The car had challenged the 20-year-old answer to the question “of all the cars you’ve driven which one...?”
The title holder was/is a mid 90s Aston Martin V8 Coupe with a 600 horse power Works conversion – then valued at a little under a quarter of a million quid. In comparison the McLaren is a bargain.
The 570GT attracted a stream of onlookers over the weekend. This admiration became a pattern, easy to spend as much time talking about it as driving it. Seriously. Lonely? Get one.
Next up was the teenager from the local restaurant, suddenly hovering by the car with his phone. Look, it’s the car I’ve got on the screen. More pictures were added to his phone, him in the car, him revving the car, him standing by the car.
The noise brought out a contractor from The Big House, who asked some tricky questions, such as what is it? The teenager fortunately could tell him that it was a slightly softer version of the track-focused 570S.
I went away and swatted up on the McLaren. I did stuff in this car. Some of it woke me in the night, worried whether what seemed OK at the time had been reckless. Whether that demo-burst on the M1 had triggered a speed camera. That sort of thing. And other sorts of things, where you are driving the car for aural effect and satisfaction.
Most of the other supercars drift out of comparison. The drive to Le Mans in a Honda NSX with my son still ranks. Or Nissan’s Plain Jane Skyline from the same era.
The McLaren is quicker than any of them, quicker than just about anything you can buy, rated at 204mph and zero to 60mph in about three seconds. It’ll do 0-125mph in ten and stop much more quickly.
The forces it creates are intense. Passengers feel giddy after a burst of acceleration. There’s the howl from the engine behind you and the arrival of what a few seconds ago was the distance.
I park the car in town. I get out and watch. Only its nose is visible. Just about everyone notices it. A young female jogger actually stops, comes back a few paces to look. A cafe owner is out with his phone. A McLaren driver must surely get enjoyment that the car arouses such admiration. Many thought it was a P1 – McLaren’s limited edition hybrid supercar from 2013 which could do 0-186mph in 16.5 seconds and typically cost more than a million.
The 570GT costs just £154,000 and is a “touring” version of the 570S. There’s lots of stuff online but here’s McLaren’s summary: “Designed and built for the performance driver who wants a car they can use every day, the GT provides outstanding performance with additional comfort. A side opening rear hatch gives access to an extended luggage space; the panoramic glass roof allows more daylight into the sumptuous interior. The new 570GT is the perfect balance of road dynamics and long distance touring capabilities.”
Really? Yes, really. It’s all true. I purposely tried the rear-wheel-drive supercar in mid-winter when roads are greasy and ponds freeze. Snow? I wanted that too but no luck. Pirelli low temperature tyres gave excellent grip. The broad tread may have struggled on snow – that’s a possibility.
The automatic gears and the brakes work smoothly without any snatching, making the car as tractable as a luxury saloon in heavy traffic or when judging a parking manoeuvre. You push D for go, R for reverse (a camera takes the guessing out of that) with a neutral position for idling. Paddle shifters select manually. There is a large luggage hold under the bonnet and, on the GT, a long parcel shelf under the rear window hatch. This shelf, like the rest of the cabin, is hand-trimmed with leather. It’s a de luxe driving area, with ample space for two people and their trappings.
The ride comfort is surprisingly good, nicely sprung on undulating roads, an indication of brilliance in the design. It did catch its chin once on the open road. Only rotted roads cause some steering clatter. The navigation, shown on a vertical tablet-like screen and repeated on the instruments, was spot on but needed updating.
The only complication about a McLaren is the way you get in and out, through a “dihedral” door which swings up rather than out. The action is gas damper assisted and refined but needs a little push to get it started. It closes with little more than a sigh. There’s a practical advantage – you don’t have to squeeze through a narrow gap when parked next to a wall or other vehicle. On the other hand, you have to allow for the door rising up when parking headroom is limited – an extra 31 inches.
Verdict: Refined road car from track racing legends with numerous titles at the Indy 500, Le Mans and, most of all, F1. This season it is teamed with Honda.