The ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ has drawn its curtains for the final time. After 146 years, US-based Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ceased selling tickets in May, ending the era where mostly four-legged creatures took centre stage. Now it’s up to us as bipeds to surprise and delight, thanks to expectations that have heightened over the years.
Crowds in the early days were far easier to entertain. The 1875 records of the Oregon Pioneer Association recall the simplicity of “the first one-tent, one-clown, one-trick pony, pioneer Oregon circus.”
While it shows how society has progressed in the ensuing decades, that written record (which you can see online in its original form) also gave us the term ‘one-trick pony’, and we’ve used it ever since.
How fair is it to label a supercar a one-trick pony? Well, considering this is a road car built by an F1 team, its focus is to be ridiculously fast. So, not too far off the mark, then.
The McLaren 570S, a classic supercar with F1 speed
McLaren is the brand in question and its heritage comprises half a century of competing in both Can-Am and F1 while creating road cars. This rather conspicuous beast, the McLaren 570S, is the middle rung in the company’s sports series, and builds on a tried-and-tested formula introduced with the seminal MP4-12C.
The 570S’s layout is classic supercar: mid-mounted V8, sports suspension, two seats and rear-wheel drive. The F1 influence, though, is evident from the moment you press the start button.
There’s a whirr in the background and then a huge ‘whap!’ from the engine as it flares and settles down into a deep growl, sounding like a cornered feral cat.
Despite its V8 layout, the flat-plane crank eschews an expected syncopated beat, creating trumpeting blare more akin to F1 engines of years past. The 3.8-litre displacement belies the motor’s considerable output, with the two turbochargers force-feeding fuel and air to create 562bhp and 600Nm.
The result is as you’d expect: zero to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds and 200km/h in 9.5 seconds, only one hundredth of a second behind the McLaren F1’s benchmark time.
Like a trained surgeon with a scalpel, it carves up corners in a way that puts its rivals to shame.
Weighing in at 1,313kg, it plays from the Colin Chapman school of weight reduction; and thanks to judicious use of aluminium and carbon fibre, its inherent strength has created a passenger cell that is almost impervious.
Wrapped around the carbon cell is aluminium bodywork created via superforming, a process where metal is heated and pressed into a mould to create these complex, flowing shapes. And thanks to design chief Rob Melville’s ability to draw while stuck inside a wind-tunnel, the bodywork employs passive aerodynamics to keep the car firmly planted regardless of speed.
Strap in for an excellent ride
Flick the left paddle to engage drive and the dual-clutch gearbox takes up smoothly, so in normal drive mode it’s no harder to steer than a luxury coupe. In fact, apart from the visibility and how low you sit, you’d never know you’re piloting a A$400,000 supercar.
The ride is excellent too. The 570S misses out on the tricky, cross-linked hydraulic suspension that’s fitted to the new 720S, but its adjustable dampers see to it that you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
It copes with rubbish surfaces superbly – a McLaren hallmark if ever there was one – thus daily driving could be a possibility. But switch the two drive selection toggles to the right, press the Active button, and the car changes personality entirely.
Suddenly, it’s a rabbit that’s been over-caffeinated, twitching its nose, ready to dart in any direction, and almost impossible to catch. The steering feels sharper, the suspension becomes rock hard, the throttle responds to any flex of the right foot, and the exhaust note becomes more urgent.
Hit your first corner in anger and the McLaren shows its true party trick – converting G-forces into grip. With a clever torque vectoring system, the 570S brakes the inside wheel as you turn, causing it to yaw without the associated roll that physics dictates.
Suddenly, it’s a rabbit that’s been over-caffeinated, twitching its nose, ready to dart in any direction, and almost impossible to catch.
Despite the front tyres being only 255s, it never approaches understeer (or oversteer, for that matter); rather, its balance is extraordinarily neutral. That said, with 562bhp on tap, it’s happy to slide if you’ve got the room (and the cajones) to explore.
Like a trained surgeon with a scalpel, it carves up corners in a way that puts its rivals to shame. There’s no doubt, if you want to demolish a hill climb or slice through a mountain pass, the 570S will show you what the word ‘fast’ means.
But the wow factor is… lacking
But in daily life, it doesn’t impress as much. The infotainment menu lets this car down, specifically the sat nav. It’s far too slow to react to where the car actually is, meaning you’ll have missed the turn you were after or picked the wrong lane before it splits off to your destination.
The interior is also very plain. Sure, you can option it up with contrast stitching and a few more speakers for the stereo (it comes with just four as standard), but there’s just no ‘wow’ factor.
A supercar needs to feel special from the moment you open those fancy doors to the moment you arrive at your destination.
McLaren could learn a thing or two from its competitors when it comes to making a car feel worth its value when you step inside.
If speed is your thing, then the 570S ticks all the boxes. But a supercar is a reward, a gift to yourself.
Part of the charm is the X-factor, the intangibles that make you feel justified dropping A$400K on your transport. McLaren has road presence nailed, but when someone says ‘nice Lambo’, it’s a double-edged sword.
McLaren still has a way to go to put itself in the collective consciousness of the public. No-one doubts it will go fast, but a supercar needs to feel special from the moment you open those fancy doors to the moment you arrive at your destination. After all, we’ve moved on from the one-trick pony.