2016 Car of the Year runner-up: The stunning McLaren 570S

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Hollis Johnson

Editorial note: Business Insider just named its 2016 Car of the Year, the Acura NSX. This week, we’re re-running our reviews of the five cars that almost beat out Acura for the honor.

The Americans have muscle cars, the Italians have supercars, and the Brits have sports cars. Great names such as Triumph, Jaguar, and Lotus dot Britain’s sports-car landscape. Now the supercar specialists at McLaren are offering a modern take on the long-time British institution with a sports car of its own.

The 570S is the first car to emerge from McLaren’s new Sport Series – 570 stands for the number of metric horsepower its engine produces, and the “S” stands for sport. It joins McLaren’s stable of supercars and hypercars already in production. Although McLaren has been building championship-winning race cars since the 1960s and the occasional limited-edition supercar since the ’90s, the company didn’t set up its McLaren Automotive subsidiary until five years ago.

In the short time the operation has been in business, McLaren Automotive has managed to find profitability by selling ultra-high-priced but low-volume models. With the introduction of the Sports Series, McLaren is now able to offer a wider variety of cars with a broad range of price points. This isn’t just the company’s first sports car, McLaren hopes the Sports Series will completely transform its business. The Woking, England-based company expects the Sports Series to more than double the company’s annual sales total to 4,000 cars over the next few years.

In the 570S, McLaren has found the weapon it needs to solidly stake its place as one of the world’s great performance brands. With a base price of $184,900, the 570S marks the first time McLaren will offer a car for sale in the US with sticker price south of $200,000.

McLaren made a vermilion red 570S Coupe test car available for Business Insider to check out. This particular car was loaded with carbon-fiber upgrades and luxury options that pushed the as tested price up to $229,100.

Photos by Hollis Johnson unless otherwise credited.


When it comes to modern British sports cars, models like the Lotus Exige or …

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Lotus Cars

… the Jaguar F-Type immediately come to mind.

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Hollis Johnson

When most think of McLaren, it’s usually images of the company’s legendary speed-demon F1 hypercar or…

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Wikimedia, CC

… its Formula One team’s 8 world championships and 182 race victories that appear first.

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REUTERS/Stringer

With the 570S, McLaren is trying to do something different.

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Hollis Johnson

Here is the McLaren 570S’s dossier — 562-horsepower from a 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine; a manufacturer claimed top speed of 204 mph with a 0-60 time of around 3 seconds; carbon-fiber construction, and loads of Formula One-derived technology.

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Hollis Johnson

But if you ask McLaren, they’ll tell you that the 570S is not a supercar. Even though it has the power, the speed, the looks, and the drama of a supercar, it’s not. Instead, it’s the company’s interpretation of a modern sports car.

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Hollis Johnson

Up front, the 570S features the latest iteration of the design language first seen in the company’s P1 hypercar, which made its debut in 2012.

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Hollis Johnson

The 570S is equipped with both LED headlights and running lights.

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Hollis Johnson

The McLaren’s side profile highlights the car’s tear-drop shape and its diminutive size. At about 14.5 feet long, it’s slightly smaller than a Toyota Prius.

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Hollis Johnson

The rear end of the 570S is dominated by its dual exhausts and a large rear diffuser.

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Hollis Johnson

Inside, the 570 is surprisingly spacious for a car of its size and mission. The interior of our test car featured black alcantara with red leather and carbon-fiber accents.

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Hollis Johnson

The sports seats are firm and supportive, but remain comfortable even on long drives.

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Hollis Johnson

Instead of a traditional instrument cluster, the driver is treated to a digital unit featuring a large 7-inch center screen flanked by two 3-inch screens.

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Hollis Johnson

The center screen displays road speed, engine RPM, gear selection, and the posted speed limit. The left screen displays the trip computer while the right screen displays the engine’s operating temperature and the car’s remaining range.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The center stack is dominated by a pair of large air vents and a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen.

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Hollis Johnson

The tablet-like screen runs the latest version of McLaren’s own IRIS infotainment system. Even though it offers improved speed and reliability over the systems we’ve experienced in older McLarens, its odd menu layout and unorthodox user interface make it confusing to use.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Although the map readout was crisp and informative, the car’s navigation system struggled to comprehend the layout of the entrance to New York’s Lincoln Tunnel.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The center console houses the car’s ignition switch, push button gear selector, and dynamic drive mode selector.

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Hollis Johnson

Our test car came equipped with a 12-speaker, 1280-watt sound system designed for McLaren by Bowers & Wilkins.

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Hollis Johnson

Finally, McLaren has also corrected a major shortcoming with the interiors of its other vehicles — cup holders. The 570S has two of them and they are much easier to access than on previous test cars.

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Hollis Johnson

As the first car from McLaren’s Sports Series to land on American shores. It also serves as the entry level model in the company’s lineup.

