior carbon trim, orange contrast stitching, front lift, Bowers & Wilkins sound system, MSO extended carbon paddle shifters, upgraded 10-spoke diamond-cut wheels, carbon-fiber mirrors, and a carbon-fiber intake duct behind the driver’s door.  

That’s a lot of money—unless you have a lot of money. At that price point, for those folks, it’s more a question of garage space than affordability. And options, of which there are many. Including ponying-up another 40 grand for a 710-hp base McLaren 720S (starting at $284,750). No one orders stock (perish the thought), so add another 50 large for bits and pieces, topping out over $300K.

Should a buyer bite the big-bucks bullet, or take the 570-badged loss-leader? Both models serve up the same turbo lag, and what’s a hundred grand between friends? So sure, why not? What other choices are there?

McLaren 570S Spider side profile
Jason Carter

Well… there’s the Porsche 911 Turbo ($186,850). Lamborghini Huracán ($207,369). And the Ferrari 488GTB ($256,550, if you are on your local dealer’s Christmas card list). Sub-three-seconds-to-60 cars with more exterior panache, plenty ‘o low-end torque, more-than-merely-adequate handling, and interiors that make the 570S look like a Motel 6.

Some buyers are #Blessed enough to make supermarket supercar choices, which is to say they can fill the basket with everything on sale. For the merely one percent—well, the McLaren 570S Spider is a singular thing. If you want it, you want it. It’s not like you’ll be left in the dust in any corner, at any speed, anywhere. And you will own a meticulously crafted car with a legendary pedigree that puts a match to your coif, more often than not.

[Editor’s note: Please welcome novelist (and auto writer) Robert Farago to Hagerty. Best known as the founder of two controversial, no-punches-pulled websites—The Truth About Cars and The Truth About Guns—Robert sold both of those sites for a Scrooge McDuck sack of cash. Now he roams around Texas looking for trouble. Trust me, he’s going to find some.]

author Robert Farago
Jason Carter
author Robert Farago