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I’ve got my eyes up and our Sicilian Yellow McLaren 570S Spider is demolishing the twisty narrow roads up near the spectacular Montserrat in Spain – and it’s doing it with the same kind of uncanny speed and agility as a mongoose in a cage full of cobras.
I daren’t look at the digital speedometer, either, for fear of losing some rhythm. But I can tell you, we are covering ground at an astonishing pace. In fact, it’s difficult to think of a more capable car with this kind of corner-conquering firepower. Only the Porsche GT3 RS and the now-discontinued McLaren 675LT come to mind.
This kind of driving is addictive, especially in this car and in these parts. And thankfully, there seems to be no end to these deserted, corner-laden twisties.
Front-end grip on turn-in is simply astounding, and requires a full cognitive reboot in order to feel comfortable with this level of performance. It’s a point made even more remarkable for the fact that this latest Spider is shod with relatively narrow 225/35 series tyres up front, though split with wider 285/35s down back.
It’s a not a big footprint, as footprints go. There are more than a few of our favourite hot hatches wearing wider rubber than the 570S, at least up front. But, that’s the thing with McLaren’s sports cars, the chassis is so sublimely tuned, the tyres don’t have to compensate for any twist caused by a lack of rigidity – because there just isn’t any.
At least, that’s the perception. But even if there’s a semblance more flex in the Spider, it’s largely imperceptible to this driver, even under these extreme loads. There are no rattles, squeaks or body movement, either.
And, while it feels like we’re pretty-well on the pace, it’s doubtful we’re even running at seven-tenths. I know that, because the feedback from the electro-hydraulic steering rack tells me so.
That said, to push any harder is to go where only angels dare tread, such is the drop-off in these mountainous parts. There’s plenty of freshly-laid Armco around to suggest plenty have tried. Not today, Jose.
Tyre width is also one of the few things McLaren uses to differentiate between the various series, otherwise there’s little that separates the various models, as far as outright performance goes.
Certainly, that was case before the recently released 720S came along – a more advanced second-generation Super Series model intended to raise the bar with new technologies across future product.
Still, the 570S Spider is an inspiring machine, mainly because it responds so precisely to the smallest steering inputs, giving the impression it’s all a bit too easy. Even my co-driver who’s on his first trip to Europe, and only his second time behind the wheel of a left-hand drive vehicle, is making a proper go of it.
There’s no doubt McLaren’s intention to was to build a Spider version of the 570S with such potent capability from day one when the original 570S sketches were penned by Rob Melville (McLaren’s Design Director) in 2012.
We’re told the brief was simple; keep everything that was great about the 570S coupe – and lose the roof, but without losing anything else in the process. It comes down to several key factors, including McLaren’s insistence on sticking with a carbon-fibre tub for each and every model, even the entry-level 540C.
Sticking with a more exotic construction than anything in the baskets of McLaren's rivals has allowed engineers to add a retractable two-piece roof system, weighing just 46 kilograms.
Critically, there’s no other weight penalty for the Spider, as there’s none of the usual structural reinforcement needed by rival models in order to achieve similar levels of rigidity.
Moreover, McLaren tells us that its cars, like the 570S Spider and its sports series siblings, are leading the charge when it comes to attracting new buyers from competing brands. And many of those are bent on using their brand-new supercar as a daily driver.
The company responded with a non-fiddly mechanism that’s quick and easy to operate. Simply press a button and in less than 15 seconds the roof can be opened or closed at speeds up to 40km/h. Not only that, we can’t ever recall hearing the mechanism working – at all.
With that in mind, you might be surprised to learn the 570S Spider gives nothing away to its Coupe sibling when it comes to pure drag racing performance off the line.
The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 still pumps out 419kW of power and 600Nm of torque, matching the Coupe’s 3.2 second time for the 0-100km/h sprint. It’s only when during a 0-200km/h sprint does the Spider give anything away to the coupe – try one-tenth for a 9.6-second run.
The Spider’s heady top speed of 328km/h is also identical to that of that of the coupe, at least with the roof up. But even after ditching the top, it’s still capable of reaching a ballistic 315km/h.
Naturally, there’s more noise with the roof down, but even with the top up there’s a glazed wind deflector that can be automatically lowered for more audio theatre. McLaren tells us it's continually working on its exhaust note – good thing, because it’s still gruff and not overly inspiring.
That said, there’s still quite a bit of buffeting inside the cabin above 100km/h – wind deflector or not. Though, conversation at normal speaking volumes was still possible at even greater speeds.
Opening it up on the straighter sections after descending from some considerable altitude, brings a barrage of turbo-infused torque that simply refuses to yield. You can feel the boost at work, for sure, but it’s measured and delicately calibrated to throttle inputs.
Low-down lag isn’t something that stands out in the Spider, either. This is a turbo V8 that likes to rev – all the way to 7500rpm. But even in these parts, you’ll most likely run out of road before you get anywhere near redline.
Either way, you’ll need to rely heavily on the standard-fit carbon-ceramic brakes, if you’re going to drive this thing with a real sense of purpose. Up front, you can lean on huge 394mm carbon-ceramic rotors with six-pot calipers, while down back, they’re not much smaller – 380mm and four pots.
But, like all McLarens, you’ve got to exert a fair amount of quad-powered leg force before the left-hand pedal starts to sink and the plate-size stoppers begin to bite. And when they do, big speeds can be reined in with devastating efficiency.
It’s odd that McLaren’s boffins don’t make much of a song and dance about their seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (dubbed seamless shift) – because quite frankly, it’s an extraordinary piece of engineering.
Left to its own devices it will happily, and rapidly, predict your optimum gear ratio and shift points to match each and every throttle and brake movement. But, that’s only if you don’t start fiddling with the Active Dynamic Panel, the signature McLaren software that allows drivers to independently control both handling and engine settings in the car between Normal, Sport and Track modes.
On roads like these, though, there’s only one way to drive this car – manually, by using the exquisitely fashioned carbon-fibre paddle-shifters. They’re fixed to the steering wheel, which is another piece of automotive art, wrapped in extra-thick Alcantara with exposed carbon-fibre spokes and nothing else. Not a single switch, button or knob to complicate matters.
Shift times are lightning fast, as quick anything we’ve driven lately. There are GT racers that don’t downshift this rapidly.
And if you’re concerned about how the 570S Spider and its dual-clutch gearbox might cope with peak hour traffic, don’t be. Arriving back in Barcelona, we crawled along for seven kays without so much as a single hitch. It bodes well for those buyers wanting to use their McLaren as a daily.
When McLaren talks interiors, it’s not all about lavish materials and feel-good touchpoints. It’s much more about the low-set driving position and excellent forward visibility. As low as that seating position is (lower again with the optional carbon-fibre racing seats fitted to our tester), the driver still has really good sighting of the wings, which allows you to place the car very accurately on the road.
Though it’s doubtful that many would choose a McLaren for its infotainment technology (it’s still ordinary and you can’t see the sat-nav screen for the sun glare) materials and finish are first class.
Everything in the car that looks like carbon-fibre, Nappa leather or hand- stitched Alcantara, is most certainly that material.
The McLaren 570S Spider is truly an exceptional supercar, which offers the kind of performance and dynamics package that few hardtop rivals can emulate – let alone a convertible.
McLaren has priced the 570S Spider at $435,750 plus on-roads, substantially more than the $379,000 price tag for the coupe and the rival Porsche 911 Turbo cabriolet, priced from $411,800.
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