In addition to their motorsport and technology divisions, McLaren is of course a car manufacturer as well.
In fact, in the last ten years it’s grown to be one of the best builders of sports cars to rival famous names like Porsche and Ferrari, and according to the media, even surpass them. This is something we are very much reminded of by a canary-yellow McLaren sitting outside our office, just crying out for a high-spirited spin around the countryside. The car in question is the McLaren 540C, McLaren’s basic model. However, with a power output of 540bhp and 540nm of torque, it’s hardly what you’d expect from your average basic model. Both these stats conspire to deliver acceleration of 0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds and 0-200km/h in an eye-watering 10.5 seconds.
The more observant among you might be wondering why the 540C looks almost identical to the McLaren 570S. And you’d be correct, because the 540C shares 95 per cent of its parts with its slightly faster sibling. The big difference, apart from the obvious 30bhp difference in power output (the 570S produces 570bhp), is the way it’s all set up. McLaren calls it their “everyday sports car”, because it’s configured to encourage you to drive it as your daily run-around. This was achieved by eliminating some of the more aggressively aerodynamic features. The front splitter, for example, protrudes less than on its faster sibling, while the rear diffuser has fewer vertical slats and its side skirts have clearly been slimmed down. McLaren also gave the suspension a work-over and softened the active dampening slightly. All this was done in the name of enhancing manoeuvrability around towns and cities and making it easier to cope with the challenges they present. But don’t worry; it’s still a supercar, with scissor doors…
McLaren wouldn’t be McLaren if this car wasn’t filled to the brim with smart technology. The most impressive bit is what forms the core of every McLaren road car: a carbon fibre Monocell 2 mono-coque, which weighs less than 80kg. The carbon shell is so rigid that it retains its stiffness even when the roof is off, like in the 570S Spider. The drivetrain is equally impressive. The engine, a 3.8 twin-turbo V8, is, in essence, the same unit that’s used in the insanely fast McLaren P1 (minus the hybrid systems). This is mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox, which is not only one of the fastest-shifting boxes in the business, it also makes changing gear a pleasure. A peculiar fact is that all the McLaren sport series cars have an open differential whereas most cars in this category come with some form of locking differential to retain more stability and grip in the corners. An open differential can cause one wheel to spin mid-corner, resulting in a loss of stability. McLaren seems to have fixed this with the most perfectly balanced traction control and ESP systems we’ve ever experienced.
The 540C encourages you to push hard through the corners, keeping confidence levels high even when the back-end steps out of line. The car actually seems to challenge the driver to allow the back to wander - all in the name of fun, of course. In the six short years since introducing its first sports car, the MP4 12C, McLaren has produced over ten different models or variants. To put this into perspective: the average lifespan of competing brands’ supercars is between six and ten years. Countless McLarens have already found their way onto magazine covers and a McLaren is invariably one of the “usual suspects” in any year’s-end top 10 car lists.