It doesn’t seem five minutes since McLaren revealed the first member of its entry-level road car family with the 570S. A few weeks later and we’ve got the actual cheapest model in the Sports Series – the 540C – shown off at the Shanghai Auto Show.
Unless McLaren decides to wedge an even cheaper model into the Sports Series lineup, this will be the least expensive way to get behind the wheel of a performance car from Woking. Although give it a couple more weeks and you can probably expect to pick up a McLaren-Honda MP4-30 F1 car for around £20. But until then you’ll need £126,000 for the babiest-Mc.
Entry-level doesn’t mean basic, however. Using the same 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8 as the 570S – and other McLarens – the 540C produces a predictable 540 PS. So that’s 533 bhp in real money combined with 398 lb-ft of torque, meaning a 30 bhp and 40 lb-ft deficit to the 570S. Performance is reduced, ever so slightly, with a 0.3 second slower 0-62 mph time of 3.5 seconds, and a top speed of 199 mph that falls 5 mph short of the more powerful car.
How much that matters to you may dictate if you really want to pay an extra £17,500 for the 570S – equivalent to £583 for each additional horsepower. Fuel economy and C02 emissions are no different whatever state of tune you take the 3.8 litre engine in, staying at 25.5 mpg and 258g/km respectively. You’ll also get the same adaptive dampers, including a sport mode, but with settings revised to make the 540C more useable everyday.
McLaren does claim that the 540C has a subtly different aerokit to the 570S. Truth be told it must be extremely subtle, as we’ve spent some time trying to spot the differences and have so far failed. Feel free to send us a postcard, or tweet, if you manage to notice anything. Different alloy wheel designs don’t count, however, as McLaren has already pointed that out.
Befitting a car set to be comfort-orientated compared to the 570S, the interior is more luxurious with copious amounts of leather trim. The same, slightly weird, floating centre console from the 570S remains, housing the 7″ IRIS touchscreen to control multimedia and air-conditioning settings.
Orders can be placed now, with deliveries expected later in the year. Key rivals will be the new Audi R8 V10, and the forthcoming Honda NSX. The latter of which creates the strange situation of McLaren’s road cars competing against the F1 team’s engine supplier. Well, for the time being at least…