The third addition to McLaren's 570S Sports Series line-up is the folding hard-topped 570S Spider. It turns out to be a no-compromises, sun-lovers' sports car.
In the metal
We only gave the 570S coupe four stars here, but the 570S Spider makes sense of its lines a bit more by adding the ability to drop its roof. Do that, at speeds of up to 40km/h, and you're left with a pair of flying buttresses, joined near the passenger compartment by the rear window. That glass doubles as a wind defector when the roof's down, and can be lowered whether the roof is up or down.
Doing that adds some buffeting when the roof is stowed away, or increases your enjoyment of the engine's noise when you've some carbon fibre rather than sky above your head. With the roof in place it's a committed McLaren fan who'll spot the differences, especially if you've chosen optional contrasting black (or Dark Palladium as McLaren refers to it). It's worth that alone to hide the seams that delineate the two folding elements, and the Spider looks its best with those buttresses in black, too.
Unusually, the Spider gets a boost in practicality, if not quite that offered by the McLaren 570 GT's 'Touring Deck', but some 52 litres more space than in the regular 570S. There's a proviso, though, as that extra space is only available if you've the roof in place, as it's under the tonneau (really a carbon panel) that tops the roof's storage area.
Inside, it's all familiar 570S, which means defiantly McLaren, the firm having its own ideas on how a touchscreen should be situated (portrait rather than landscape). The IRIS system is relatively easy to understand and is supplemented by buttons underneath the screen. There's fine finishing all around the interior, though why McLaren hasn't fitted frameless rear-view mirrors to any of its products remains a mystery. As is the need to activate the controllers for the various drive modes by pressing a different button. Figure hugging seats in a variety of sizes and type - electrically operated to full racing buckets - underlines McLaren's scope for personalisation, with plentiful interior and exterior choices, as well as a range of packs covering everything from additional carbon fibre to track telemetry.
There's usually a proviso with a Spider purchase, a compromise for the ability to burn your scalp in the summer sun and be better seen by passers by when doing so. Thing is, there's no drop in performance here - the figures are identical to its closed coupe relation's, and there's no obvious loss of rigidity, either.
Actually, that's not entirely true, the 3.8-litre twin-turbo engine might manage to shift the extra 46kg to 100km/h in the same 3.2 seconds as the coupe, but at double that you'll be trailing by one tenth of a second for a time of 9.6 seconds. Thing is, it'll feel and sound faster with the roof down and all the extra drama that brings, and the top speed is the same at 328km/h. To put that into perspective, the 570S Spider can nearly match McLaren's iconic F1 for outright acceleration. Yet, says the firm, it's a sports car, not a supercar; that position is saved for the 720S above it.
What is very obvious is the integrity of the chassis. We've been impressed by the MonoCell II structure in the Spider's closed relations, and opening the car only underlines its inherent stiffness. If you can notice any loss in rigidity over the coupe then you should be used to calibrate measuring equipment... That stiffness is to the benefit of its dynamic ability so it possesses the same sensational traction, high grip and fine, accurate steering, plus the same taut body and wheel control of the coupe. That's to say it can use its ample performance with impunity: the 570S Spider possesses agility and poise that's difficult to initially comprehend.
McLaren's steadfast approach to steering means the link between the front wheels and your hands is hydraulically power assisted, which brings a level of feel that's unusual these days, even among the best rivals' electrically assisted set-ups. That's to the enormous benefit of driver engagement and the faithfulness of its response at the wheel. The messages you receive from the front allow it its incredible pace through the corners. So to does the suspension, which does without the sophisticated set-up of the 720S, but manages to balance compliance with control in equal measure.
The driving modes allow choice for both the chassis and powertrain, while the stability systems can have their thresholds loosened. The 570S works best with its stability control system in ESP Dynamic mode. Do that and it'll allow some slip at the wheels before intervening, allowing far more control and relieving it of its most frustrating habit of being a little bit too anticipatory. While we're at it, Powertrain is better in its higher settings, Handling in Sport and the seven-speed paddle-shifted gearbox in manual mode.
Flicking up and down the transmissions reveals there are few areas lacking in the engine's response and performance, as the pace it delivers is relentless and forceful. Usefully, the brakes provide the same, if opposite, effect, though it's a shame that the engine, even when equipped with a sports exhaust, isn't a little bit more tuneful - an Audi R8 Spyder or Ferrari 488 Spider betters the McLaren in that regard. While we're talking about noise, you'll notice a bit more of it with the roof up, those necessary seams making their presence felt with some additional wind noise. There's your proviso then, but owners aren't likely to care.
What you get for your money
The price is slightly above its competition's, but then they're common in comparison. The 570S Spider has real credibility and frankly, comparing it to rivals is moot as many owners will have a selection of them to pick from anyway. Likewise, highlighting that the price is a mere starting point isn't worthwhile, as the expectation here is some ability to make it exclusive and buyers won't be in the least bit worried about the additional costs to do that, indeed they'll expect it.
Ferrari 488 Spider: the 570S Spider's most obvious foe, it's a bit quicker, but it's also a lot more expensive.
Lamborghini Huracan Spyder: soft-top version of Lamborghini's Huracan isn't quite as quick as the McLaren, nor as polished dynamically. That engine, though...
Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet: epically quick and utterly useable, if a little soulless in the company of the McLaren and its rivals.
McLaren promised a no-compromise open-topped car in its 570S Spider and it has delivered exactly that. There's a bit of wind noise at speed with the roof up, but otherwise it's all but identical to its coupe to drive, which is no bad thing at all.