The Top Gear car review: Mclaren 570S Spider

McLaren continues to produce high-quality, properly sorted and fun to drive cars that look like spaceships. Good stuff.

What is it?

First, a quick primer on McLaren model designations, just in case you got confused and/or had better things to do, because over the next few years, there are going to be lots of new Woking babies knocking about. Basically, following the company’s new £1 billion R&D business plan called ‘Track 22’, there’ll be 15 new cars - or derivatives - by 2022, at least half of which will feature some sort of hybrid tech. They’ll be spread across three ‘tiers’; ‘Sports Series’ (540C, 570GT et al), ‘Super Series’ (720S and derivatives) and ‘Ultimate Series’ which comprises P1 and the forthcoming (2019) £1.6-million-already-sold-out homage to the legendary F1 codenamed BP23, three seater, central-driving position and all. There’s even a full EV Ultimate Series car under evaluation, though not much has been confirmed about that. Yet.

So. Lots of new things, although most will be variants and a few specials. Of which this new 570S Spider is one. It sits alongside the 570S Coupe and 570GT hatch, above the 540C (there is no 540 Spider), and below the 720S and P1. And it hasn’t got a roof. Well, it has, but you get my drift.

In fact, it’s got a two-piece Z-folding composite hardtop that finagles itself under a buttressed rear deck in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 40km/h. Under said rear deck sits the familiar 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 M838TE, longitudinally mounted and driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed ‘Seamless Shift’ gearbox (SSG), punting out 562hp at seven and a half grand. Because the Sports Series is based around a carbon ‘MonoCell II’ tub, it doesn’t need any extra strengthening to lop off the top (it has the same structural rigidity numbers as the Coupe), and so the only weight gain is from the roof mechanism itself, adding 46kg to the Coupe’s heft, meaning that the 570S Spider weighs in at its lightest dry weight of 1,359kg, or a kerb weight (wet with 90 per cent fuel) of 1,486kg.

So far, so familiar. The numbers are also agreeable: 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds (impressive for a RWD car), 0-200km/h in 9.6 and a quarter in 11.0 dead. Maximum speed is 328km/h roof up, though you’ll have to do with a smidge under 321km/h (a paltry 315km/h) if you want to keep the roof open. We’d advise roof up if you want to keep your hair on your actual head.

It’s got the theatrical dihedral doors - though no active rear wing like it’s bigger brothers - plenty of street presence and proper supercar looks, accentuated by a palette of punchy colours and options which mean you can have your roofless 570 as subtle or offensive as you like. And that’s before you involve McLaren’s MSO division for bespoke aesthetic good/evil. It’s basically exactly the same as the 570, apart from a 12mm higher rear spoiler strip that takes into account the ruffled aero of the roof, and looks really rather good. Ok, so the silver exhaust finishers look a bit stuck on (you can option them in black, which is better), but apart from that, it’s got the kind of flowing, slightly animalistic (the front is very ophidian) graphic that makes it look like there might be fangs secreted somewhere about its person. Taper and flow, rather than pinch and square. And it looks equally interesting roof up or down. Which is nice.

What is it like on the road?

Full disclosure: I used to have a McLaren MP4 12C Spider as a longtermer for TG Garage, and it had so many niggles - wayward sat-nav, imaginative tyre pressure sensors, windows that didn’t work, phantom engine lights and the like - that it made me wary of McLaren as an entity. It was also, with the computers switched fully off, a bit of a handful. As in have-your-hand-off-at-the-wrist handful. In the intervening years, I’ve driven more and more product, but it wasn’t until the 650S/P1 that I thought McLaren might have cracked it. And the 570S Spider proves the point. Even with less horsepower than ‘my’ 12C, it feels like it is 20 per cent faster in normal hands, easier to drive, more friendly. Better.

