I should qualify that. The McLaren 570S Spider as featured here is the last supercar I think I will ever drive. ‘Are you mad?’ I hear you ask; well, maybe, depends on who you ask, but that has nothing to do with why I am done with the supercar sector.
You see, it was like this….
On The Fosse Way
Originally built by the Romans two millennia ago and with a surface not much improved today, one wonders if those cohorts of weary legionaries marching along the Fosse Way ever thought that, far into the future, an Australian and an Englishman could be seen nestled inside a blue missile, overtaking two heavy lorries at warp speed.
The Australian is driving: his jaw set firm as his foot buries the pedal to the metal, grimly determined to coax out the blistering pace as meanwhile the Englishman sits quietly beside him and watches his past life flash before his eyes.
A Supercar Day Out
A morning spent in the company of the McLaren brand is always something to look forward to. I was there to drive the new 570S Spider which, as you can see from my images, is stunning.
Compared to the 570S Coupé, the Spider adds a neatly integrated, retractable hardtop that when lowered and automatically stowed between the passenger cage and the engine, delivers an immense driving experience – if your hair can cope.
There are no performance compromises because the Spider has at its heart the McLaren fibre MonoCell II chassis and does not suffer any reduction in strength or stiffness in convertible guise, or indeed require any additional structural actions.
The 3799cc V8 maintains the same electrifying pace, dynamic excellence and impressive refinement shared by its siblings. With 562bhp (hence 570S) it is arguably the most affable and easy to drive of the McLaren range but it is more than enough for British roads I can confirm, as I get slowly to the point.
The cockpit is subtle; understated even which I like. Some supercars have overblown interiors like a perfumed potentate’s palace. It’s snug inside but very comfortable once seated and the driving position is, well, perfection.
For the longer person, exiting the vehicle is even more ungainly than the entry. Not being especially gainly myself I had to extricate my long, elegant limbs in the manner of a real spider trying to get out of a porcelain bath. It wasn’t pretty and I had to insist, with added dire threats, that no photographs were taken.
Driving The Supercar
On the drive both of us were in awe of the performance with 62mph from rest arriving in a scant 3.2 seconds. Remember, this is the baby of the family. The steering changes direction at the merest hint of driver input. In-gear performance was even more startling and we could really feel the downforce at work, but we were both agreed that there was something missing from the experience.
With the hard top in position it is possible to lower the rear glass window for fresh air and to harken unto the aural delights of the V8 symphony but therein lies the disappointment. Certainly it is loud yet strangely monotone; it lacked that excitement, that thrill you get when a powerful engine is truly on song. On the overrun and downshifts, where were the pops, crackles and bangs that we get with, say, the Jaguar F Type? At a basic UK starting price around £165k, depending, we just craved for more drama. But that’s just a nitpick really because…
What’s The Point?
These extraordinary supercars, superb examples of automotive engineering that they surely are, only do one thing and they do that thing very well. You could, I guess, use one as a daily driver but the space and storage is limited and I have come to conclusion that there is no further point, in Britain, of owning one.
Obviously there are plenty of people out there who have the wherewithal to buy these cars and that’s fine; no judging here.
In the UK though we are subject to more laws and restrictions than you could shake an angry UKIP brolly at. In fairly short order owners are going to miss or misjudge a set of average speed cameras and their festive goose is cooked.
Also, as our roads have all the virtues of Peruvian goat tracks you can be sure that repairing the pothole damage to the suspension of a supercar isn’t going to be cheap.
Further, we have to consider driving standards. Anyone who drives regularly on the Fosse Way will routinely be seeing the aftermath of an accident where bravado got the better of common sense. There is no question that as our roads have become more crowded and the cars have become more complex so we have allowed driving standards to fall. Would you put some of these phone-using, tail-gating, lane-hogging, touchscreen-obsessed buffoons in charge of a McLaren? I wouldn’t.
Smaller Is Simpler, Bigger Is Better
Our desires are seduced by the flickering images on television screens as we watch presenters roaring around the globe in these beautiful machines on seemingly empty roads through gorgeous scenery and we crave some of that. Sadly the reality is different.
As my McLaren drive proved, most of my motoring took place in the usual traffic at designated speeds. Rarely were we able to open the taps and even when the opportunity did arise it was only fleeting before we were, yet again, dragged back to real world conditions. No alpine passes for us, with sounds of power echoing back from the surrounding hills; the magic has gone. We live in a world of our own making and we are the poorer for it.
In our modern driving environment with its obsession with automotive autonomy, alternative fuels and extra taxes masquerading as congestion charges and the like, there is no longer a place for the supercar, it seems to me. There are, no doubt, places in the world where driving can still be high speed and carefree; just not on these Septic Isles.
So what’s the answer? I have two choices.
Smaller is simpler:
Buy small, petrol engine turbo-charged city cars or superminis. They are usually fun to drive, perfectly capable of distance travel and economical to run and service. The brilliant new Polo GTI is an example and if only two seats are required then you could do worse then the Fiat 124 Spider that I featured here. However, if they are too small for family use then…
Bigger Is Better:
Not being a particular fan of the admittedly very popular ‘crossover’ class of vehicle, I do like a big SUV. They can do the lot and they come at all price points. Even the supercar manufacturers are getting in on the SUV act with some pointlessly powerful performers. There’s the Bentley Bentayga for example or the new and rather ugly Lamborghini Urus with its ill-chosen name that suggested to Mrs DriveWrite (and I use her exact words), ‘an unpleasant fanny disorder’.
Fortunately McLaren thankfully reassured us on the event day that they had no intention of producing any form of SUV but are instead intent on increasing production and bringing some exciting new models to the showrooms.
With new Aston Martin Vantage (less elegant than I’d expect from the brand if I’m honest) recently announced and likely to sell like Roman sandals to footsore legionaries, the supercar sector is just now as healthy as ever but given the driving future being planned out for us and the uncertain UK economic outlook, I wonder if we’ve reached the apogee of unfettered supercar motoring. I think I’ve had my last such experience because, like the little girl who dejectedly rejects a lollipop in that TV ad says, ‘What’s the point’?