Jerome Bruner, who is smart, says that poor people perceive the size of coins as physically bigger than rich people. It’s the poor person’s desperation for that little bit of money that makes them see the coin as bigger than it really is. It’s hungry eyes.
So, can we please get a hat going around for poor, poor Woking? There’s a serious case of Bruneria going on over there, where they see a mere Grand Touring car as a mid-engined monster.
Grand Touring, or Gran Turismo if you take your holidays at Lake Como where your Boesch is moored in front of the five-bathroomed villa (you’ve never even used or seen the fifth one yet and are starting to suspect the agent’s listing), is of course a fast cruiser usually abbreviated as GT, perfectly demonstrated by the globe-shrinking abilities of the Bentley Continental GT. In that sense, the big W12 club lounge from Crewe is like Marconi’s radio, or the jet engine. It brings people closer together. Or at least the 1 per cent.
McLaren, however, skived Italian 101 and so, over in Woking, the acronym GT plainly stands for Parcel Shelf.
Speaking of which, the new McLaren 570PS... It’s the company’s most road-biased car yet, one McLaren expects no customer to take to the track.
The Parcel Shelf is wrapped in the finest leather and lightweight noise-absorbing and damping materials. It is still loud in there with the whine of the drivetrain, the vain wheezing of the (improved, mind you) air conditioning and drone of the cooling fans – engineers say extracting heat generated by the 562 horsepower 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 was one of the biggest challenges with this car. Considering how much I’m sweating here in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, 2,500m above sea level on top of an active and officially unstable volcano, the challenge was perhaps a bit too much for the British boutique marque that produces just 3,000 cars a year. McLaren is rightly proud of its R&D spend, 30 per cent of annual turnover where the industry average is more like 3 per cent. Of course, McLaren’s 30 per cent is just £150 million (about Dh809 million) a year, in turn, only a tenth of, for example, Porsche’s annual R&D budget.
Still, Woking makes it count, stretching every coin beyond its means precisely to Bruner’s iconic psychologising...
The 570GT is a fantastic car to drive, closer in engagement to the 911 GT3 rather than the 911 Turbo S McLaren actually benchmarked. It is the most luxurious McLaren yet (soft-close doors!), but it’s still a pain getting in and out despite the Sports Series’ narrow sills. The real glass roof and rear glass hatch create a feeling of space (next year’s Spider should be fantastic) and you could almost imagine stretching out in there. You can throw small bags in the back and catches hold them in place, but twisting around in the optional bucket seat and reaching anything is a chore.
The hatch opens accordingly for left-hand-drive or right-hand-drive markets so you can always get at your things safely, kerbside, but clumsily – there’s a lot of car between you and your things, although you probably have someone for that. McLaren is going as far as offering (in exchange for money, obviously) a protective wrap option for the rear wings.
The hatch has the added benefit of enhancing the styling too, especially with the GT’s single-tone doors and a body so elegant in this restrained Pacific Blue – which is green – and the whole tailgate is extremely light, framed by carbon fibre, which I’m told was particularly tricky to make. Up in the 570GT’s nose you still get the same 150 litres of luggage space as the 570S in a deep recess.
The electro-hydraulic steering is near perfect and the three-spoke wheel adjusts well with the dial pods always in view, and the red needle at 12 o’clock. It’s always 12 in a McLaren.
With the Sports Series engine, tune the 3.8-litre V8 revs evenly to the top and there isn’t the pronounced turbo lag that you get in the 675LT. It’s a shame the shift paddles click so flimsily as the seven-speed gearbox is great to row, especially downhill, and the McLaren feels wound up at high revs so it pays to have the right gear for instant throttle response.
We must have become spoiled when a hot saloon makes as much horsepower but somehow, 562bhp isn’t overwhelming. Just like the S, the 570GT handles so sweetly and the steering wheel tugs into the falling cambers of the road and twitches over all the bumps, but not nervously like in a 488 GTB. There is better self-centring in the McLaren so you can let the wheel slip through your palms instead of fight it and the whole thing feels natural, balanced, and easy to drive quickly. Even with bespoke noise-cancelling Pirellis, compared to the S, the differences are too subtle to notice unless you’re Chris Goodwin perhaps, or Ben Gulliver who’s the head of vehicle development (and has the envious job of travelling the world looking for McLaren-worthy test routes such as today’s). The steering, for example, is only a fraction less touchy and the spring rates just a tenth softer – Tenerife’s roads are rougher than Portugal’s where I tried the 570S last October, so that balances things out anyway.
Everything else is familiar – the 75kg carbon fibre tub keeping weight to 1,350kg or around 35kg over the 570S. They’ve designed new 19in and 20in wheels and added a bigger sound system, which I didn’t have reason to try, and there are a couple of extra storage pockets in the doors. By Woking’s limited standards, this constitutes a new model. The future is all laid out.
SUVs and what-nots aren’t given a thought (Communications boss Wayne Bruce: ‘No... We have nowhere to make one. We don’t want to make one. Our customers don’t want us to make one. We don’t need to make one... Stop asking.’), and currently, 80 retailers in 30 markets complete Woking’s desired global network. McLaren will flatline at 5,000 cars a year from 2018 and stay there, pumping in $1.45 billion (Dh5.3 billion) by 2022 to release 15 new cars within six years, and this 570GT isn’t one of them. Half of all McLarens by then will be hybrids of some form. R&D spend will also grow exponentially. McLaren is still sorting niggles like a rattling door when you slam it. Try that in a 911 Turbo S, and it’ll make vaults blush.
Speaking of which, in Tenerife, I met a Swiss guy who dabbles with auto journalism for a big exotic car website. Obviously, his day job is managing other people’s money, which seems like a decent earn seeing as he’s just taken delivery of a Ferrari F12. Two weeks into ownership, a Swiss judge already slapped him with a €3,000 fine (about Dh12,420) for doing 100 in an 80 zone.
So anyway, I wondered, would someone like that buy a 570GT? No, he’s firm. He doesn’t want one car to do it all. He has an S-Class for that. A Range Rover for winter. A Bentley for the Monaco jaunt.
It doesn’t matter – McLaren listens to its customers and this car exists because it’s exactly what they asked for. The math has been done – last year Woking sold 1,600 cars and this year, McLaren wants to double that thanks to the Sports Series, which is a production car range rather than limited edition like LTs and Can-Ams. All of those have been pre-sold.
The 570GT might seem like just a comprehensive option package for the 570S rather than a stand-alone model, and one with a premium of about Dh55K. On top of that package, you can spec back the bucket seats and sports exhaust taken out of the 570S to make a GT in the first place. Additionally, my tester had optional carbon ceramic brakes off a 570S fitted over the standard steel items, so the longer your options list, the more you’ve just specced a 570S with a moon roof. It’s a bit puzzling, but why give it much thought? The more Sports Series cars, the better.