Tracktest McLaren 570S: The fastest B&W speakers on earth

McLaren 570S – LESS IS MORE

Our reviewer Dr. Ian Kuah says: „A cheaper McLaren does not mean less McLaren!“

Sports Series, Super Series and Ultimate Series. These are the three flavours of the full McLaren model range as envisaged from the start. The P1 was the first expression of the Ultimate Series, and McLaren’s flag bearer, but there will not be another car in this Series for a few years.

Now that the core of the McLaren business case has been well established with the MP4-12C, its 650S successor, and the mighty 675LT, it is time to go after volume with the Sports Series. This is a less uncompromising, less expensive, but still hand-built range of cars designed to go hunting in Aston Martin DB9, Audi R8 and Porsche Turbo territory.

Frankly, if a non-enthusiast saw a McLaren 570S drive past they would not believe it was an entry-level model. After all, with its new taillights, it has even more P1-inspired styling cues than the more expensive 650S.

However, the 540C and 570S are the new bread and butter McLaren models, and the cars that the Woking-based firm hopes will take sales up to their self-imposed cap of 4,000 units a year.

The fact that McLaren have already taken 1,000 orders for their new baby even before customers have had the chance to sit in a car or drive one speaks volumes for the gravitas the brand has built up in a relatively short time.

McLaren 570S
McLaren 570S: Nautilus technology is used for the tweeters (Foto: Dr. Ian Kuah)

The McLaren 570S is launched in November as a Coupe, and McLaren told us officially that the Spider version will be along in 2017. Judging by the much greater take-up rate of the 650S Spider over the Coupe, the same sales mix will likely follow with the al fresco version of the 570S as well.

While the true entry-level car is the 540C, which will retail for £128,000 in the UK, McLaren chose to launch their new range with the 570S (£143,000 in the UK), whose design tenets, like all this motorsport-based company’s cars, revolve around advanced chassis, aerodynamics, high-tech materials, outstanding engine performance and low weight.

Low weight was consistently chased here, and at 1,344kg (dry weight) the 570S is around 150kg lighter than any class rival. On that score, the advent of LED headlamp technology has been a boon. Each of these bespoke units weighs just 2.7kg, but is more powerful and consumes less power than the xenon equivalents that went before.

The engine powering the 570S is yet another variation of the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre flat-plane crank V8 in every McLaren model, and in this less powerful application, the engine’s internal code is M838TE.

Output is a healthy 570hp (562bhp) at 7,500rpm, with 600 Nm of torque from 5,000 to 6,500rpm. This is the first version of the McLaren V8 to feature start-stop technology, which helps it achieve an average fuel consumption of 10.7L/100km, along with 249g/km of CO2 emissions.

Against the stopwatch, this Sports Series car has major league supercar performance with a 0-100km/h time of 3.2 sec, 0-200km/h in 9.5 sec, and a top speed of 328km/h (204mph).

McLaren 570S
The fully McLaren 570S leather trimmed interior is inviting (Foto: Dr. Ian Kuah)

Helping the cause is the smooth and rapid 7-speed SSG twin-clutch gearbox, whose steering wheel mounted paddle shifter action has now been honed to a very high level of tactile precision.

It comes as no surprise that the absence of the active suspension elements featured in more expensive McLaren models removes the thin layer of feedback opacity that is a hallmark of all state-of-the-art suspension systems using such technology.

Because of this, the McLaren 570S talks to you through the seat of your pants in a way that it’s more powerful, more tech-laden big brothers do not. It has a directness and clarity in what it is doing, even in what it is about to do, that I found quite refreshing.

There is a bit more body roll, but the important thing is the subtle progression with which it adopts its cornering set. Although it is a well-sharpened tool, there is nothing sudden about the way the chassis reacts to inputs, and it feels perfectly measured in the best traditional sense of the term. And when you do find the limit, the linear characteristic velocity means it lets go progressively as well.

Like other McLaren models, the 570S also has variable ratio electro-hydraulic assistance, but the steering rack and front-end geometry are unique to this car. With 2.5 turns lock-to-lock it feels crisp and nicely weighted.

The transparency of the 570S chassis really came into its own when driving in the semi-slippery conditions imposed on us by a rain shower during track testing at Portimão Circuit.

