McLaren has finally introduced its long-anticipated hypercar, which we came to know under its P15 internal codename over the past year, as the Senna. It’s not exactly a direct replacement for the P1 as it will sit next to the brand’s upcoming three-seater BP23.
The latest and newest member of McLaren’s Ultimate Series carries the name of legendary Formula 1 driver, Ayrton Senna, who won all three of his F1 driver titles with the team in 1988, 1990 and 1991.
Why would I want one?
If its name or visceral racecar looks aren’t a good enough reason, then perhaps the fact that McLaren itself describes the Senna as the brand’s most extreme road car ever – and yes, despite being developed primarily for the track, it’s completely street-legal, could tip the scales to its favor.
“The McLaren Senna is a car like no other: the personification of McLaren’s motorsport DNA, legalized for road use but designed and developed from the outset to excel on a circuit,” says McLaren boss, Mike Flewitt. “Every element of this new Ultimate Series McLaren has an uncompromised performance focus, honed to ensure the purest possible connection between driver and machine and deliver the ultimate track driving experience in the way that only a McLaren can.”
The Senna’s ultra-lightweight construction, with a carbon fiber chassis that’s a further development of the 720S platform and body panels, help it achieve an incredibly low dry weight at just 1,198kg (2,641lbs), making it the brand’s lightest road car since the iconic McLaren F1. For those of you keeping track, that’s around 220kg or 485 pounds less than the already lightweight McLaren 720S.
Beyond the aero-honed teardrop shape, the Senna gets a slew of extreme, latest generation front and rear active aerodynamics, which McLaren says, raise downforce and aero control to an “unprecedented level”. We could talk about the aero blades that will be available in various colors, the movable flaps hidden in the air intakes, but the most visual drama comes from the massive rear wing.
What makes it tick?
Powering the Senna is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 placed behind the driver mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that turns the rear wheels. It produces 800PS (789bhp) and 800Nm (590 lb ft) of peak torque, resulting in a power-to-weight ratio of 668PS/650HP-per-tonne.
The Woking company won’t say how fast it is yet, simply stating that it will have “savage performance”. Still, a 0-60mph (96km/h) in 2.5 seconds or less and a top speed of over 200mph (320km/h) should be expected from the most powerful road-legal McLaren ever.
Putting all those horses on the tarmac is a revised version of the P1’s independent double-wishbone suspension with hydraulic adaptive dampers and anti-roll bars that McLaren names RaceActive Chassis Control II (RCC II).
The adaptive dampers are interconnected hydraulically, both left to right and front to back, with two valves per damper to independently adjust for compression and rebound. The stiffness of the Senna is separately controlled using a kinetic roll system, or K-damper. In addition to the Comfort, Sport and Track settings we’ve seen on the P1 and 720S, the Senna also gets a newly developed Race mode. The latter introduces a lower ride height, lower centre of gravity and significantly stiffer suspension.
McLaren says the braking system of the Senna is the most advanced it has ever made for a road car (you’ve probably noticed a pattern here), using carbon ceramic discs and motorsport technologies. The Senna rides on bespoke Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires that were designed for race tracks but approved for road use.
“The McLaren Senna delivers true performance, all the way to the limit of a driver’s ability,” says McLaren Ultimate Series boss, Andy Palmer. “With a truly astonishing power-to-weight ratio, this car is about performance that is accessible and attainable, yet at the same time exciting and challenging for the very best drivers in the world – and with an intense, sensory experience to match.”
Tell me about the cabin
Before you enter the car, you have to operate the top-hinged doors that are constructed from carbon fiber and feature two-piece glass side windows with a fixed top part and a smaller opening section below. McLaren says the glass layout enhances the sense of space inside the cockpit, but if you want to go to extremes, you can switch the lower portions for carbon fiber panels, in which case, the interior will be a darker place.
The cabin itself is an ode to minimalism offering the bare essentials. That means super lightweight seats with hardly any padding, while many items such as the door handles, engine start button and window switches have been positioned on the roof. The three-spoke steering wheel is free of buttons and switches, while a very simple and narrow screen in front of the driver informs about engine revs, the gear selected and speed. All other information and settings comes from the high-definition McLaren Folding Driver Display and central infotainment screen.
Good luck trying to carry anything other than a couple of helmets and racing suits as storage space is restricted to a chamber behind the seats.
Can I afford it?
Probably not, but even if you did have the £750,000 it costs in the UK with taxes at your disposal, and which comes to around $1 million at today’s rates, all 500 hand-built cars have been spoken for. The last example was sold in an auction for £2 million or $2.7 million with the proceeds to benefit the Senna Foundation.
We’ll have the opportunity to see the new Senna in the flesh at next year’s Geneva Motor Show in March. Production of the car will begin in the third quarter of 2018.