First Look: McLaren's Ultimate Road Car, The $2M Hyper-GT Speedtail
This is the Speedtail, McLaren Automotive’s first hyper-GT, joining the marque’s pinnacle “Ultimate Series”. With speeds of up to 250-mph, it is the most powerful road car built by the British company. The Speedtail honors the McLaren F1 icon with its inventive three-seat cabin design. It is ultra-exclusive too, with production kept strictly to a limited 106 numbers, priced at around $2m. All models have been pre-sold – in fact interest far exceeded production plans - for their 2020 customer delivery.
Power comes via a petrol-electric hybrid engine housed within a lightweight carbon fiber body. Mike Flewitt, the company chief executive, says it reminds him of the “sleek streamliners that once set world records”. The Speedtail delivers a combined 1,050ps for acceleration to 186-mph in just 12.8 seconds, to be faster than McLaren’s most powerful machine, the P1. For extra power, the “Velocity” mode optimizes the engine and active aerodynamic, lowering the body by 35mm so the highest point of the car is just 1,120mm from the road.
The brief was to design a three-seater hyper-GT in the spirit of the F1. “It had to be the purest expression of what you need from a car like this. For McLaren, design must be authentic,” Robert Melville the creative director tells me as we walk around the car in a heavily-guarded vault at the McLaren Technical Center. “The proportions should express the car and every material used has to be right for this car.”
This is an exceptionally accomplished product. The exterior is focused on delivering the very best in aerodynamics so the Speedtail is the most drag-efficient McLaren road car ever built. This is largely down to the dramatically-slender and elongated 137mm carbon body and teardrop-shaped cockpit which keeps air close to the sculpture and directs it smoothly away. A large single piece of glass covers the entire volume to replace structural panels for added weight loss and aero efficiency. The tapered rear features flexible carbon spoilers that lift and adjust according to driving style to further assist drag.
“For us it is always about taking risks – pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved is central to our design,” offers Melville. Here every detail has been considered to help achieve the ultimate aero-efficiency as well as adding character to the car. Retractable digital rear view cameras replace traditional wing mirrors, while static aero carbon elements cover the front bespoke “P-Zero” Pirelli tires. This is fundamental for ensuring air stays attached to the body, but by keeping the rear wheels bare, it also adds an unusual aesthetic and is a statement of non-conformity.
Other areas showcase the exceptional technical skills of the materials team at McLaren. Melville admits, “the material story is like nothing else we have done before.” The engine is covered in a carbon sheet showcasing a technical grading color in a fine carbon weave. The front splitter, diffuser and side skirts are finished in a titanium deposition carbon material that has just 1000 fibers per thread, instead of the usual 3,000. The jacquard weaving process creates an intricate pattern, plus customers can specify for the titanium to be anodized in a specified color, interwoven with a personalized message. Finally, the McLaren badge and Speedtail name features Thin-Ply Technology (TPT) - a technique developed with brand partner the Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille – and are created using white gold.
The interior is highly impressive too. Whereas early McLaren road cars were kept a little plain inside to be authentic sports cars, the company is now confident enough to add a touch of luxury to its cabins. The design for the centrally-positioned driver, flanked by two passenger bucket seats, it sensational. “As a boy, I had a picture of the McLaren F1 on my wall. This has been dream project for me,” smiles Melville, genuinely thrilled to have worked on the Speedtail.
The sculpted slim seats are covered in tactile leather; the driver seat is adjustable and the two rear ones fixed. Interwoven carbon titanium deposition materials and digitally embossed, full-aniline and lightweight leathers can be ordered through the McLaren Special Operations bespoke division. A couple of digital screens on either side of the driver provide the necessary road information. There are two luggage compartments positioned front and rear, for some 162-litres to fit one suitcase and two smaller bags – customized in-house by the McLaren team. Finally, a switch darkens the top of the windscreen eliminating the need for sun-visors. It is all about clever solutions here.
McLaren is having a moment in history. This boutique marque has been busy developing a family of sports cars that push the limits of technology and design, go above and beyond to explore new shapes, novel materials - weaving ultra-light carbon in ways and shapes that no one has dared in automotive history. There is beauty in this earnestness, yet somehow the McLaren cars of late were risking losing a sense of automotive beauty.
The Speedtail introduces the grace, the allure, of the golden age of motor car design. There is so much drama in the teardrop shape and tapered rear; and a much-needed smile in the three-seat design. Melville is amused by this and after a little contemplation calls the design “classical futuristic - rooted in the history and about the future.”
This is the first of 18 new cars and derivatives promised from the Track25 masterplan. “McLaren has never built a vehicle like the Speedtail before,” says the CEO Mike Flewitt. “As our first hyper-GT, it is the ultimate McLaren road car – a fusion of art and science that combines an astonishing maximum speed with an iconic central driving position and a truly pioneering approach to bespoke personalization.”