Superluxury Cars

McLaren Speedtail: A 250-mph hyperbolic hypercar

Three seats, driving controls above your head, flexible carbon-fiber body panels and, oh yeah, 1,035 electrified horsepower. Holy moly.

McLaren

The McLaren Speedtail is a three-passenger, 1,035-horsepower hypercar that can allegedly accelerate from 0 to 186 miles per hour in 12.8 seconds and reach a terminal velocity of 250 mph. Yet somehow, that's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg for what McLaren calls its "ultimate road car."

After all, it isn't the performance data that stops you in your tracks upon seeing the Speedtail for the first time. As McLaren executives pulled the sheet off the very first Speedtail prototype at a preview event in London last week, it was instead the sheer size and curvaceous shape that immediately sealed the deal. The Speedtail looks like a singular sculpted piece, a sort of ultramodern take on the silver speed-record streamliners from decades ago. The McLaren Senna might be a computer's definition of aerodynamic excellence, but the Speedtail's impressive form is absolutely the result of a human hand's finesse.

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The Speedtail is 205 inches long -- an inch longer than a Chevrolet Tahoe -- yet at its highest point, it barely crests my waist. The edge of its rear deck sits just above knee-level.

Every swoop, every cut, every air duct -- they're all integral to the Speedtail's ability to hit that 250-mph top speed. So too are the fixed, carbon-fiber, front-wheel aero covers, and tiny digital rear-view cameras that extend from the dihedral doors. In fact, when you activate Velocity mode in the hopes of achieving that top speed, the active chassis control lowers the car by nearly an inch and a half, for maximum aerodynamic efficiency.

Truth be told, I sort of figured this car would just be a sort of Long Tail take on the 720S -- long and low, but still familiar as a McLaren. I love the teardrop shape of the cockpit. I love the way the central high-mounted stop light runs the length of the car's spine, nestled between two huge intakes that feed air to the engine. I love that the Speedtail looks like a 1960s vision of The Future, as if The Jetsons' society never managed to figure out flying cars.

The entire body is made from lightweight carbon fiber, parts of which are actually flexible. On each end of the tail, active ailerons can actually bend, reducing turbulence and drag at higher speeds. According to McLaren, these ailerons "adjust to move the center of pressure and provide the required level of downforce precisely when it is needed most." It's airspace tech in an automotive application, and it alleviates the need for a silly rear wing.

The Speedtail is said to weigh just 3,153 pounds in its lightest configuration. The body material itself is what McLaren calls "titanium deposition carbon fiber," where a micron-thin layer of titanium is fused directly into the fiber's weave, becoming an integral part of the construction. For the front splitter, rear diffuser and side skirts, McLaren uses a "1K" version of this carbon fiber, which makes it lighter than the material used on the rest of the body. The titanium within can also be anodized in any color a customer chooses, for added visual flair. You can "create interwoven images, symbols or even words," according to McLaren. Might I suggest the Roadshow logo?

Impressive aerodynamics and light weight are one part of the Speedtail's performance story; the powertrain within is another. McLaren isn't divulging specific details just yet, only confirming the Speedtail uses a "petrol-electric hybrid powertrain" that delivers the aforementioned 1,035 horsepower. When running in Velocity mode, the engine's idle speed is adjusted to fully charge the batteries, mounted low and in the center of the car's frame. All told, you're looking at 12.8 seconds to get from 0 to 186 mph. That's a full 3.7 seconds quicker than the already-insane McLaren P1.

The central driver's seat has a trio of screens ahead, and several vehicle controls -- including the gear selector buttons -- are housed on the headliner.

McLaren

McLaren says the Speedtail uses a rear-wheel-drive layout, but I have a sneaking (read: totally unconfirmed) suspicion there are electric motors mounted at each of the front wheels. Speaking of, the Speedtail's wheels measure 20 inches up front and 21 inches at the rear, wrapped in Pirelli tires developed specifically for this car. Assuming the tires on the show car I saw are the real deal, you're looking at 235/35ZR20s up front and meaty 315/30ZR21s out back.

Of course, the Speedtail isn't just about, well, speed. As one McLaren representative explained, the Speedtail "needs to take its owner and two friends to the opera on Park Lane on the same set of tires."

Just like the iconic McLaren F1, the Speedtail uses a three-passenger seating arrangement with a central driving position. We've known this for a long time -- when the car was first confirmed in 2016, it was codenamed BP23: Bespoke Project 2, 3-seater.

But unlike the F1, there are no central rails that separate the three individual passenger compartments. The driver's seat is set forward, with a commanding view of not only the world ahead, but a trio of high-resolution digital displays that show everything from pertinent vehicle information to navigation and infotainment functions. The engine-start button, Active Dynamics Panel, switch for Velocity mode and buttons to close the windows and doors, meanwhile, are housed in panels above the driver's head, which -- there's no other way to say it -- is so freaking cool.

Flexible rear ailerons are found on both sides of the tail, improving downforce at super-high speeds.

McLaren

Nestled behind the driver on either side are two passenger seats, both of which are fully formed into the Speedtail's carbon fiber, monoblock tub. Every surface is either finished in aniline leather or carbon fiber, and naturally, the color customization options are nearly endless.

The windscreen wraps up and over the top of the cockpit, where it meets the glazed upper sections of the doors, as well as sort of porthole above the driver's head. If the expansive glass area lets a little too much light in for your liking, the porthole, door uppers and rear quarter panes use electrochromic technology that turns the glass opaque at a moment's notice. The Speedtail doesn't have sun visors, either -- the top of the windscreen uses the same electrochromic tech.

McLaren says cargo space is actually quite ample, with compartments at the front and rear. Of course, buyers will likely want to opt for the automaker's new, bespoke set of luggage, specifically designed to fit the Speedtail. And that's even before you talk to the team at McLaren Special Operations (MSO), where, according to the automaker, "anything is possible." Don't forget to spec your Speedtail with 18-carat white gold badges, too.

McLaren will sell 106 Speedtails -- the same production run as the F1. Each one costs around $2 million, and they're already spoken for.

McLaren

Only 106 examples of the Speedtail will be produced -- the same number of McLaren F1s sold worldwide -- and all of them are already spoken for. The cost of entry is £1.75 million (about $2.2 million based on current exchange rates), though McLaren fully expects owners to tack on a number of options, so as-delivered prices will likely be much higher.

Of the 106 cars being built, a small chunk are destined for homes in the United States, where they aren't actually road legal. Never mind the digital side mirrors -- US crash standards aren't too keen on a central driving position, so owners will likely need to register their cars under "show or display" rules should they want to, I don't know, drive them to Target.

Design director Rob Melville calls the Speedtail "a future concours d'elegance winner," and a future classic. On design alone, I'd likely agree. Combine that with incredible hybrid performance, and you've got a car that'll indeed standout as a pinnacle of the modern McLaren Automotive.


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