Fast, light and super sticky

McLaren has revealed more information about the Senna, ahead of the car's full public reveal in Geneva.

Although we learned all about the 588kW/800Nm twin-turbo V8 engine when the car was announced in December, there were plenty of questions remaining. How much downforce does the car make? How fast will it go? The latest release from McLaren goes a long way to answering those questions.

Let's start with aerodynamics. Running at 250km/h, the car produces a whopping 800kg of downforce.

McLaren credits the body design, active aerodynamics (both front and rear) and the enormous rear wing for that figure, and says no line on the body runs front-to-rear without crossing a functional intake or vent.

There are hundreds of intriguing details scattered around the body – small things, like the fact the exhaust pipes exit the car 18cm lower than those on Super Series cars.

Not enough? The rear wing weighs just 4.87kg, but supports more than 100 times that weight in downforce. The rear diffuser is fashioned from a single piece of carbon-fibre, too. It starts at the rear axle and gradually gets taller, helping suck the car to the road at speed.

Carbon-fibre is everywhere in the Senna. The chassis is a full-carbon Monocage III structure and, even though they're subject to immense downforce at high speed, the body panels weigh just 60kg thanks to the lightweight weave.

The dashboard, doors and visible chassis elements are bare carbon as well, but the airbag covers are trimmed in leather or Alcantara. McLaren buyers aren't savages, after all.

Because the Monocage chassis is so strong, McLaren has been able to make the windscreen pillars incredibly slim for crystal-clear outwards visibility. If that wasn't enough, buyers can swap the carbon-fibre door panels for glass in search of a lighter, airer feeling inside. Flashy doors and racy trim aside, the cabin is aggressively minimalist.

McLaren describes the fixed pedals and sliding seat – not a sliding pedal-box setup, the likes of which are showing up in elsewhere – as the "optimum solution to reduce component complexity".

The drive mode selector is attached to the seat, making it easy to grasp regardless of seating position, while window switches have been moved to the roof – right next to the button for Race Mode, presumably.

There are a few 'luxurious' options: buyers can spec a rear-view camera and parking sensors for free, while the (optional, natch) seven-speaker audio system has been developed specifically for the Senna, and weighs just 7.32kg.

Of course, central to any super/hyper car is the engine, and McLaren has turned up the wick on its twin-turbo V8 for use in the Senna. The M840TR V8 shares its bones with the engine in the 720S, but runs with lightweight pistons and a lighter camshaft, along with repositioned dump valves.

McLaren says an ion-sensing system (with sensors for each individual cylinder) allows for higher temperatures and pressures than you get in other models. The net result of these changes is 800Nm of torque between 5500 and 6700rpm, 700Nm of which is available from just 3000rpm. Peak power (all 588kW of it) is available at 7250rpm.

Along with the wild aerodynamics package, McLaren has developed a more sophisticated version of its ProActive Chassis Control system for the Senna. Dubbed RaceActive Chassis Control II, the setup uses four wheel accelerometers, eight pressure sensors and a raft of body sensors to read the conditions and adjust the suspension accordingly.

It reacts in just two milliseconds, tweaking the adaptive dampers on the fly for a smooth ride with no performance sacrifice. Switching into Race Mode drops the car onto its springs – the Ford GT has a similar system, although McLaren would probably argue its setup is more sophisticated.

Speaking of Race Mode, the company says the car actively trims downforce above 250km/h to stop all the downforce it generates from damaging the suspension. Although it isn't speed limited in this mode, the claimed 340km/h peak might be out of reach because of that immense downforce.

As is becoming more common, McLaren has worked with Pirelli to develop a tyre specifically for the Senna. The P Zero Trofeo R rubber measures 245/35ZR19 up front and 315/30ZR20 at the rear, and boasts a special construction to maintain stiffness during cornering.

Rounding out the package is a set of CCM-R carbon-ceramic brakes. Each disc takes seven months to manufacture, and features cooling vanes machined into the disc. McLaren says the system is the most sophisticated it has ever developed.

Buyers will be able to choose from five 'by McLaren' specifications for the exterior, designed to highlight the car's unique design. A total of 18 no-cost colour options will be offered, along with 16 choices from the 'MSO Defined' palette. Yes, you'll pay more for those.

Just 500 examples will be built, and all of them are sold.