When a car doesn’t feel right within the first 50 metres, it’s not right.
That was the mantra of Richard Parry-Jones, the chassis guru who helped transform Ford in the 1990s. It’s also a test McLaren applied to its new 570S Spider. Forget topping 200mph, this £164,750 roadster had to feel sorted at city speeds.
Fittingly, I start my test-drive in Barcelona’s morning rush-hour – and proceed to stop traffic. In certain parts of London, even a baby-blue supercar barely raises an eyebrow, but all of Spain is unfeasibly excited. Windows wind down, cameras point, horns honk and scooters swerve.
We even get an appreciative nod from the policia. Yet inside the McLaren, all remains calm. Good ergonomics, excellent visibility and well-weighted controls mean it just feels… right.
I take one last look as I trudge towards the terminal, convinced that I’ve just found my new favourite supercar.
Still, I’m not here to flatter my ego at 5mph. McLaren says the 570S Spider – the fourth car in its ‘Sports Series’, following the entry-level 540C, 570S and luxurious 570GT – is a ‘no compromise’ driving machine.
So we set the sat nav for the mountains near Montserrat, and serpentine switchbacks that rank among the best roads in Europe. Here is where the Spider’s handling was honed – so it should feel sensational. Luckily, it does.
The Spider uses the same 3.8-litre V8 as the 570S coupe, fitted here with the throatier sports exhaust – an essential £3,370 option. The composite folding roof, which disappears beneath the rear deck in 15 seconds, adds a modest 46kg of extra weight, so performance is identical: 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds and 204mph flat-out (196mph with the roof down). An F1-style carbon fibre tub means it’s just as stiff as the coupe, too. ‘No compromise’, right?
What that means for the driver is instant response, from both engine and chassis. As soon as you pass 3,000rpm, the 570S positively erupts: a barrage of turbocharged torque that doesn’t let up until 8,200rpm.
There’s no manual gearbox available, but you don’t need one; McLaren’s paddle-shift semi-auto is up there with Porsche PDK for slick-shifting immediacy. And the steering, one of the few hydraulic systems still on sale, is just sublime: so direct it’s telepathic.
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You need to push hard to find the limits of the Spider’s soft-compound Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres – on dry roads, at least. But provoke it and you’ll discover handling that’s playful, and more throttle-adjustable than its big-brother 720S. Here’s a supercar that isn’t afraid to slide – and you won’t be either. Even if you get it wrong and back-off or brake mid-corner, the Spider doesn’t bite.
The car showing off in Barcelona
I climb higher into the hills, far beyond the meandering tractors and swarms of battered SEATs. Now it’s just me, the McLaren and the odd super-fit cyclist. I switch to Track mode and retract the rear window (which doubles as a wind deflector) to absorb the flat-plane-crank V8 in all its guttural glory.
Gearshifts feel brutal now, the steering sharper, suspension more tightly damped. The scenery blurs as my focus narrows. A bemused goat looks on as a bright blue speck of sound and fury blasts from one apex to the next.
Some hours later, I arrive at Barcelona airport – me: windswept and sunburnt, the McLaren: smelling of hot brakes and spattered with flies. I take one last look as I trudge towards the terminal, convinced that I’ve just found my new favourite supercar. The 570S Spider really is that good.
No, its turbocharged V8 doesn’t offer the aural fireworks of the Lamborghini Huracan’s naturally-aspirated V10, but the 570S is more fun overall. And yes, it’s £20,000 more expensive than the fabulous Audi R8 V10 Plus Spyder, but it simply feels more special.
Whether you’re driving 50 metres or 500 miles, the drop-top McLaren makes every journey feel like an occasion. And surely that’s what supercars are all about?
Tim Pitt works for motoringresearch.com
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