Although they all use broadly the same carbonfibre chassis and 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 engine (admittedly with several variations in each case), McLarens intended primarily for road rather than competition use are nevertheless divided into three categories known as Ultimate Series, Super Series and Sports Series. The 570GT is in the last of these groups, and is described by its maker as “the most luxurious and refined of any McLaren to date”.
Evidence to back up this claim includes an unusual amount of soundproofing. The Pirelli P Zero tyres have been designed to produce three fewer decibels than the ones fitted to the mechanically similar 570S Coupe, and there’s also a quieter exhaust and noise reduction for the standard-fitment glass sunroof, among other items.
The engine, here producing up to 562bhp, nevertheless remains the dominant sound source, and will come as quite a shock to anyone has never previously sat in a high-performance sports car. In the unlikely event that you want to drown it out, there’s an eight-speaker audio system – optional on the S but part of the package here – or, if you prefer, a twelve-speaker Bowers & Wilkins one at extra cost.
Like other Sports Series models, the 570GT is easy to get into by McLaren standards thanks to its relatively narrow sills and the more vertical opening of its scissor-style doors. It is also more practical; the front luggage compartment provides 150 litres of stowage space as usual, but there’s a 220-litre compartment in the rear as well, accessible through a Glass Hatch which is hinged on the right for right-hand drive markets and on the left for left-hand drive ones so you can always load your shopping or what have you from the pavement in your own country, assuming you’ve parked on the correct side of the road.
The performance is, of course, phenomenal by most standards. 0-62mph takes just 3.4 seconds, and the top speed is 204mph. Other McLarens can accelerate more quickly, but very few other cars can, even though most of them have the advantage of four-wheel drive which the 570GT lacks.
Nevertheless, McLaren has tried to make this car more user-friendly to drive than the others it produces. This is a relative term, of course. It still feels more like a racer than almost anything else you can buy for the road. But the steering sensitivity has been reduced, and the suspension is softer – spring rates are 15% lower at the front than those of the S, 10% lower at the rear.
(You still have a say in how the car performs, though. There are Normal, Sport and Track modes for the damping, just as there are for the seven-speed semi-automatic transmission.)
It’s at this point that I’m going to have to admit to a sense of disappointment. The 570GT looks sensational, sounds even better and, as you’ll have gathered from the performance figures, is extraordinarily fast. The steering is as smooth as you could imagine, and you can’t fault the rear end’s ability to cope with large throttle inputs in the middle of slow corners. But I don’t think the suspension revisions have worked.
If this is indeed the most luxurious and refined of all McLarens, it should surely have the best ride. In fact, it has the worst I’ve experienced so far. In any of the three damping modes, it has tremendous difficulty soaking up sharp bumps – notably cat’s eyes, which it thumps over with no apparent intention of smoothing them out.
This is not a McLaren characteristic. I drove a 650S over the same roads on the same day and was amazed by the difference. It’s not quite true to say that I could hear rather than feel that car’s response to the cat’s eyes, but it certainly absorbed them in a greatly superior manner. In very wet conditions, the 570GT also felt far more nervous and insecure than the more powerful, more driver-oriented model.
Some attention might be paid to that, and perhaps also to the gearbox characteristics. Even in Normal mode there’s a tendency to change down a gear very early which seems quite appropriate in the 650S but much less so in the 570GT, a car described by McLaren as being “targeted towards longer journeys and weekends away”. On that kind of trip I’d rather the box behaved more placidly than it does unless I specifically asked it not to.
However, it’s the suspension issue that I think makes the 570GT particularly vulnerable to at least one of its rivals. McLaren sees the Aston Martin DB11, the Audi R8 and top-line versions of the Porsche 911 as the main opposition; for people wanting a sporting car of any sort costing a low six-figure sum, this seems a reasonable list, though the R8’s mid-engined layout makes it the closest contender as far as I can see.
The 570GT is of course a great deal more special than the Audi. It’s built by a company which produces nothing you can buy new for under £100,000, nor anything that has the slightest relationship to a Volkswagen Polo. McLaren badges are rarely seen, Audi ones are all over the place. There is no doubt at all as to which is the more exclusive brand.
On the other hand, the R8 has a beautiful and well thought-out interior, while that of the 570GT has several buttons placed apparently because there was room for them there and not because that’s where the driver could most easily reach them (again, fine for the 650, less fine here). Likewise, the R8 has beautiful instrument graphics, while those on the 570GT are merely effective.
More importantly, though, the R8, even in its most powerful form, always feels very secure. So does the more expensive McLaren, but the cheaper one doesn’t.
While I doubt I will ever buy a 650S, it is none the less an absolute joy, and possibly the car that has impressed me more than any other. Part of me wants to have one. But if I were in the market a 570GT I’d probably sidestep the opportunity and spend my money on the Audi instead.
Price £154,000 (not including taxes)
Engine size 3799cc
Top speed 204mph
0-62mph 3.4 seconds
Fuel economy 26.6mpg combined
CO2 emissions 249g/km
Towing capacity not applicable
Euro NCAP not tested
Information correct at publication date