The worst thing about the Porsche 911 Turbo S is that it looks exactly like every other 911. Conversely, one of the best things about the new McLaren 570S is that it looks a lot like the other McLaren models. That’s no mistake — unveiled in a spectacular launch at the New York Auto Show, the 570S is the first in the company’s new street-focused Sport Series and is the company’s “entry-level” model.
While not as completely unobtainable as most McLarens are, the British supercar builder may want to look up exactly what entry level means. This is no alternative to the sub-$60,000 Alfa Romeo 4C or Porsche Cayman. No, for McLaren, entry level means the the $184,900 570S will compete with pedestrian fare like the Porsche 911 Turbo S, Audi R8, and upcoming Acura NSX.
Even with a price that keeps the 570S rooted firmly in the stratosphere, it’s more than $80,000 cheaper than the next car in the McLaren lineup and it still brings some of the most advanced racing technology in the world to the upper end of the sports car market. Like the fire-breathing P1 hypercar or the new track-ready 675LT, the 570S benefits from an advanced aluminum and carbon fiber construction with the engine-mounted amidships.
McLaren is hoping that this mixture of supercar tech and Porsche-level pricing will translate into increased sales. The company is expanding its production capabilities to 4,000 cars per year by 2017, and it sees the 570S is a major part of the company’s growth.
While the styling of the 570S is unmistakably McLaren, there are some clues that this car has more road-going manners than its larger stablemates. Gone are the massive wings and active aerodynamics of the track-ready McLarens, replaced by a small fixed spoiler. Downforce is aided by two discreet flying buttresses that direct air behind over its long, low tail, cooling the engine and keeping the car firmly rooted to the road.
Inside, the stark Alcantara and carbon fiber interiors of the McLaren supercars have been replaced by lush carpeting, a beautifully sculpted dashboard, and seats wrapped in leather. In the most visible nod to civility, the butterfly doors have been engineered for a wider opening, and the door sills have been dramatically lowered, making entering and exiting the exotic car feel downright normal.
While McLaren was sure to teach the 570S some manners, it’s hasn’t strayed far from its racing roots. The car’s carbon fiber-heavy construction and aluminum body keep the curb weight down to a flyweight 2,895 pounds, making the 3,538-pound Porsche look like it needs to go on a diet.
With the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 delivering 562 horsepower to the rear wheels, the car rockets from zero to 60 in around three seconds and reaches a very McLaren-like top speed of 204 miles per hour. The car also shares its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with the larger 650S, which should help the well-mannered 570S hold its own on the track, too.
As outrageous as it looks, the 570S is McLaren’s first attempt to create a sports car that can double as a daily driver. With the 911 evolving gracefully over a 50-year span, the radical-looking 570S is enough to give its German competitor future shock. As the first car in the company’s Sports Series, McLaren stresses that these aren’t considered supercars, but high-end sports cars built for performance and comfort. The Sports Series cars are seen by McLaren to be the “volume sellers” for the company, but like “entry level,” volume selling is relative in McLaren parlance.
The next-level Super Series, with the 650S and the 675LT, is for the the company’s more track-focused cars, while the Ultimate Series’ sole occupant is the 904 horsepower hybrid P1 hypercar. McLaren has a long history of building some of the best supercars in the world, and this new three-pronged approach could make it an even bigger contender in the larger performance car market.
It may not truly be an entry-level car, but the 570S isn’t boring, slow, or disappointing, either. In unveiling the 570S, McLaren confirmed that the car won’t be the smallest in its stable for long — a smaller car called the 540C will be unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April and join the 570S in the Sports Series. You can be sure that spotting a 570S and the 540C won’t ever become common, but they’ll certainly raise McLaren’s profile. To some, a Porsche 911 Turbo S is too bland, an Audi R8 is too cold, and the Acura NSX is unproven. For those people, the McLaren 570S should be just right.