2018 McLaren 570S Spider first drive review: Baseline dream machine

In Hales Corners, Wisconsin, last Saturday night a 14-year-old boy named Sam reached over and pushed down on his mom’s knee to get the family’s Chrysler Town & Country moving. Her foot went to the floor, the Chrysler Pentastar V-6 perked up, and the van accelerated at a modest clip. “Meh, it’s just not the same,” Sam said.

As a McLaren, that is.

Minutes earlier, I had taken Sam for a ride in a 2018 McLaren 570S Spider. I accelerated at a brisk pace onto the freeway, drove at a whopping 30 mph in a couple roundabouts, and kicked the tail out in a corner. It was fairly tame stuff for a car of the 570S’s capability but really cool for a 14-year-old boy. Sorry, mom.

Sam’s ride was my attempt to find a way to enjoy this convertible sports car on a cold Midwestern day. While I would usually take a beast like this to the Autobahn Country Club for a few laps around the track, McLaren forbids any track days except for those it runs. The convertible body style would have been great a couple weeks ago when it was 81 degrees, but the temperature had since fallen into the 30s and 40s, so top-down driving wasn’t in the cards.

2019 McLaren 570S Spider

2019 McLaren 570S Spider

2019 McLaren 570S Spider

2019 McLaren 570S Spider

2019 McLaren 570S Spider

2019 McLaren 570S Spider

McLaren was offering me cake, but insisting I only nibble at the corners.

Still, when life hands you a McLaren, you have to enjoy it, so I figured I’d share it with others and try my best to make up a good drive route in an area notorious for straight suburban stop-and-go roads.

Base isn’t so base.

The 570S is McLaren’s “base” car. It’s part of the brand’s Sports Series, which is aimed more at grand touring than ultimate performance. Still, the structure is a carbon fiber tub that ensures the coupe and Spider share the same level of structural rigidity. A 562-horsepower 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 sits behind the driver, and it pushes the car to a top speed of 204 mph.

That’s a supercar design and those are supercar numbers, even though McLaren refers to the 570S as a sports car.

The differences from the coupe are relatively minor. The power-operated hardtop opens and closes at the touch of a button in 15 seconds at speeds up to 25 mph. A small power rear window acts as a wind deflector and a noise enhancer for the midship-mounted engine. The power top adds 110 pounds to the total weight, which comes in at 3,314 pounds. McLaren also extends the rear spoiler a half inch higher to make up for the change in body shape versus the coupe. The top speed is the same, but if you’re nuts enough to run all-out with the top down, V-max drops to a mere 196 mph.

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