McLaren 570S Spider First-Drive Review
It’s too damn good to be called a ‘sports car.’
I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation. The northeastern entrance of “The Snake,” perhaps SoCal’s most revered stretch of asphalt along the legendary Mulholland highway, lays before me. My heart beat rises, and with each pulsation I feel through my carotid arteries, my senses sharpen. I look both ways to ensure no fellow 100-octane-fueled souls are hurtling down the final stretch before The Snake’s approximate 17 rapid-fire turns.
I feel the same positive stress I felt back in the days when I was in varsity track and field; the eager anticipation of the starter’s pistol. Once I make sure the coast is clear, I hit the throttle. Bang. The McLaren’s 562-horsepower, 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged, flat-plane crank V8 engine lights up behind me. The sports car sprints toward The Snake’s first corner, yet I’m as involved in the dash as though I were using my own neural network to rocket the car toward 60 mph in 3.1 seconds.
I begin to relax on the controls somewhat as I enter the first set of turns, or The Snake’s tail as it were. I’m driving at merely a spirited pace, heading up the grade to get within sight of photographer and close friend, Sam Bendall, so that he can grab the incredible still you see below. The conscious effort to keep things merely spirited is due to my DNA having the tendency to perform for the camera. You can see why it might not be a great idea to take a $208,800 sports car, with nearly supercar performance, too close to its limits on a public road.
And then I look up. Filling my rearview mirror is a sport bike, the rider enjoying similar thrills as I. I’ll be damned if I’m going to slow the motorcyclist down. Half of my determination stems from the guilt I feel whenever I slow a motorist down. The other half: ego. I’m in one of the world’s fastest cars. This thing can do 204 mph. I refuse to embarrass myself or the angelic presence of the late Bruce McLaren by turning a vehicle bearing his name into an obstruction.
If you’ve ever sat on a Japanese bidet,
you’ve basically felt the tenderness of the 570S Spider’s ESC.
I chuck the 570S Spider into the The Snake’s second set of turns. Now I’m hustling up Mulholland like Usain Bolt, eager to nab my next gold medal. As I squeeze the McLaren’s throttle out of a turn, the rear end begins to break loose. I quietly thank the car gods I have the 570S’s traction control in “Normal” as this is not the right theater for Chris Harris madness. “Dynamic” is for more tail-out happiness. “Normal,” however, allows for the opposite lock I’m currently enjoying… just enough to make my smile brighter. Once the car clears the corner exit and the initial tail-out action, the car’s electronic stability control (ESC) gently guides the rear back in line. This flavor of electronic affability makes me beam.
Today’s greatest stability control systems, like the one assisting me in the 570S, gently guide all four contact patches back into alignment. Ten years ago, ESC systems were much grumpier. If they detected a discrepancy between steering angle and yaw, they’d yank the car by the hair and it would whip back into line. This felt beyond intrusive. It was violating. In contrast, if you’ve ever sat on a Japanese bidet, you’ve basically felt the tenderness of the 570S Spider’s ESC.
At this point, the McLaren proves its approachability to me. It feels like the car cares about me, guiding me back in line to keep me out of trouble, but doing it gingerly enough to where my forward progress is unimpeded.
And just as much as I wish to be the opposite of an obstacle to the motorcyclist behind me, the 570S wishes to get me up the hill into the photo zone as quickly as possible. Not only am I filled with excitement simply for being behind the wheel of this poster-worthy machine, but also I’m filled with encouragement to drive it harder. In turn, it rewards me with playful chassis vellication that ostensibly is its way of wiggling underneath the sheets to snuggle closer to me.
I lose myself in the McLaren’s capabilities. I’m no longer darting between apexes. I’m rippling space-time between them. Five turns later, I look up at the rearview mirror again. Emptiness.
McLaren considers the 570S Spider a sports car, and up to this point I’m struggling to see how. Here you have a supercar and hypercar manufacturer that introduces a more affordable line of cars in the 540C, 570S Coupé, 570GT and 570S Spider, which make up the Sports Series. But despite being more affordable, the Sports Series cars still use a lion’s share of technology from McLaren’s higher-tier Super and Ultimate Series cars like the 720S and P1. In addition, the performance is certifiably “supercar,” too. The 570S Spider can crack off 100 mph in 6.4 seconds. That’s only a tenth shy of one of history’s greatest hypercars: the McLaren F1.
So how, then, can the bonkers McLaren 570S Spider be considered a sports car? I think it has to do with its approachability. It may have performance that nips at the McLaren F1’s heels, but it feels as easy to get to the limit as a Subaru BRZ, today’s textbook definition of a sports car.
ALSO SEE: TeamSpeed Forum Members Chime in About the McLaren 570S Spider
But no matter how much McLaren wants to call it a sports car, the 570S Spider remains a supercar in my book. Once I cross the careful gaze of Sam’s camera, I pull in to “The Snake’s Carspot,” a turnout/scenic overlook where you can always find car fanatics gathered. Pull up to this spot in a 911 GT3, and someone might tell you, “Nice Porsche.” Pull up in a McLaren 570S Spider, and you’re treated like a celebrity.
“Can I get a ride?” “Is he a movie star?” Reactions like that are too far above the sports car realm.
Video and Words for TeamSpeed by Manuel Carrillo III
Photography and Videography by Sam Bendall