I recently had the opportunity to drive the new McLaren 570S, which is also known as the "baby" McLaren, in the sense that it has a "baby" 562 horsepower, and it does zero to 60 in a "baby" 3.0 seconds, and it starts at a "baby" $190,000, before options, which are plentiful.
I drove this car courtesy of a dealership near Washington, D.C. called Exclusive Automotive Group, which is the Bentley and Aston Martin franchise dealer in the D.C. area. Exclusive Automotive Group had a 570S because they have everything; their current inventory includes a range of vehicles that stretches from a Jeep Grand Cherokee to a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster. The whole place is like a Cars and Coffee.
So anyway, I showed up, and I drove the 570S, largely because I have the following thesis in mind: McLarens lose value pretty fast, and the 570S is a lot cheaper than any other modern McLaren. So, theoretically, it’ll become really cheap a lot quicker than the other McLaren models — and thus, theoretically, it’ll be available in a few years for the price of a well-optioned Porsche 911. Which leads to the following obvious question: In a few years, would this really be a good choice over a well-optioned Porsche 911?
So the first thing I did was, I looked around the 570S, and I found all of its quirks, which were just amazingly plentiful. I mean it. You should see this thing. The exterior door alone is like one giant quirk, with its strange topography. The driver-side windshield wiper is like eight times larger than the one on the passenger side. The drive-mode selector switches don’t work until you activate them. When you unlatch the hood, the part that opens is no larger than a clipboard. I mean, the whole thing is just wall-to-wall quirks and weird features.
Admittedly, it isn’t all odd and quirky. Some of it just plain cool. The turn signal and wiper stalks, for instance, are among the very best I’ve seen. The gauge cluster is excitingly configurable, and when you stick the 570S into track mode, the whole thing changes to a totally different format that’s easier to read on the race track. The infotainment system is neat, and the climate controls are especially cool. McLaren, somehow, made climate controls cool! And maybe the car’s neatest trick is a little "Days of Parking" icon that pops up whenever you turn off the ignition, which shows you exactly how many days you can let your 570S sit before the battery dies. McLaren, it seems, knows its customers.
So the thing is a lot cooler than a Porsche on the inside, which leads you to wonder if it’s a lot better than a Porsche when you’re behind the wheel. The answer is: It depends.
It primarily depends on your tolerance for aggressive driving behavior, because the 570S is aggressive at virtually all times. It seems like it’s always ready to lunge forward, the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 is loud and rumbly at traffic lights, the transmission lets the car idle forward in a way that suggests it’s ready to get up and go, and the ride is harsh and punishing, even in normal mode. Quite simply, this feels like a Lotus Elise, except far better built, far more powerful and a little more substantial.
I say "a little more substantial," because, indeed, you finally start to understand the "baby" McLaren moniker when you get behind the wheel. I’m so used to driving larger exotic cars — like, for instance, the McLaren 650S, and the Ferrari 488 GTB, and the Lamborghini Huracan — that the 570S really felt like a go-kart. You sit incredibly far forward in the thing, the front end slopes down very quickly, and the whole car feels like it takes up about as much space on the road as a ceiling fan. It’s almost hard, when you’re driving this car, NOT to want to weave through traffic and punch the gas at every opportunity, because it truly feels like you’re one step away from strapping on a helmet and driving a go-kart down the road. In my normal existence, I’m not more athletic than everyone else I meet. In the 570S, I am.
Which, I have to be honest, is kind of cool. In fact, I came away from the 570S experience absolutely loving it; completely enthralled with the feeling that an exotic car doesn’t have to follow the trend of continuously larger sizing in order to be great. In the world of the 911 and the Cayman, the 570S is the Cayman — and you’ll find a lot of people who say that car is better, too. Not faster, sure, but more tossable and more excitable. The 570S is always frenzied, and frenetic, and ready for action, so it’s not a car to drive if you just want to cruise down the road. But if you’re ready for a spirited Sunday drive that’ll get your blood pumping, it might just be the best car for the job.
Except, of course, there’s a little issue, and it relates to my initial question. Yes, the 570S is a very cool car, with very excellent performance, and very tossable sizing. And right now, it’s easy to own: The one I drove is still covered by its new McLaren factory warranty, and surely you could buy an extended warranty down the line from a variety of sources. But what happens five or six years in the future, when the 570S really is the same price as a new 911? Do you take the gamble? Is the driving experience worth it? Do you risk owning an out-of-warranty, high-strung British car from a car company without much experience in the retail automotive world?
That, of course, depends on your personal risk tolerance. Me, I’d be worried about it. But if I skipped the McLaren experience for a Porsche, I’d also be worried I was missing out every single time I arrived at a highway on-ramp. Find a McLaren 570S for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.