04 MCLAREN 570S SPIDER

Drug-like acceleration and a lot of wind in your hair

BY LOUIS CORDONY + PICS ALASTAIR BROOK

WHEN WE READ the McLaren 570S Spiderís specs, we thought weíd found a mistake. They quote it will hit 100km/h from rest in 3.2 seconds, 200km/h in 9.6sec and reach 328km/h. Thatís almost identical to the coupe.

As unbelievable as that sounds, the truth is the carbon-fibre tub at its core is so stiff the Spider doesnít need anything to strengthen it. The only price you pay to have the wind comb your hair is an extra $40K.

Itís the cheapest convertible McLaren makes, but this thing is a full-blown supercar. It has scissor doors and, once youíre inside, its fat side sills squeeze your feet into a left-foot braking stance. The pedals, thankfully, are perfectly distanced so it at least feels natural.

Ahead of you sits the same steering wheel from the MP4-12C, but everything around it looks fresh and strikes a good balance between purpose and luxury. The symmetry is stunning.

Thereís a P1-style digital instrument cluster tucked behind the steering wheel that gives you the most crucial driving information. It ainít pretty, but its cleverest trick is a car diagram that indicates tyre, gearbox oil, coolant and engine oil temperature by colour. You only need to take one glance at it to know when to crank the commitment.

Behind you, two turbochargers pump atmosphere into a 3.8-litre flat-plane crank V8, helping it produce 419kW and 600Nm. It cranks over into a clattery idle, as if itís missing a couple cylinders, and sounds a bit farty under 4000rpm.

Keep the foot buried and youíll find out, at only 1500kg with driver, acceleration is vicious. Itíll need half of its rev range to build full acceleration, which is when it explodes forward and rapidly to its 8250rpm redline.

Second gear seems to disappear as quickly as the first, and once youíre into third gear youíre merely holding on, trying to contain many swear words.

A nice rort escapes the rear firewall when youíre up it and you can hear its turbochargers hissing as they inhale the air rushing past your head. But it doesnít let out a proper V8 growl until you lift off. If itís a bit chilly, then you can lower the wind-buffer behind your left ear to capture the noise without risking the elements.

It rejects an LSD for inside-wheel braking. It works, with the help of Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres that Ďswitch oní much quicker than Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, even in cold weather.

And despite the power on offer, or the blinking traction control light begging you to lift, rear-end grip is tenacious.

Despite that, a small part of us thinks a bit of turbo lag plays to its advantage. You can pick up the throttle early in a corner knowing itíll arrive when youíre straightening the steering wheel at the exit. The seven-speed dual clutch dispatches gears quickly with a nice solid mechanical feel.

WITH THE POWER ON OFFER, THE BLINKING TRACTION CONTROL LIGHT BEGS YOU TO LIFT

Standard carbon-ceramic brakes also give you huge confidence to push on and they feel powerful enough to haul down a freight train. The pedal is firm, sturdy and reads with good feedback to judge your entry speed.

Even without the 720Sís diagonally linked suspension, understeer is a foreign concept. The hydraulic steering is wonderful, blending a natural, but light, feel with accuracy and feedback. It turns in the front 225mm tyres instantly without any spooky dartiness. In fact, itís an incredibly easy car to place, with only some horrible rack rattle spoiling the experience.

Its ride quality might straddle the line between supple and skittish, even on adaptive dampers, but the structure remains bunker-solid over any bump or crash into potholes.

Heated power seats, a reversing camera and lift-kit options improve its usability and real-world comfort, but weíd expect them standard at this price. Oh, and the 1200-watt Bowers and Wilkins sound system is a must to drown the Pirelli P Zero Corsas dull roar, even if itís a bit advanced for the relatively basic IRIS infotainment.

Itís not as soulful as the Audi R8 V10 Spyder, or as comfortable as a 991.2 911 Turbo Cabriolet was, and at $505K with options, itís far from being affordable as either. But the Spider adds a whole unique experience to the 570S without taking anything away. And thatís something few supercars can do. No word of a lie.