It is many New Yorkers’ greatest joy to leave our fair city — for the weekend, for the day, forever. It’s harder than one might think, a misery that boils down to a lack of transportation. We, automotive editors included, don’t own cars, so it’s trains and planes that allow us to escape. In my four days with McLaren’s Sport Series drop top, I set out to see what it’s like to just use the thing, to luxuriate in the fantasy of owning a car — while commuting, road-tripping with a dog, parking and tooling around NYC. Even better that it’s not just any car — the 570S coupe and Spider have got to be in the top 0.5 percent of all automobiles on the road. This, my friends, is a scream-woohoo-at-the-top-of-your-lung-all-the-time-outstanding car.
The first thing a regular McLaren driver, especially in a dense metropolis, must adjust to is the attention. If you don’t like getting stared at, double-taked, cat-called and chased down the street, not to mention mind being in the background of hundreds of selfies, forget it. The thing looks like Satan put on an engineer’s lab coat and started sketching away — it’s just so impossibly swoopy and aggressive and low. Whether you’re parallel parked in Brooklyn or stop-and-go idling on the Manhattan bridge, this is a people magnet.
The 570S’s looks aren’t betrayed at all when the top is down — with few barely discernible cosmetic changes (the spoiler extends an extra half inch in response to subtle body changes, for instance, and there is a retractable window/wind deflector between the seats), the Spider is identical to its fixed-roof twin, the 570S, and performs just as ferocious as it looks, despite its extra 101 pounds due to the roof mechanisms.
It’ll still top out at 204 mph (196 mph, top-down) and zip to 60 in 3.1 seconds. Fold the roof back and under the rear deck, dart around a taxi and hit a few blocks of an open city street in the space of about 25 seconds, and you get a crash course in physics, engineering and adrenaline addiction all at once. And you understand why folks everywhere scramble for their phone cameras. In any McLaren, you’re either on display or laughing like an idiot behind the wheel. Often, you’re both. The source of most of that idiotic laughter has to be the throttle pedal. You have to stay on it for a second while the turbos spool and the engine roars until earnest acceleration makes itself known — you can literally rev the engine without surging forward. It’s the ultimate ‘look at me/listen to me’ device.
I said this about the 570S before — it’s really, really easy to drive. It’s a raw machine, unadulterated by sumptuous luxuries, but rather adorned with extremely high-end yet spartan appointments: bare carbon fiber, Alcantara and some refined and simple electronics. That’s it. Still, a 200-mile jaunt north of New York for some apples (and to allow Juniper the office dog to run free and absolutely coat all of the Alcantara with fur) was more comfortable and economical than I could have imagined. I thought my back would be stiff and my ears ringing after the round trip, but I felt just as fresh as when as when I hopped out of the new Lincoln Navigator. Also, as you can clearly see, the “frunk,” or front trunk, actually holds a ton of stuff — like the 20-pound pumpkin I bought for the office, which was overrun with mold two days after I carved it.
The Spider’s automatic mode does a fine job of modulating the transmission like any other commuter car, while the very large carbon fiber paddles make haste of shifts when you feel like taking control of the gears yourself. Navigating hurdles like steep, curving garage ramps and really, really annoying (fine: “necessary”) speed bumps was a cinch, thanks to the hydraulic nose lift system. If not exactly made for rock crawling, the trick lifter does a fine job over potholes and the like, and in short order. Unless you live down a gravel road or have a severely steep driveway, you’ll likely be just fine.
Fold the roof back and under the rear deck, dart around a taxi and hit a few blocks of open city street in the space of about 25 seconds, and you get a crash course in physics, engineering and adrenaline addiction all at once.
I love a convertible, especially in the city, where I can steal glances up the concrete canyons and bridge towers. But — call me a purist — I prefer a fixed roof. Folding hardtops like this one, of course, feature seams throughout to manage articulation. Even though the car’s profile is just like the coupe’s when the top is down, a coupe lacks the seams. Moreover, a coupe just feels much more purpose-built for sporting stuff — take the top off a car and it automatically feels like a glamour machine. Which, in a lot of ways, full-throttle sprints away from stoplights notwithstanding, it is. And there are tons of selfies to prove it.
The 570S Spider and its hardtop twin are just right in so many ways — simplicity, hardcore-ness, sound, looks, size, comforts, tech — that even weeks after my four days of sunburn and impressing people with dihedral doors I still catch myself thinking about the car. That’s a testament to it being outrageously good. It’s meant to be used and rewards you when you do so.
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