On this prototype, dubbed XP104, most of the major body sections are pretty much as they will appear in production, but some smaller elements, where the definitive shape might not have been signed off, have been made using rapid prototyping. The test team can live with that. It has to remain laser-focused on its objectives.
“You need to make sure the attributes that really matter for a particular test are up to date,” says Beale. “So handling for these cars on this test is not a big deal. We can get the heat energy on track with an immature damper calibration setting, but we can’t have an immature cooling package or performance software.”
Unrepresentative handling or not, I’m not about to say no when Beale beckons me towards the passenger door of the prototype 570S for a ride around Yucca’s short, tight, handling track.
“The ESP is still on. Where’s the fun in that?” he asks rhetorically as we strap in. Disabling the ESP isn’t easy, because the prototype is a jumble of wires and data-logging equipment, so the buttons and switches don’t operate as they would on a properly furnished customer car.
Although the test mule’s exterior shape is as representative as is practical at this stage of development, the interior is a mix of 650S fascia and some 570S components. “It’s essentially just kit to allow the car to run,” says Beale. Compared with the 650S, the production version will have a different control panel on the centre console, improved cabin cooling, more stowage space and minor changes to switchgear positioning.
The prototype is fitted with a development version of the bespoke tyres that Pirelli develops for McLaren’s road cars. Around the Yucca proving ground’s compact, twisty handling circuit, the test team would like a little more front-end bite, but that will come on later iterations of the rubber.
“Although the car is front-end limited right now, it gives an idea of how it is goingto be,” says Beale. “There’s an intent that it is going to be more fun and more drifty. You can go very fast in some of our products, but this one is about making sure customers enjoy the car even if they’re not Jenson Button.”
One of the stand-out features of the 12C and the 650S was the ride quality provided by their trick hydropneumatic suspension. McLaren wants to ensure the more straightforward system on the 570S offers similar levels of comfort when the driver switches from the more focused Sport and Track modes to the Normal setting.
“The roll bars give it a different feeling to the cars we have done before,” says Beale. “It’s got the initial turn-in that we want, but we’d like it to be a little freer with the rear. The steering is not overly bitey but has just got a nice feel to it. It loads up quite naturally and feels quite organic.”
We venture out onto the high-speed bowl. The 570S may have less power than a 650S, but it is hard to imagine too many owners wanting more on the public road.Entry-level model or not, the production car can dispatch 0-62mph in 3.2sec.
“In fifth gear and 4000rpm, it has just got that instant pick-up, which for a turbo car is great. The controls team that looks after the engine has done a great job,” Beale says. “We wanted to bring it back to basics and make a fun car with great feel, keeping the weight down and having a good ride quality.”
To the onlooker, some of the test procedures appear almost sadistic, but McLaren finds lessons in everything it does during these two weeks. “There is a bit of pain, but it’s nothing compared to the pain we’d feel if we found these issues two months before production started,” says Beale.