The ‘box is smoother, the delivery more linear, the reactions at the limit more easily translated, even in Track mode. Where the 12C would play dumb right up until it snapped, the 570S warns more, understeers a bit, has more of a conversation about what’s going on. The front end is ridiculously reliable - a bit fast Porsche-like in that respect - and when you do push, everything happens in real time, rather than the 12C’s insistence on blood. There might be more weight in a really dynamically inconvenient place in the Spider, but to be honest, without a back-to-back assessment, I couldn’t tell much difference from the Coupe or the GT. And so, what you get is a car capable of really rather respectable cross-country ability in Sport setting, but without the demanding nature of the more extreme versions. When you want to pootle, Comfort mode takes the creases out of lateral ridges and calms everything down a bit. The steering - straight electro-hydraulic in this instance - gets a special nod; it works beautifully, with a tactility and precision some makers can only dream of. All in all, these are happy, friendly, indecently rapid McLarens that ride and handle in a way that mere mortals can get a hold of without immediately burying themselves into the nearest wall/hedge/bus queue. Yes, a 675LT isn’t that hard to drive and live with, but the 570 polishes the daily edges off, and you don’t need to be heroic to get the best out of it. Basically, it’s more flattering more of the time, and that’s not because it’s got more horsepower/sets a faster ‘Ring time.

And yes, compared to most other stuff, it’s still blistering. In-gear and standing start shenanigans with boost or launch control is eye-widening, though if you plant the throttle in a high gear, you have to wait until 3k or so to get thrust going. There’s also the slight issue of the noise, even more important in an open car: it doesn’t sound bad, but a naturally-aspirated engine sounds better - this is more about moving/disposing of air than playing tunes with it. Still, it’s got all the good bits of being a ‘supercar’ - the mid-engined vibe, cartoonish looks, drama doors, lovely balance - that make it fun, without the chuntering and slight feeling of driver inadequacy you get with the big stuff. Maybe that’s just me.

Layout, finish and space

It’s nicely finished, simple, clean and effective. Plenty of Alcantara and carbon - although the car I drove had a luxury interior package with tan/black, and carbon additions (switch pack surrounds, steering wheel spokes and carbon paddles), but generally it’s a pleasant and focussed place to be. The seats (electric, heated, and part of the luxury pack that includes a stereo, power everything and branded floor mats) are a bit hard at first and then fantastic once you settle, and the positioning is spot on. It feels as if you sit low - and you do - but the general 360-vision from the 570 generally and the Spider in particular is excellent. Cracking for placing the car on the road - although the rear 3/4 is a bit compromised by the buttresses. The touchscreen in the top of the centre console means there aren’t a plethora of buttons to deal with - though it can be hard to see in strong sunlight - and the rest of the necessary stuff like the mode switching rotaries in the Active Dynamics Panel for Comfort, Sport and Track are dealt with lower down. It feels special, but still comfortable - even getting in and out requires very little knowledge of yoga.

Running costs and reliability

This is the ‘entry-level’ Spider in the McLaren range, and a well-sorted stab at a daily-use convertible that loses very little in terms of ability for having a disposable roof. And it’s in a strange place, price-wise. The 570S Spider will end up somewhere far north of that with a few options. It makes an Audi R8 V10 Spider feel and look a bit boring, even if that car is without options. A Porsche 911 Turbo S Cab has similar performance, but not the sheer mid-engined, supercar-y presence. Similarly, something like a Lamborghini Huracan Spyder (sic), has the requisite show-off status points and hairy-chested feel, but comes without any added bits. You have to be careful with the tick list, is all I can say - the 570 we drove, once specced, weighed in with add-ons, making it a car without any MSO meddling… And depreciation is mean at this level - especially if you use one every day. You also might want to budget for the odd speeding fine, too - I managed to cruise my way into a 300 Euro ticket on the launch route and didn’t realise I was even going that fast. Sad face.

Final thoughts and pick of the range

"It really does feel like the 570S Spider has a nice little niche going on as the best-value versus theatre mid-engined Spider."

If you want a face-deforming, very focussed McLaren, then you can’t argue with a 720S Coupe or one of the nutter Ultimates. But if you want something with a little more boulevardier and daily use, then the 570 variants seem to entirely fit the bill. More practical and cheaper (nb/ excessive optioning negating that advantage) than the other mid-engined supercars bar the relatively staid R8, easier to actually drive fast and get the best from - and probably a bit more satisfying for that - but not quite the quiet ubiquity of something Porsche 911-shaped. It’s going some to say that this is the best value option at this price point, but it really does feel like the 570S Spider has a nice little niche going on as the best-value versus theatre mid-engined Spider. And it feels friendlier and better sorted than anything McLaren has made in this vein before - 650S Spider included.

Overall Verdict: 8/10

Author: TopGear
Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars, and is the most widely watched factual television programme in the world.