Over the long weekend, I was invited to join a drive up Jebel Jais with a group of local and regional media to test one of McLaren’s latest models, the 570S. It was the perfect setting for what I would consider to be the most thrilling car I would have driven so far, as the Al Hajar mountains offered a winding track that allowed us to push the British sports coupe to its limits and experience its mechanical and engineering prowess.
The meeting place was Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah, where we were greeted with a lineup of six 570S models – in white, blue, apple green and orange – and a lone 650S, which would later turn out to be our lead car during the drive. After a warm welcome from the McLaren and Seven Media teams, we proceeded with a short briefing, which detailed the Woking-based luxury automaker’s history, leading up to the launch of the car that we were about to drive, and then some more bits about the company’s future plans.
Hint: It’s all about investing big bucks back into research and development so they can make their cars more awesome. And oh, about coming up with new models too. McLaren plans to up its sales volume, from about 1,600 cars last year, to 5,000 by releasing about 15 new models in the next 60 years. That’s one gorgeous baby every leap year!
Then came the moment of truth. Well, not quite. We first received a brief handover from the McLaren team for some quick tips on how to handle the fine details that differentiate the beast from any normal road car. A few minutes later, we were rollin’, and all who could see us were mirin’, or hatin’. We honestly couldn’t tell from all the horsepower anxiously stirring behind our seats.
- Engine: 3.8L V8 twin turbo
- Power: 570 PS / 562 hp @ 7,400 rpm
- Torque: 600Nm @ 5,000 – 6,500 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed SSG
- 0-100kph: 3.2 seconds
- Configuration: rear-engine, rear wheel drive (RR)
The looks of the car bear all the relevant details that are undeniably McLaren. The fascia is almost identical to the 650S, except for a few minor revisions. I love how the designers were able to translate the swish in the brand logo into actual visual elements found in the car – in the case of the 570S, it’s the headlights and the taillights. The signature sporty curves that are iconic to the McLaren marque were all present, incorporated into a cocktail of splitters and diffusers to work seamlessly with the laws of aerodynamics. The aesthetic DNA is identifiable, even when compared to Ferrari’s sexy lines, the jagged, Transformer-y edges of Lamborghini, the Martian, heavy-headedness of Audi and the front-to-back, which-way-does-it-go mirrored look of Porsche. You can tell, just by looking at it, this car was designed for performance, and it’s built to go fast.
The car was, as they asserted during the briefing, easy enough to drive. It’s not one of those intimidating cars that render you catatonic when on the road, trying to figure out how to make it go. As someone who drives an oversize brute the Americans pass off as a sports car on a weekly basis, I can attest to the fact that there are a lot of other vehicles out there that are more difficult to manage than the 570S. If you can drive a Yaris, you can drive the 570S. Controls are where they should be, and the cabin, while a little on the claustrophobic side, won’t look alien at all even to the most novice of drivers.
With a very low ground clearance, the first feature you need to know about this car is the nose lift, which, with a push of a stalk extending from the steering column, raises the car’s height while going over speed bumps, keeping the underside scratch-free. The engineers have also done away with the gear lever, instead opting for D N R buttons. I didn’t like them very much. I prefer not having to look where the buttons are and minding which one I’m pushing while I’m driving. They also felt like they might not be able to withstand a lot of use over a long period of time, but I’d have to drive it for a full year to find out for myself *wink wink*.
Even with what is technically a sequential manual gear box, there’s no stick shift, because the prevailing idea in motorsport industry now is that the car can shift between gears faster than any human can, and when you’re on the track, the few milliseconds you save from doing the shifting yourself will decide whether you win or lose. You either drive it as a virtual automatic like a baby or shift gears using the paddle shifts right under the steering wheel.
As soon as we passed the last speed camera, we were able to fully discover the true potential of the 570S. Jebel Jais’ twisty roads are not something you come at in high speeds, unless you have the necessary driving skills and a very capable car. The apple green McLaren that I was assigned did not disappoint.
The car felt light and agile, following instantly any instruction I fed to the steering and throttle. You rarely get the chance to take corners fast, but the 570S is built for this kind of thing. The superb handling of the car allows you to tackle the twisties with an overwhelming sense of confidence that you’re not going to drive off a cliff and end up at the bottom of the mountain. It’s a rear-wheel-drive that handles like an all-wheel-drive – no squirmy feeling that you’re suddenly going to spin out of control and hit a lamppost on the side of the road.
And even if you absolutely have to slow down for the tighter turns, there’s always the 560 plus horses behind your butt that you can rely on to push you back into cruising speed in no time. Even in fifth gear, the engine pulls. I hardly felt any turbo lag, but that’s thanks to the twin-turbo configuration. The smaller blower gets to work while the mama snail spools up, prepping for a high-rev reveal should the need arise.
It was an absolute joy to drive up and down the Hajar mountains in the McLaren. It was like riding a roller coaster, except you controlled everything – the speed, the line, and the music blaring out of the Bowers & Wilkins sound system. I’m glad to have been part of the experience!
If you’re looking to own one of these babies, which starts from AED 738,000 by the way, the only way you can truly appreciate the car’s engineering is by doing a test drive on a similar track. Don’t settle for less.
Thanks again to McLaren and Seven Media for having me in the event, and to the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah for the wonderful hospitality!