2018 McLaren 570S Spider Review: Go On, Take Your Top Off
– Malibu, California
While I’m not usually the guy who chooses convertible over coupe, it’s hard to argue against the McLaren 570S Spider. That’s especially true today, soaking in the sun along California’s Highway 1, tracing the coast from Pacific Palisades up to Malibu. Never mind how good the warm rays feel on my cheeks, or how the salty air tingles as it hits the skin inside my nose. With absolutely no performance or utility lost in the transition from Coupe to Spider, going topless only works to enhance the already brilliant 570S experience.
One of the best-driving cars on the road today. And I don’t say that lightly. Every facet of McLaren driving comes together in an intoxicating nature – the company’s supercars have a character all their own. Everything from the incredibly precise, nicely weighted steering, to how amicable the suspension is to different types of road surfaces. There are noticeable differences between the Normal, Sport, and Track settings of the chassis control. You can comfortably drive the 570S in crazy Los Angeles traffic or hang the tail out on a track, and in every scenario, the 570S rewards the driver with tons of communication through the steering and chassis, huge levels of grip, and a truly involving experience that inspires confidence from behind the wheel.
Same bragging rights. Despite a weight penalty of about 100 pounds, the Spider’s performance figures are the same as the Coupe’s. Both cars share 0-60 times of 3.1 seconds and 204-mph top ends, though it’s worth mentioning the Spider only achieves that v-max with the top up (you’ll manage just 196 mph with the top down). The Spider has a slightly redesigned rear spoiler to account for the differences in aerodynamics, and McLaren says the Spider is just as rigid as the Coupe – feels that way from behind the wheel, too. Removing the roof doesn’t affect anything when the car’s structural stiffness is the product of a monocoque carbon fiber tub.
No roof? No problem. Don’t forget, there’s a 3.8-liter biturbo V8 situated behind the cockpit, and with the roof lowered, there’s a wealth of aural delight within earshot. The engine roars and growls, the turbos offering a perfect accompaniment of wooshes and whistles. You should always have the roof open, as far as I’m concerned. Even at highway speeds, air is directed over the top of the cockpit, so it’s never blustery or in your face. There’s a light breeze, the sound of a tremendous V8, and endless headroom and sunshine. Perfect.
Looks just as good. Maybe even better. I don’t know if it’s the Curacao Blue paint, or the instant glamour of a convertible photographed in Southern California, but I totally prefer the look of the 570S Spider over the Coupe. The fixed buttress design out back is really wonderful to behold, and overall, it doesn’t look like the car’s design was compromised just to give the benefit of a Spider experience. The Audi R8 Coupe and Spyder take noticeably different shapes, but with the 570S, you’re getting the same lines and same expression, regardless of body style.
What’s behind me? You sit low in the 570S, and while there’s a commanding view of the road ahead, from other angles, visibility is compromised. Those fixed buttresses make for a huge blind spot over your shoulder. Adjust your mirrors correctly and this isn’t a huge problem. But you’ll still want to merge with extra caution.
Full screen wash-out. This is a small nitpick, but one that’s super annoying. The angle of the touchscreen infotainment system means it’s not shaded from direct sunlight. And with small text and dark colors for the graphics, it’s often difficult to read the screen while driving with the top down. Thank goodness for redundant data in the digital instrument panel. On a sunny day, the center screen is pretty much useless.
Photos: Drew Phillips / McLaren USA