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McLaren Moment: Test Driving a 570S Spider Sports Series

by Wendy Sy Photographed by DW Burnett
Sunday, July 15, 2018


The west side of New York City is a mecca for auto enthusiasts. There are dealerships galore, then there’s the Classic Car Club of Manhattan at Pier 76. On a sunny, 74 degree Monday afternoon, I found myself at the latter, keys in hand, about to take a McLaren 570S Spider out for a spin.


To be honest, covering cars isn’t my usual beat and I haven’t driven much since moving to the city from Long Island. But that’s exactly why the opportunity was so appealing—this particular model (along with the 570S Coupé, 570GT, 540C and 600LT) is part of the latest Sports Series, the most attainable line from the British automotive manufacturer. It’s said to be more lifestyle-oriented and easy to drive; you don’t have to be into racing to experience the thrill of the open road in a supercar. So, does this statement hold true? There was only one way to find out: go for a test drive.


 


A Trip Down Memory Lane


My brother Ted came along and before we hit the road, the McLaren team showed us a presentation of the company’s background. In 1963, New Zealander Bruce McLaren founded his namesake motor racing team which rose to fame in the world of Formula 1, winning 20 World Championships and over 180 races. McLaren Automotive was established in 2010 as an independent global car company and opened its production center a year later in Woking, Surrey, within the vicinity of London’s Heathrow Airport. New York marks the company’s largest market and is where the U.S. headquarters are based.


The name of the Spider model originated back in the 1800s, before the invention of cars. People got around on horse-drawn carriages with wheels that were long, thin and resembled the legs of a spider. Over the years, the term shifted to sporty convertibles and the rest is history.


Without further ado, we were given directions for our drive upstate to Bear Mountain. It would take about two hours and 101 miles roundtrip. Here we go!


 


It’s All in the Details


First thing’s first: we had a choice between a few different colored cars and went for the Vega blue, a cobalt shade exterior with a hand-stitched black leather interior. The range of paint hues is virtually limitless—you can customize it to match, say, your favorite scarf or sunglasses if you so desire. Last month, McLaren donated a bespoke, metallic ‘Blade Silver’ 570S Spider to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which was auctioned for $948,000 at the Argento Ball in association with BVLGARI and Bob and Tamar Manoukian. All proceeds went to benefit the non-profit organization.


Being a convertible, the highlight of this model is the retractable roof, which lowers in just 15 seconds at speeds up to 25mph. Starting at $208,800, it features McLaren’s iconic dihedral doors which open upwards, superhero style. “Our design philosophy is ‘everything for a reason,’” says Rob Melville, McLaren design director, who noted the car’s strong yet lightweight carbon fiber construction. “We always say why are we doing this? Does it make the car more fun to drive? Does it give you the biggest smile on your face when you jump out? Does it make it more efficient? We always look to create breathtaking products that tell a visual story.”


There’s a luggage capacity of 150 liters in the front and 52 liters in the back; plenty of room for maximalists who overpack for road trips. Next, I hopped into the two-passenger, rear-wheel drive car and moved the seat forward to fit my height of 5’1” and adjusted the mirrors.


 


En Route to Bear Mountain


Finally, the adventure began. The iPad-like touchscreen display controls everything from the Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker surround system, temperature, rearview camera to the GPS. The Active Dynamics Panel lets you select between three modes: Normal, Sport and Track. Even in the first mode, all it takes is a slight tap on the gas pedal to get the car moving. At first, it was hard getting out of the venue’s parking lot and into the highway—partly because of the tight space and partly because I didn’t want to start off too fast!


Moving along on the West Side Highway, the loud rumble of the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine caught the attention of other drivers left and right. After we crossed the George Washington Bridge, it was a smooth ride for miles on end, with a backdrop of sun, trees and the open road. Easy. It was tempting to drive fast considering there was no traffic, but the speed limit on the Palisades Interstate Parkway North is just 50 mph. The car can go from 0-64 mph in 3.1 seconds and the max speed is 204mph (196 mph with the roof down).


Reaching closer to the site, the roads were narrow and curved—good thing for the chassis software, a feature which enhances the driving experience and boosts safety. Developed for Formula 1 (and later banned due to the competitive advantage it offered), the Brake Steer helps when you turn corners and reduces understeer, allowing for a smooth transition by subtly applying braking force to the inside rear wheel. At the top of the mountain, we stopped for a break to take in the scenic view before heading back.


 


And Back to Manhattan


Ted drove this time, trying out the Sport mode, in which he noted added to the ease—and speed—of the drive. Around 4:30pm, we were back to the starting point and now, the hardest part was returning the keys. Overall, the 570S Spider proves to be a true lifestyle car. It may not seem so at first, but it’s quite fitting for everyday use, whether you plan on driving around the city, to Bear Mountain or on an actual racetrack. It’s designed to be that way: a balance of beauty and function.


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