McLaren 570S Quick Review

Critic's Notebook takeaway: It's not dumbed down; it's smart and it wants respect.

McLaren 570S Review
Mallory Short/TheDrive.com

We're glad to celebrate our independence from Britain every July 4th, because America is the best damn nation on the planet, and we kick ass in every way. But while we at The Drive have a ton of national pride, we're taking this week to give a begrudging nod to some of the better automotive efforts from the United Kingdom. (Don't worry. We'll still be covering all the roaring Camaros, Mustangs, bald eagles and Budweiser we can.)

De-contenting an exotic platform to build a more attainable (cheaper) model is a bet sports car brands like McLaren Automotive rarely make. Not counting R&D recoupment, the risk of weakening the marque outweighs the prospect of creating a new automotive personality that quickens pulses and inspires bedroom posters.

But the British supercar company has built its business around a Formula One-inspired carbon-fiber tub, not a conventional space frame chassis, and so a tub the new 570S shall have.

It’s a bold starting point for for the 570S, a car competing in the $200,000 sweet spot where Audi R8 V10 Pluses and Porsche 911 Turbos and GT3s -- and soon-to-be Mercedes-AMG GT R's and Acura NSXs -- fight and fornicate like lesser gods on Mount Olympus, or wherever the Teutonic pagan version of that is. Birkenkopf, maybe.

Unlike its tricked-up rivals, the 570S is tricked down. Aside from the lightweight monocoque, modified with lower, narrower door sills than the upper-range 650S’s, the 570S also enjoys the same twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8, detuned to 562 hp at 7,400 rpm and 443 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm.

On a straight road, the horsepower deficit is no greater a liability than skipping the first power chord in an AC/DC song; plenty more are on the way. Indeed, with a top speed of 204 mph, the 570S doesn't suffer in the hero department, giving away little to even McLaren's upper-range models, like the 675LT, which tops out at 207.

At low revs, torque spools out gradually, distinguishing the 570S from the 650S’s immediate, wormhole-to-the-future thrust. Between 5,000 rpm and redline, though, the V-8’s rasp becomes a shriek and the supercar show starts. Make no mistake; the 570S absolutely rips.

The 570S doesn't employ the 650S’s freaky hydraulic suspension kit, in favor of conventional springs, dampers and bars. On one hand, that means the 570S is unable to adapt magically to all conditions, like the 650S can. On the other hand, engineers have chosen damping profiles shrewdly: normal mode is perfectly compliant for most roads, sport mode is largely unnecessary -- unless you wear an uncomfortable commute like a badge of honor -- and track mode will liquefy your kidneys on anything but a glass-smooth circuit, where -- paired with a stability control system that allows considerable tail wag -- the 570S reveals as a true recreational vehicle.

Engaging steering, while under and at or near the limits of traction (it’s one of the last sports cars with hydraulic assist), and a brake pedal on the firm side of excellence give the 570S a crispness the all-season players in the $200,000 segment – which are generally buyers’ third or fourth cars, not tenth or eleventh – don’t have.

Aesthetically, there's no doubt 570S is a McLaren family member, even if it's the most subtle one, like Michael Corleone. Air channels provide character lines that follow into a sculptural array of fissures, flow-overs and intake paths, down through a pair of C-pillar buttresses and over a low-set rear lip spoiler. It's sheer artistry by wind. Additionally, the 570S diverges from the 650S by offering no active aero, more aluminum (and fewer carbon-fiber) body panels, and more alcantara inside.

The stability control map's extra side angle in Track mode plays into the traction limitations of the tire choice -- 225/19 P Zeros in the front and 285/20s in the rear. (The 650S wears 235s/305s.) -- giving the 570S a playful demeanor that sets it apart from the ultimate-performance vibe of the 650S and 675LT, which are all business by comparison. The interior is functionally spartan without feeling bare, and the P1-inspired digital dash cluster is the definition of purposeful, high-tech ambiance.

Such atmospherics are key points in the final analysis. The 570S succeeds because McLaren didn’t merely dumb down its higher-end models to meet a price target. Instead, it whipped out its red pen and edited the experience to its essence, creating an object of desire almost entirely by omission.

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2016 McLaren 570S Coupe
PRICE (as tested): $229,100
POWERTRAIN: 3.8-liter V-8 twin-turbocharged; 562 hp, 443 lb-ft torque, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
MPG: 16 city / 22 highway, 19 combined
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