There’s nothing complicated to understand about the move from a coupé to the Spider version of the McLaren 570S.
McLaren has switched the fixed roof for a retractable roof that can be raised and lowered at speeds of up to 25mph. It’s that simple.
Time was when roadster versions of coupés or saloons suffered awful penalties such as huge weight gain or the dreaded scuttle shake, but thanks to the McLaren’s Monocell carbonfibre tub, none of that applies in this case.
Making the 570S Spider a rigid prospect
The tub essentially takes the same structural approach as that of an F1 car. It doesn’t need a roof to stiffen the structure like a steel or aluminium car and the neat, foldaway lid is there simply to keep the rain off and the wind out. The weight penalty for the extra gubbins is only 46kg, or as much as a 10-year old trading places in the passenger seat with their dad.
The top speed of 204mph and a 0-62mph time of 3.2sec remain unchanged from the 570S coupé, although the maximum speed is reduced to a mere 195mph with the roof down. All carbonfibre tubs since the MP4-12C have been manufactured by Carbotech Europe Ltd in Austria, but from 2019 all tubs will be manufactured at McLaren’s new facility in Rotherham.
The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, designed in collaboration with Ricardo and manufactured in Shoreham, produces 562bhp, or 570PS, to give this McLaren its name. The V8 drives through a seven-speed, “seamless shift” dual-clutch automatic gearbox and power-to-weight ratio is 375bhp per tonne, enabling the Spider to reach 124mph in a whisker under 10 seconds.
Apart from the roof, the rest is pretty much identical to the 570S coupé. The suspension is relatively traditional, with steel coil springs, anti-roll bars and adaptive dampers, although the 570S features sophisticated electronics such as Brake Steer, which acts on the inside rear wheel to overcome any understeer.
Carbon-ceramic brakes with six-pot front and four-pot rear calipers provide the necessary retardation. There are Normal, Sport and Track driving modes and the steering is electro-hydraulic.
The familiar 10.0in TFT main instrument cluster and 7.0in IRIS touchscreen infotainment system are also carried over. The only real changes are that the flying buttresses of the coupé roof are filled in and the rear spoiler gains 12mm in height.
Starting up the 570S Spider
Beautifully finished with a dazzling external presence. It's worth thinking about how you'll get in on the first attempt: bum first and legs second, or left leg first then swing in with the hand on the A-pillar, it’s your choice.
The interior is exquisite and hand-finished at McLaren with acres of Alcantara to gaze at. The driver is confronted with a neat, high-definition digital dash, while the 570S’s three driving modes are selectable separately from the two dials on the floor-mounted centre console and the infotainment touchscreen is sited reasonably high in the centre of the instrument panel.
The 570S Spider fires up into a pleasingly rowdy idle that’s even more in your ear with the roof down. The transmission default is automatic but overridden by the paddles, with fully manual mode selectable at the press of a button.
Once under way, the 570 Spider is easy to drive. One of its great strengths is managing to combine raw power with subtlety and refinement that will appeal even to those drivers who are not especially wowed by the whole Italianate, mid-engine supercar thing. It’s just easy to live with and driving isn’t a challenge unless you want it to be.
Let’s make no mistake, though: for most drivers, even those who fancy themselves as experienced hands, 562bhp is a colossal amount of power in a road-focused car. Floor the throttle and the Spider lets rip with a kind of composed ferocity that is well worth being mentally prepared for. There’s no fuss, no scrabbling for grip; the McLaren just digs in and leaves in a massive hurry. Brain-off use of the accelerator pedal is not recommended, especially in the lower gears.
That said, the twin-turbo engine is predictably flexible, with completely linear delivery of torque and power from idle right up the 8250rpm red line. Although the turbocharged engine note isn’t as melodic as a naturally aspirated engine, engineers have contrived to deliver a surprising amount of induction noise to the ears.
Gearshifts are instantaneous. On part throttle they’re quick but smooth, with seamless reinstatement of torque, as it says on the tin. Flat shifts in Sport mode are a little more uncompromising, delivering a thump in the back and an enthusiastic bark from the engine.
McLaren-style open-top touring
On a two-hour test drive on rural roads, it honestly proved difficult to tell the difference between Normal and Sport chassis modes, probably because the bar is set so high to start with.
The steering is linear and fairly light to the touch, with no sudden response over centre. That’s probably just as well, because this is a mid-engined car with a low moment of inertia and needs little encouragement to change direction.
Handling is neutral and stays that way even with deliberate lifts mid-corner, and although the McLaren is extremely agile, the ride is surprisingly supple on the indifferent UK road surfaces. The carbon-ceramic brakes do what they’re supposed to and have a good, firm pedal, without being overly sensitive.
Oh, and that roof? At up to 25mph, tug the button and it goes up, press and it goes down. That’s all, no fuss. When it’s down, cabin air remains reasonably undisturbed at UK road speeds. The glass rear window lowers an inch and is supposed to be most effective at preventing buffeting, but the effect seems much the same raised or lowered. With the roof up, the cabin is as refined as the coupé's.
The retractable hard-top makes choosing between roadster and coupé less complicated and unless you absolutely don’t like driving in the open air and are happy to spend almost £20,000 more, then the decision should be easy.
The Spider handles the mixed surfaces of UK roads equally as well as its stablemate, making the prospect of using it daily a realistic proposition.
Despite the specification, the 570S Spider impresses far more in the flesh than on paper. It is a simply beautiful thing, imparting a real feeling of craftsmanship and quality. The engineering package is exceptional, with a perfect match between powertrain and chassis.
The most important thing, though, is this: it can be used whenever you want. It’s easy to reverse into a parking space, thanks to effective door mirrors. It can be benign or challenging to drive and there's generous stowage in the front boot, plus a little more under the tonneau hood makes it perfect for road trips. Should you buy one? Drive one and it will seduce you.