You should be aware by now that McLaren knows nothing about being slow, especially not when its repertoire consists of legendary badges such as the F1 and M6GT. This year however, the storied car maker has gone above and beyond heart-warming revivals and asphalt-dominating road cars. It’s called the McLaren Speedtail, and if a name is anything to go by, it’s a real force to be reckoned with.
As the latest in the Ultimate Series, it’ll carry 1,036hp, and will indulge you with a maximum speed of 402kph.
Theoretically, it’s capable of a much larger figure, though Andy Palmer, McLaren’s Ultimate Series vehicle line chief, admits that 402kph (or 250mph) is a compromise between comfort and tyre capabilities, and speed. “It’s still got to be a usable GT car, and there’s a trade-off. We could make something that would go faster, but you’d have to make the car and the tyre sidewalls much stiffer. We’re balancing a mature, stiff ride with comfort and speed. The vision was to produce a sleek grand tourer,” he said in an interview with Autocar UK.
McLaren pioneered carbon fibre when it was the first to use a carbon fibre monocoque chassis in the F1. The Speedtail uses the same concept; using such a lightweight platform, alongside such a streamlined body helped the firm achieve what is now its fastest-accelerating car, hitting the 300kph mark in 12.8 seconds. By comparison, the F1 did the same in 22 seconds.
Yet as much as the F1 was a powerhouse in its era, the Speedtail is leaps and bounds ahead of it in terms of technology. The naturally-aspirated engine is switched in favour for a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, with all 1,036hp being channeled to the rear wheels. The top speed can activated through a special Velocity mode button above the driver’s head — aircraft cockpit style — which then lowers the car by 35mm while discharging maximum electric power to create favourable acceleration conditions.
The eponymous rear end means that the Speedtail has a longer wheelbase than any others in the stable, and its sculpted body wouldn’t look out of place as an exhibit at the MoMA. Designers paid particular attention to airflow around the car, resulting in an exterior that looks like it’s constantly in motion, especially with its lengthy rear diffuser and flat underfloor.
Other notable features include the largest curved glass window to be used on a McLaren car. You can also toss your plebeian sun visors aside because the Speedtail will have electrochromatic glass that can turn opaque.
Inside, three driver display screens fill the middle of the cockpit, displaying climate controls, driving information, and infotainment (from left to right). Screens replace rear-view cameras and many other controls join the Velocity button in a panel above the driver’s head.
Because this is under McLaren’s Special Operations’ portfolio, each of the 106 Speedtails sold will be customised extensively for its buyer. This includes the option to integrate the new ‘titanium deposition carbon fibre’ weave technique into the bodywork, giving a chrome-effect shimmer that makes it virtually impossible to take your eyes off this work of automobile art.