2018 McLaren 570S Spider Convertible: An awakening in Woking, England.
Price: Starts in the U.S. at $208,000; the car tested had about $25,000 worth of options, the press team said. Basically, if you have to ask …
Marketer’s pitch: “For the exhilaration.”
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the “organic steering, alive even below the limit, tack-spitting exhaust note” but not the “numb brake pedal, some ergonomic foibles.”
Reality: All the fun of a racetrack-inspired two-seater, plus room for plenty of luggage. (You’ll see.)
Winning friends: If you’re lonely and have a lot of money, buy a McLaren. Everyone stops you, everyone talks to you, everyone wants a picture with the car, in the car, of the car. The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and I felt like Kardashians, but with brains.
On a journey: The celebrity aura may have been a bit more pronounced, as I picked up a McLaren at the factory in Woking, England — complete with right-hand drive — and took it on a two-day jaunt through the Cotswolds as part of a longer vacation.
We thought we might be able to work tickets to the Windsor-Markle nuptials, but alas.
Standout: What’s not to love? The design is stunning, the exhaust roar is attention-getting, and the entrance and exit are memorable. We watched people recording us with their cellphones.
In and out: Speaking of entrances and exits, the dihedral doors do take some getting used to. A gentle touch button tucked underneath the siderail, and then a simple motion to raise the door gains access.
The exit can be a bit awkward, of course. Sports cars are designed for the young and agile, and afforded mainly by the older and successful. (I’m somewhere in the middle, higher on the former and not so much the latter.) British sensibility comes in handy for this moment — stiff upper lip and all that, gent — especially because the Brits still had their cellphones pointed at us. (“Just smile and keep your dignity, Sweetie,” I told the Lovely MPS.)
Up to speed: Vroom! The 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine creates 562 horsepower, moving the light sports car to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds.
Now, because I was driving on the left, on ancient, narrow paths winding through western England and Wales, I didn’t really put the McLaren to the test.
But when I did, I learned we can measure acceleration with The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seatometer. I’ve often made her groan with open-throttle acceleration in test vehicles. Occasionally I’ve made her yell.
This was the first time I made her yell and knocked her glasses off her head. Twice. Now that’s fast.
Shifty: A 7-speed automatic transmission. The buttons are arranged with Drive in front and Reverse in the back, spelling out DNR — which is how I’d want it if I was injured and hurt the McLaren.
It operated fine in automatic mode; the paddle shifters felt light and not very fun — and moved in tandem, oddly enough.
On the road: It handles like a dream. The McLaren hugs turns and goes where you point it. Here, the 570S got only a smattering of a workout at the hands of a nervous American facing his first left-hand routes.
Change the handling mode for even better handling — there’s even a track mode if you really want to get yourself into some trouble. I left that one alone.
Low to the ground: In addition to causing trouble for middle-aged folks trying to get out, the McLaren also rides low enough to catch the air dam on speed bumps and/or changes in road surface.
Fortunately, a stalk on the steering column raises the vehicle. It came in handy, including on dirt roads and grassy parking spots where the clueless Mr. Driver’s Seat had to stop and get his bearings.
Friends and stuff: If you’re picturing an expenses-paid press junket — don’t. We scheduled the McLaren as part of a two-week holiday (as they’d say, “across the pond”) through France and England.
It occurred to me about two days before pickup day that fitting a couple with two weeks’ worth of luggage into the 570S Spider could be a challenge. Even McLaren representative Paul Chadderton expressed a bit of concern.
We arrived at McLaren Technology Centre and I puzzled how to fit in two checked bags, two carry-ons, a backpack, and a purse.
All those years of packing for family vacations paid off. First we filled up the convertible top holder atop the engine — backpack and one carry-on good to go, but there would be no top-down driving until after hotel check-in.
Next, we put a checked bag and a carry-on into the bonnet up front. Then the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat agreed to carry the smaller checked bag on her lap (“Just like a tray table!” What a trouper.)
To fit the carry-on in the bonnet, we did have to empty out some of our dirty laundry and tuck items here and there.
“We’ve managed to fill just about every orifice in the car,” Chadderton said.
Ahem. Anyway, to make a long story short, you can get two people and two weeks’ worth of luggage into a McLaren, but it can be a little embarrassing.
Top down: Once we extracted our luggage, we did enjoy some sunshiny moments, and the top made it easy. Hold the button down and away you go.
Play some tunes: I was too harried on the left side of the road in unfamiliar terrain to listen to music. The functionality was pretty good, although the GPS needed to be reprogrammed before my start, and I could never figure out how to restart it after I finished my first trip.
The rear camera displays on the dashboard rather than the infotainment display. It can be hard to see behind the steering wheel, stalks, and whatnot.
Driver’s Seat: The seats were delightfully comfortable..
Fuel economy: The EPA estimates a combined fuel economy of 23 mpg. I had so many other things on my mind (“Stay left. LEFT!”) that I forgot to record observed fuel economy.
Where’s it built: Woking, England.
How it’s built: By hand.
In the end: Sure, why not?
Next week: A closer look at life from the other side of the road.