Fri. Apr 19th, 2024
2016 McLaren 570S

2016 McLaren 570S Coupe First Drive

The difference between a sports car and a supercar is lost on the Portuguese gentleman standing on the roadside. I’ve stopped in my attempts to flood the country air with V8 ruckus for the moment, and am parked on the shoulder, taking a breather when he approaches. My Portuguese is limited tobom dia and obrigado, and he’s not saying anything in English, but his wide smile, rotating pointer finger, and ready iPhone are symbols that transcend language: “Please gun it.”

2016 McLaren 570S

Fresh off some 75 miles of strappy pavement between hot laps at the Portimão circuit and my hotel, behind the wheel of McLaren’s bouncing new baby, the 570S Coupe, I’m more than happy to oblige. The British company has hammered home that the 570S, the first of its Sports Series cars and the most accessible driving tool in its new range, is a sports car. That is; not a member of the unearthly Ultimate Series á la the P1, or a meat-and-potatoes supercar like the 650S from the Super Series.

The guy with the phone held aloft couldn’t care less about those delineations. I pull out into the street, offer my friend a few red-blooded throttle blips, and then give the cobblestones a footful of hell. The 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 makes a symphony’s worth of sucking, blowing, whistling, and exploding noises behind my head, and the world again makes a blurry kind of sense.

If you’re McLaren, whose best-known current model may be the $1-million-plus, 900-plus-horsepower P1 everythingcar, it makes sense that you might want to sandbag a bit when it comes to your entry-level model. But for all that it may compete with the almost-commonplace Porsche 911 Turbo S and the Audi R8 – in terms of performance and price – the 570S reads as “supercar” to most of the world. Even stripped of the McLaren Orange or Mantis Green the brand’s vehicles are so often photographed in, my Vermillion Red test car looks like the proverbial million bucks. The elliptical roofline, wheels at extreme corners, and short sloping front end telegraphs the mid-engine orientation. And anyone that’s halfway familiar with the brand won’t miss the signature-shape of the headlamps, and charismatic vent work on the sides of the body. It’s a stunner, even before the trick dihedral doors float up and drive the crowd wild.

Inside things are equally well conceived, and still subtler. I’ve gravitated to the leather-lined trim, a more genteel rendering of the McLaren design theme. Napa hides reside where carbon fiber might otherwise go, and power-adjustable seats gently hold my shoulders and backside where hard-as-hell sports seats would typically grapple me. The company has hopes that the 570S is accessible enough to drive on the regular, and not just for track days or full-tilt canyoneering. This plush cabin fitment speaks to that goal.

But it’s not just wider seats and silky touch points that make the 570S less intimidating than its stablemates. The car’s carbon fiber tub has been modified with sizable cutouts at the sills, allowing a lot more space to easily step in and out of the car. I’m six-foot, five-inches, so I still have to scrape a bit to make it under the door and behind the wheel, but once there I’ve got headroom, legroom, and elbowroom to spare. Forward visibility is tremendous, with that low, sculpted nose dropping away and wheel arches just marking out the front rubber. Placing the 570 exactly where I want it, on road and track, is a simple affair thanks to the amazing field of view. The rear view is less excellent, but mid-engined exotics shouldn’t be entirely painless, daily driveable or no.

I don’t have much urge to look backwards when driving, anyway. McLaren’s hyper-responsive 3.8-liter V8 beastie lives back there, sure, but the sound from it fills a 360-degree bubble around me wherever I go. The company claims to have learned many lessons from the time of the MP4-12C to now, including how to make its twin-turbo engine sounds like something compelling. The drab oration of that first car is long gone, banished in favor of a higher pitched, louder exhaust note that sounds strident from inside the car, and downright evil from out.