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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Baby McLaren 570S and 540C Aim At Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini

2015 McLaren 570S
Teasers for new cars are almost always awful. If it's not a string of barely-revealing videos with some pretentious "theme" running through, then it's an annoying hashtag with photos of a square foot of bodywork or a headlight glow in a sea of shadow for Photoshoppers to brighten up and see more of the car than intended. Just get to the bit where we can actually see and know about the bloody thing! McLaren are not innocent of this, as the "Black Swan Moment" teasers for their imminent "Sports Series" model(s) fall into the first category. But no matter! The junior McLaren was unveiled today in New York for all to see, and here it is. Meet the 570S.

So we've gone from the 592bhp MP4-12C to the 650-horsepower 650S to a 570PS (562bhp) entry-level model? Just one generation ago this could've been a direct rival to the Ferrari V8 supercar, but now that's the job of this car's big brother. Such is the rate of progress, I suppose. With the 570S, McLaren's range will henceforth comprise of three lines (or segments, or categories, or whatever): Sports Series, Super Series and Ultimate Series. The 650S and more aggressive 675LT are of the Super variety, the mighty P1 is of course the company's Ultimate model, and this is of course a mere Sports Series model, aimed at the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan and all the other things at that level just below the Ferrari 488 GTB, McLaren 650S et al in terms of price and outright performance. To do so, the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 - of which around 33% of the parts are all new, primarily in the cylinder heads and exhaust - is tuned to produce 562bhp @7400rpm and 444lb/ft [600NM] @5000-6500rpm, enabling a 0-62mph time of 3.2s, 0-125mph in 9.5s and a top speed of 205mph. Not bad for the baby supercar! You can even get 26 miles to the gallon if you're careful. The engine and its all-new exhaust nestle just behind a modified version of the central carbon fibre "MonoCell" tub chassis, which has 80mm-lower sills to make it easier to get in and out of, you know. This lowers structural rigidity, but only a little bit, and given that it still weighs less than 80kg while being super strong overall, you're not going to feel at risk sitting in this thing. The dry weight (without fuel, fluids or humans) is just 1313kg, only an adult heavier than a Toyota GT86 and allegedly "nearly 150kg lighter than the nearest competitor." The Audi R8 V10 Plus weighs 1454kg dry, so let's assume they mean that.

McLaren kiwi bird logo, used from 1968-1980, under the new 570S
Despite being the baby McLaren - as made clear at the front by slightly more bulbous headlights above the smiling air intakes - this car actually has a slightly larger footprint than the 650S, perhaps to make it more practical inside. The body shape is initially defined by designers' sketches (yes, McLaren do actually do that too...) and then refined to "optimise air flow" to improve cooling, add downforce and reduce drag. I'm not entirely sold on all the aesthetics myself, but an interesting touch is the two-tone element on the side, the likes of which we first saw on the P1. On this car the cutaway is strongly reminiscent of one of McLaren Racing's historic logos (see image), but the section of the door between the black cutaway and the lower crease is actually hollow, so that the air which entered under the headlights can run straight down the side of the car and into the radiators to cool the turbochargers and other such things. Another, more obvious piece of air channeling is the fashionable pair of "flying buttresses" behind the side windows, which guide air from above the waistline onto the flat(ish) rear deck to vent heat from the engine bay and generate downforce. Generating a lot more downforce is the large rear diffuser flanked by un-intrusive black exhaust pipes, dominating the tail.

All this is very McLaren-y, but the suspension is clearly an area where they've seen fit to save money; rather than computer-controlled, cross-wired hydraulics to balance the car and reduce body roll while giving a "magic carpet ride," the 570S uses conventional anti-roll bars, just like any other car but unlike any 21st-century McLaren. Of course there are three modes which also adjust the all-new electronic stability systems to suit your mood, but this car's suspension is nevertheless lacking the sophistication of other models. If you want all that supercar madness with a Rolls-Royce ride, maybe you should look at a used 12C instead...

But this will drive differently, we're told. It has smaller tyres than the Super Series cars, a very wide spread of torque (368lb/ft [500NM] of the total torque is available from just 3500rpm) and is meant to be more adjustable in corners and more biased towards road driving than track performance. More Chris Harris than Chris Amon, then.


Thankfully you still get the dihedral doors, and once you've clambered underneath those, you're met with a similar-but-different interior, featuring fewer controls on the doors and more in the middle, along with a 7" touchscreen dashboard display, 7-speed paddleshift gearbox and clear digital instruments ahead of the driver. The centre console sort of looks like it slides out, but it doesn't. Clean, simple, elegant. Not what you'd say of a Ferrari interior. Sculptural, organic, interesting. Not what you'd say of an Audi interior...