McLaren 570S
The McLaren 570S can be used as an everyday car (Foto: Dr. Ian Kuah)

The front end proved very lucid through the helm on the way into the 180-degree left-hand hairpins, a slow entry speed in second gear rewarded with a full report on just how much mechanical grip was available at the tyre contact patches.

I could feel the steering go slightly light when treading the fine line between grip and slip, the back end continuing to track faithfully. This high level of seat-of-the-pants communication from the steering and chassis lets you know exactly when and by how much you can ease into the throttle as steering lock comes off on the way out of a turn.

In the faster turns on the rapidly drying circuit, I was surprised at just how much mechanical grip the Pirelli Corsa tyres could generate. With no standing water and a near consistently damp surface, I was pulling an indicated 145km/h on the exit from the right-hander leading on to the main straight.

McLaren 570S: Fast on track

In bone-dry conditions it would likely have been 165km/h or more, but this shows how far today’s track day rubber has come in terms of wet grip, even without the positive downforce of the 650S.

McLaren has done a lot of work on the throttle response of their twin-turbo V8, and it allows you to meter in precisely the amount of power required.

Thus, it is not difficult for a sensitive driver who knows not to be greedy with the throttle to ride the torque curve in a higher gear in such conditions to ‘float’ the car round a damp or wet track right on the limit of grip with no drama.

McLaren 570S
McLaren 570S: Twin-turbo V8 gives the car a 328km/h top speed (Foto: Dr. Ian Kuah)

McLaren told us that their new carbon-fibre tub is heavier but no less rigid than that of its bigger brothers, so despite having a lower sill to ease ingress and egress in its role as a daily driver, the Mc Laren 570S tub provides a solid platform for the suspension to work optimally.

The simplified suspension arrangement still uses double wishbones all round, but in place of the active damping and anti-roll bars are conventional hydraulic dampers and hollow tubular steel anti-roll bars.

McLaren 570S
McLaren 570S: Kevlar speaker cones are a Bowers & Wilkins speciality (Foto: Dr. Ian Kuah)

The discernable difference between the suspension in its Normal and Sport modes is very obvious on the road. At 50km/h or less through towns and villages, Normal confers a firm but fluid ride. In a car with the very comfortable and supportive normal sports seats, you certainly feel that a long session behind the wheel will not be overly taxing on mind and body.

As you go faster, Normal starts to feel a bit soft as a trace of body movement seeps into the equation. Time to engage the Sport setting, which pulls everything back nicely, while never becoming harsh.

If anything I was surprised how good ride and suspension control is compared to the active system in the 650S. Secondary ride comfort is only slightly affected, but on the other hand, I find the greater transparency of feedback from the 570S’s chassis makes for a more engaging steer.

Of course part of that can be accounted for by the smaller wheels and tyres, which give up some mechanical grip, but also make the handling more tactile. Here, 8.0J x 19-inch and 10.0J x 20-inch alloys are shod with 225/35ZR19 and 285/35ZR20 Pirelli PZero Corsa tyres.

The brakes are good on both road and track. While the pedal travel is longer than a Porsche with PCCB brakes, I actually find that a positive trait as it makes the brake action easier to modulate. The carbon-ceramic discs and alloy calipers are the same as on the 650S, but the pads and calibration are 570S specific.

Swing the wider opening doors open and first impressions are good. The leather on the side sills, seats and dashboard give the cabin an air of luxury, and as one engineer jokingly pointed out, “It is the first McLaren with two vanity mirrors!”

McLaren put a lot of effort into making the 570S a more practical car for those who wish to use it as a daily driver. To that end, the lower, narrower side sills, and doors that open to a more vertical angle are a significant help in getting in and out more easily.

The powered steering column and comfort seats make it easy to find the perfect driving position, while an easy access feature moves the steering wheel and comfort seats apart when you switch off, a first in a car of this type. Of course if you opt for the one-piece lightweight race seats, you have to move them yourself.

The all-new electronic instrument pack underlines McLaren’s illustrious racing heritage by only putting immediately necessary information in front of the driver.

The well-considered interior design continues with the latest incarnation of the central telematics display. While this started out as an embarrassment for McLaren on the MP4-12C, the latest system works very well indeed with a 7-inch touch screen whose user interface is pretty self-explanatory, and a match for anything else out there.

