McLaren 570S Spider First Drive

McLaren 570S Spider First Drive

The McLaren 570S Spider is madness. Not the car itself, which is a cogent convertible design based on the already handsome coupe. What is crazy is that a 562-horsepower machine that hammers to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds is only considered a sort-of, kind-of supercar. The Spider will be McLaren’s volume model in its lowest-priced, lowest-tier Sports Series designation. As such, it is the company’s starter supercar.

Should you have $208,800 in your Venmo account, you won’t give up anything except that fixed roof. There’s no perceivable performance demerit when it comes to this retractable hardtop, as it was developed alongside the regular 570S from the onset. The 0-to-60 time is a non-discernable one-tenth of a second slower, and it still gets to a 204-mph top speed when the roof is up. If you insist on a top-velocity hurtle with wind bathing the cabin, it would only limit you by 8 mph.

It gains only 101 pounds, bringing it to 2,895. One assumes that the real-world difference is negligible. To find out, we flew to Barcelona, enjoying a full day scuttling over gloriously curvy roads in an otherwise remarkably unpopulated part of the world. I recently spent a week with the regular 570S, so my ass was as calibrated as one could hope. Would there be any failings of the Spider over the coupe?

Our test car was outfitted in a new hue, a deep Vega blue, with a dark finish on the roof and body accents. The Spider retains the same roofline as the hardtop and it is instantly recognizable as a variation. McLaren has finally settled into its own design language, with highly identifiable rear tail lamps and those unique 3D “tendon” doors first seen on the 570S coupe and which have now migrated to the 720S. It’s an architectural-leaning language that translates beautifully into a roadster.

With the top down, the Spider gets more attention than the coupe, and perhaps even more than the 720S, which I tested recently in Rome. Perhaps people simply feel drop-tops are especially exotic. Around the summer bustle of Barcelona, kids jumped up and down and attractive women on scooters gave us the thumbs up. There’s worse places to be noticed. The top goes down in a snappy 19 seconds at speeds of up to 25 mph.

We charged away from the nude beaches near the port and headed northwest, toward the elevations of the Castelltallat mountain range. The EU has laid mile upon mile of excellent tarmac throughout this remote countryside, where traffic lights are nearly nonexistent and most of the traffic is of the tractor variety. It’s the kind of place you dream of driving a convertible, sun browning your nose as you scroll through miles of rolling roads. We never saw a police car.

Under light throttle loads, the 570S is a chilled-out supercar. Like its coupe brother, the Spider is easy to live with. The damping is forgiving in every suspension mode. Even mid-corner bumps won’t unsettle the chassis. You can roll over speed bumps without scraping the underside and a resultant heart attack. The 570S is simply not strung as tightly as Secretariat, so it handles real-world roads in a real-car fashion. It flows over ridges in the road without tramlining or any chatter. I could imagine commuting to work in this thing – if I worked as a Hollywood agent.

The driving position is excellent and the interior materials good. Still, it’s the regular car conveniences where McLaren stumbles. The idiosyncratic seat controls, wonky sport/chassis mode controls, and the dodgy and slow infotainment. If you owned the car, you’d get used to them, but they irritate. The Spider does introduce a new problematic wrinkle as the digital screen washes out when exposed to direct sunlight. It’s even worse if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses. You need a navigator to help parse the navigation.

But when it’s time to get supercar serious, the Spider is remarkably prepared. Rigidity comes from the carbon-fiber tub, which McLaren dubs the MonoCell II and weighs only 165 pounds. This means that the Spider doesn’t need any extra body stiffening. Everything below the beltline is exactly the same as the coupe, including dampers and springs. Only the calibrations were tweaked due to the roof mechanism’s greater weight and slightly higher center of gravity.

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