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Hollis Johnson

If you want a supercar, McLaren will gladly sell you a 650S, or you can …

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

… Find an owner willing to part with one of the sold-out limited edition 675LTs from the company’s Super Series.

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2016 McLaren 675LT
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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

And then there’s the P1 hybrid hypercar from McLaren’s Ultimate Series. Unfortunately, all 375 have been sold. But if you’ve got a couple of million bucks burning a hole in your wallet, you can always keep an eye out for one at high-end auctions.

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McLaren

So what makes the 570S different from its supercar siblings? “Practicality and usability,” McLaren chief designer Robert Melville told Business Insider at the car’s New York auto show launch last March.

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Hollis Johnson

According to Melville, McLaren has modified its carbon-fiber MonoCell to make it easier to get in and out of the car. They’ve also designed the dihedral doors to open with a narrower foot print— allowing the car to fit into tighter parking spaces.

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Hollis Johnson

In addition, Melville said that the car’s driving position has been designed to optimize the driver’s view of the road and his or her ability to place the car in context with its surroundings. This makes the 570S easier to parallel park and reduces the likelihood of curbing its expensive wheels.

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Hollis Johnson

In the marketplace, the 570S competes against a bevy of highly capable and similarly priced rivals, such as the …

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Hollis Johnson

…. Audi R8 …

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Hollis Johnson

…. High-end Porsche 911s, and …

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Hollis Johnson

… The Acura NSX. This means that the 570S is facing down some serious and far more established players.

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Acura

But the 570S is able to differentiate itself from its rivals because of where it sits in McLaren’s product portfolio. While its competitors are usually their respective brands’ flagship models, the 570S is an entry-level product. That means instead of sharing parts with lesser models, the 570 is derived from cars that cost twice to 5 times its asking price.

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Hollis Johnson

For instance, the 570S is powered by a detuned version of the same 3.8 liter, twin-turbocharged M838T V8 engine found in its big brother 650S and P1.

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Hollis Johnson

All of its buttons, switch gear, and carbon fiber work are of same quality as cars that leave McLaren’s factory with million-dollar price tags.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

And speaking of the factory. The 570S is hand-built alongside its more expensive siblings at the McLaren Production Center located on the grounds of the company’s global headquarters in Woking, Surrey, England.

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McLaren Automotive

But the lower price tag does mean the 570S has to do without some of the go-fast goodies from which other McLarens benefit. Gone are McLaren’s active aerodynamics and hydraulic Proactive suspension system.

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Hollis Johnson

In addition, the pricey carbon-fiber body panels have been replaced by more wallet-friendly aluminum ones.

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Hollis Johnson

To drive, the 570S is unlike any McLaren we’ve ever tested. Tipping the scales at just 2,934 lbs., the 570S feels like a stripped down, lightweight sports car but with its wheezy four-cylinder swapped out for a pair of solid-fuel rockets.

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Hollis Johnson

The 570S is a long strider. Although it has 562 ponies primed for action, it doesn’t jump off the line like a manic animal. With just 3.8 liters of displacement, the bulk of the engine’s power doesn’t materialize until its turbos spool up. While it’s only a momentary lag, it’s perceptible from the driver’s seat.

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Hollis Johnson

However, when the power does kick in, the speedometer reaches the speed limit very quickly. The 570S’s 7-speed, dual clutch transmission works its way through the gears like a champ — without any hint of indecision. McLaren claims a 0-60 time of around 3.0 seconds. Although we didn’t do scientific testing, we don’t doubt these claims.

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Hollis Johnson

But the best feature of this car is its steering. The 570S’s hydraulic steering system is an absolute triumph of engineering. It is one of, if not the most, precise and communicative steering system I’ve ever encountered. The amount feedback and information the steering provided was simply astonishing. I felt like I had my own personal JARVIS offering up helpful information through the steering wheel.

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Hollis Johnson

Without hydraulic suspension, the 570S loses the silky smooth ride that has become a trademark of McLaren supercars. However, the car’s setup, featuring traditional anti-roll bars and active dampers, offers a more than acceptable level of civility in daily driving. At the same time, its suspension provides an ample amount of confidence-inducing grip when the motoring gets dynamic.

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Hollis Johnson

In the past, McLaren’s cars have been criticized for being too quiet and a bit soulless. Well, with the sports exhausted turned up to 11, the 570S generates a tune that can compare with the best the Italians have to offer — although you do need to get used to the noise.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Even without the aid of an air brake, the McLaren’s carbon ceramic brakes were more than up to the challenge when it came time to shed speed.

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Hollis Johnson

With the 570S, McLaren didn’t set out to make the fastest car in the world. Nor did it set out to make the most powerful. Instead, the company decided to give us its interpretation of a modern sports car you can drive every day. The resulting 570S has not only pushed McLaren into new territory, it has moved the whole sports-car genre forward.

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Hollis Johnson