The light-hearted McLaren 570S will hit the roads in the next few months, with a starting price in the UK of £145,000, undercutting the 650S by a full £50k. Like all supercars though, it's highly customisable, so most won't get away with "only" paying that much...




UPDATE (26/4): There will also be a simpler, softer, detuned version for those who don't intend to take their supercar anywhere near a track (weirdos...) - the 540C.

Externally, while the aluminium body panels are identical, there are subtle changes to the front spoiler and rear diffuser and a different wheel design is available. The 540C is a whole 2kg lighter at 1311kg, but that weight 'advantage' doesn't claw back what the 40-horsepower drop - not to mention having 398lb/ft of torque vs 444lb/ft for the 570S - takes away in a straight line. 0-62mph (200km/h) takes a yawning 3.5 seconds instead of 3.2s, 0-124mph (200km/h) will last a whole 10.5 seconds and the top speed is only 199mph, not 204. But as this is the version most biased to road use, the suspension runs a more forgiving setup, which can still be adjusted further with Normal, Sport and Track modes for the dampers.

The main draw will be the £17,000 difference in price compared to the 570S. At "just" £126,000 you could buy a 540C and a Fiesta ST for the price of a 570S! Fancy that for a fun two-car garage...





The images are McLaren's official images, but all writing in this piece is by and for SmallBlog V8, and is not to be copied without permission. If you see this elsewhere, report it.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Porsche Cayman GT4 Is ALMOST The Perfect Sports Car


With a bigger engine, weapons-grade suspension upgrades and adjustable aerodynamics, the GT4 is the Porsche Cayman unleashed. Mostly. With the front suspension and tyres lifted wholesale from the ballistic 911 GT3, bespoke rear suspension and tyres and 385 horsepower from a mid-mounted 911 S engine connected to a 6-speed manual gearbox, it's clear that Porsche isn't afraid to let the 911's little brother realise its full potential after years of being pegged back to avoid intra-brand cannibalism. Except. Except it still has Cayman GTS gear ratios that are quite long, giving potential for a high top speed and improving fuel consumption at a cruise, but sacrificing some of the acceleration. When you can top 70mph in second gear in a track-biased car with six gears, perhaps they really are too long. Perhaps the GT4's Nürburgring lap time of 7:40 would've been so much shorter with shorter gears that the current GT3 would've been threatened. It already pips the previous-gen GT3 3.8 as it is.

But hey ho. Maybe a dealer would accept an under-the-counter payment to upgrade the engine to 430bhp "911 Powerkit S" spec. Maybe someone will find a shorter final drive or a Porsche tuner will give it shorter ratios with their own gearbox upgrade. Maybe someone will even just swap a 997 GT3 powertrain in there! That would make it 100% perfect. For now though, you'll have to get used to not flying through the gears quite like a GT3 does and revel in how good literally everything else about it apparently is. Besides, it clearly doesn't stop you going nuts and having a riot on track!

Oh, and if you were born in 2001 and have only just heard of driver's cars, then professional hooligan Chris Harris has asked the man behind the GT4 to explain the extra things you'll find inside it:


Monday, 9 March 2015

Geneva 2015 - Supercars and Track Stars

Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4SV, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3, Honda Civic Type-R Mk.4
I've already posted about some of the highlights from my local car manufacturers at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, but you'd be wrong to think that the rest of Europe (oh, and Japan) didn't have something mad to offer us as well. Supercars, coachbuilt GTs, racing cars, almost-racing cars, lap record holders... and the end of a decade-long chapter in the great history of hypercars. So read on, dear reader, because that's what readers do! There are eight cars featured here, but we'll start with some big hitters:

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Geneva 2015 - Bonkers Brits!

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6, Aston Martin DBX Concept, Project Khan Flying Huntsman 6x6, McLaren P1 GTR
The Geneva Motor Show is upon us! This is a highlight in the automotive year, every year, because everyone from major players to small boutique companies from Europe - and, increasingly, beyond - show off their latest, maddest stuff. Mainland Europe's major contributions are practically off the scale in various ways, but this year we've seen a surprisingly vast and varied influx of new models and concepts from the British contingency. Just with the four cars above we have a completely unexpected compact sports GT, a completely unexpected electric crossover GT, a completely inexplicable six-wheel-drive modded Defender and a completely intoxicating 1000-horsepower track weapon... and that's not even the half of it!

Let's start with this quirky quartet though, one at a time: