McLaren Senna revealed in launch film

Before finally pulling back the curtain to reveal the latest member of its Ultimate Series to the assembled motoring press, McLaren went on at some length about the most extreme road car it has ever made. Partly because it is justly proud of the remarkable machine that has resulted from a wholly single-minded pursuit of circuit prowess. And partly, one suspects, to ensure that the ground was sufficiently soft before anyone actually laid eyes on the car.

The firm makes no apologies for the way the Senna (yes, we'll get to that in a minute) looks. Laudably, no-one wearing a McLaren logo suggested it was anything other than 'brutal' - and this description, having likely rolled around Woking for quite some time, is entirely apt. You hardly need me to tell you that its maker considers the car the epitomy of its form-follows-function design philosophy or that practically every surface has been optimised for better aerodynamic performance. That much is obvious.

What you will need me to tell you is that the car has a tremendous and savage presence in the metal. And that it is quite beautifully made. Walking around the car with Andy Palmer, the Vehicle Line Director for Ultimate Series, is a treat because there is plainly so much going on. From the two-piece windows to the carbon fibre plenum, which can be seen working in the rearview mirror, to the visible door gas struts, it is certainly one of those machines which rewards close inspection - if not a long gaze from 15m away. The fact that no single line goes from front to back without swooping into a vent or intake speaks volumes about the styling sacrifices made at the altar of airflow.

So what do we know? Well, as promised, this is McLaren's road-legal track monster. Or as Woking puts it: "legalised for road use but not sanitised to suit it." Which is another way of saying that the Senna is going to ride like a 720S or even a P1, but will be quicker around almost every circuit than a P1. It'll do that because the firm has combined its air fettling body with a 1198kg dry kerb weight - and 800hp from an overhauled version of the familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8.

This translates into a power-to-weight ratio of 668hp-per-tonne. And when you've finished staring at that figure, consider that the Senna also develops 590lb ft of torque. All of it dispatched via a dual-shift seven-speed transmission to the rear wheels. There are no hybrid gubbins as there were in the P1 - they were plainly considered too weighty - and while McLaren isn't prepared to discuss performance figures just yet, it has gone into some detail about how the Senna turns all this mechanical energy into potentially outrageous lap times.

Underneath, the car is built on an evolution of the carbon fibre Monocage III architecture which underpins the 720S. Its development occurs in the upper portion and is significant enough for Woking to describe the latest monocoque as the 'strongest' ever built for a road-legal McLaren. As a result, the interior luggage-carrying space in the Senna is reduced to just enough room for two helmets and a race suit (we'll call that, 'the essentials').

The RaceActive Chassis Control II suspension system is also a development of the firm's existing technology, utilising double wishbones all around and the hydraulically interconnected dampers which replace the need for conventional anti-roll bars. While the chassis retains its Comfort, Sport and Track settings, the Senna adds Race mode (engaged by an overhead switch rather than on the Active panel) which drops the car's ride height by 50mm. No prizes for guessing which setting is employed in the pictures.

Clearly 50mm is a lot for an already low-to-the-ground supercar (even Palmer admits that you'd think twice before deploying it on the notoriously unflat Nordschleife) but then it's meant for the bowling green surfaces of race circuits rather than your local B road. There it will fully indulge the ground-breaking front and rear active aero; from the two aero blades now hidden either side of the nose to the colossal double-element carbon fibre rear wing - all of which constantly adjust to optimise the available downforce and aerodynamic balance.

That's not all. At the back there are 'gurney' flaps ahead of the clamshell's stepped louvres to direct air away from the rear deck and down the side of the car. This leaves an area of low pressure which helps to draw out the heat coming from the radiators and engine bay. Like all McLarens, the exhaust exits the body via the most direct route, but is angled to direct gases away from the rear wing. The vast double diffuser below is created from a single piece of carbon fibre. That glass in the lower portion of the door is there so you can be in no doubt about whether or not you clipped the nearest apex.

In short, it's all about attention to detail. The cockpit is similarly business-like. Stripped out even by McLaren's spartan standards, there's carbon fibre on display everywhere - and while Woking has opted to retain niceties like the infotainment display and a stereo, it has endeavoured to keep clutter to an absolute minimum. The glorious seats (available in two sizes) are only cushioned precisely where they need to be, and can be gently tailored to best fit their new owner.

There will only be 500 of them, and according to McLaren, spaces on the limited production run were all allocated some time ago. Each lucky soul will have agreed to meet a starting price of £750,000 - without having actually seen the Senna. As far as McLaren is concerned, using that name could not be more appropriate. "You commit yourself to such a level where there is no compromise. You give everything you have; everything, absolutely everything," is the well-selected Ayrton quote emblazoned on page 1 of the car's press release.

The car which bears his name is obviously McLaren's tribute to that sentiment. Or at least it will be until Woking gets around to a building a non-road legal GTR version, an option apparently being discussed behind closed doors. Palmer reckons such a development would strip an additional 50-80kg of non-essential kit from the Senna; making it impossible to drive down the public highway - a key criteria for membership to the Ultimate Series - but quicker still at the business of setting lap records. That's a prospect for tomorrow though: today, the Senna is as extreme as McLaren gets.










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Comments (472) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Burnham 10 Dec 2017

    That wing is crazy!

  • loudlashadjuster 10 Dec 2017

    Good work on the name. The rest I’m going to take some time to digest.

  • 461098 10 Dec 2017

    You think it’s ugly then you see the back! F**k me they’ve had a nightmare

  • RoverP6B 10 Dec 2017

    For the ultimate iteration of the Ultimate Series, could they not have produced a more 'ultimate' engine than a breathed-on 720S motor? Whisper it, perhaps a V12? It'll be interesting to see whether this is actually faster than the P1.

  • leglessAlex 10 Dec 2017

    My god, it wasn't a joke, that's actually it.


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