For music lovers, the jewel in the 570S crown is the Bowers & Wilkins audio system. There are three levels to choose from, and our test cars all featured the top-of-the range 1,280 Watt, 12-speaker system, which proved dynamic and musical, with convincing sound staging. Importantly for a sportscar, the whole audio system weighs under 6.0kg.

McLaren 570S
McLaren 570S: The heart of the audio system is a 32 GB harddrive (Foto: Dr. Ian Kuah)

The heart of the system is a dedicated audio ‘hard disc’, which is in fact a solid-state 32GB memory. SatNav map data is stored separately, and does not affect the amount of space the user has for music.

The pre-amp section has analogue line level audio inputs and contains an analogue to digital converter (ADC), a digital signal processing engine, a digital to analogue converter (DAC) and 14-channels of Class-D power amplification. The power supply voltage comes from a switch mode power supply.

The DSP section uses a technology called Quantum logic surround to extract signal streams such as musical instruments from the recording, as well as embedded reverb spatial information. In ‘Stage Mode’ this allows the amp to recreate a multi-channel soundstage from a stereo recording, delivering an immersive audio experience to the driver and passenger.

The 12-speaker array consists of a 200mm bass driver in each door. These have a Carbon cone with an inverted magnet for improved packaging, and each is driven by two of the 14 amplifier channels.

Highend B&W sound for the McLaren 579S: 14-channels of pure power

Mid-range frequencies come from a 100mm diameter mid-range driver with a Kevlar cone positioned in each door and each rear corner, with the fifth unit in the centre of the dashboard. These are matched with five 25mm Aluminium-dome Nautilus tweeters, also placed in each door, rear corner and on the dashboard centre.

On a wide spread of music from jazz to classic, the system proved both dynamic and capable of creating a wide soundstage with precise positioning of instruments and voices.

As with B&W’s home speakers, the Nautilus tweeters deliver crystal clear highs, and together with the analogue pre-amp stage helps create a dynamic and musical system with a natural tonal balance that I would be happy to listen to for hours.

Fine all-round visibility makes the 570S feel smaller than it is, and less intimidating than other mid-engine machines in traffic. Finally, a front lift function is optional, and well worth having if there are car park ramps and speed bumps where you live.

In tailoring the 570S as their most road-focused and practical model yet, for significantly less money than the 650S, McLaren has opened the door to a much larger market.

In the real world, the stopwatch performance of the 570S is not far behind the 650S, and is actually on par with the original 592hp MP4-12C, which weighed more. That means the 570S is a good match for the 610hp Audi R8 V10 Plus and 560hp Porsche Turbo S, both of which are considerably heavier. That said, its 328km/h (204mph) top speed makes the McLaren the fastest car in this group.

After driving the baby McLaren 570S on road and track, I would not hesitate to say that its more intuitive, more analogue feel really appeals to my fingertips and seat of the pants.

Verdict McLaren 570S with B&W sound system

While the McLaren 570S might appear on paper to be a simplified, entry-level model to broaden McLaren’s market reach and make conquest sales from the class below the 650S, the result is a very complete and accomplished car in itself.

The 570S is mature and well sorted, worryingly so for its potential rivals. In fact, if the 650S did not exist, and were McLaren not intent on rattling Ferrari with the 650S and 675LT, the 570S would be a worthy car in any company. Most importantly of all in this class, it looks and feels special.

In fact, even if I had the financial wherewithal to buy the 650S, the greater tactile enjoyment the 570S delivers through its more direct and authentic feel, would seal the deal for me.

Further information on the 570S on

More about Bowers & Wilkins Automotive on the B&W Automotive website

More reviews by Dr. Ian Kuah:

First Ride: BMW 7 Series with B&W Audio
Sound Check: Mercedes E-Class W213 with Burmester Sound


Editor’s Note for all English speaking friends of LowBeats
Thanks for visiting LowBeats Magazin. At present it is an all German language site, with just the odd feature and review in English. We are aiming to present much more content in English for our readers – but in the meantime, we invite you to take a look at the few articles listed above or to check out LowBeats in German.

From the team at LowBeats  

Autor: Special Guest