Given how far McLaren has come in six and a bit years, the promise of this Senna
being its "most responsive and engaging" road-legal car ever is something to be extremely excited about. It probably doesn't need repeating, but that means this is a car that could well take one of its 500 customers to work (if they do indeed have to work) yet also deliver a greater adrenaline hit than a P1
, a 720S
or a 675LT
. That's quite some boast to make and, if the reality matches it, a potentially staggering accomplishment.
But it's all about the looks still, isn't it? And while this deep dive feature will aim to detail everything that makes the Senna perhaps the performance car of the moment, we have to begin with the styling.
It was clearly on the minds of McLaren at the Sheffield reveal a few weeks back, with a useful reminder to everyone that all 500 cars were sold out before they had been seen. And that all 500 orders remained even once they had... So the 500 people who matter (those paying £750k, don't forget) are satisfied, but here's the official line on why the Senna looks how it does.
It's all about performance, in case you hadn't guessed. The car is described by McLaren as "the strongest expression yet" of its 'form follows function' styling philosophy, with Design Director Rob Melville adding on the day that he sees design as, "where art and science meet". So while the car looks how they wanted it to, every design feature on the Senna serves some kind of performance benefit, be that weight saving or aerodynamic gain. It really is a relentless focus on making the most track capable car you can still drive on the road. And, for what it's worth, a far more appealing and interesting design once you understand it a bit more. Honest...
While a "purposely fragmented" design language may upset a few commenters, it does mean that the outrageous rear wing weighs less than 5kg, yet supports more than 100 times its weight in downforce. Peak downforce is 800kg, 40 per cent more than a P1. It also allows for those front aero blades (along with the rear wing) to be active, moving and adjusting to maintain the perfect aero balance. Even the exhausts are designed to prevent any disturbance to the rear wing or diffuser. The rear lights are thin for the same reason and that incredible diffuser is one piece of carbon that begins at the rear axle. Absolutely everything has been tailored towards total performance, and is genuinely fascinating: McLaren says you can't follow a single line from front to rear without it passing through a functional intake or vent. That crazy front splitter is 75mm longer than on a P1 GTR, but is as thin as possible for minimum intrusion on airflow; the front section can be replaced simply too, "meaning any damage caused by large kerbs at race tracks can be rectified without having to change the entire splitter." Marvellous.
As the next car in the Ultimate Series line, the Senna builds on much that was established by the P1. So it uses the third generation of the carbon MonoCage - the first in the P1, the second in the 720S - which is now so strong that its double walled rear crash structure negates the need for a roll cage and frees up space for helmets and suits behind the seats. It also uses the second generation of RaceActive Chassis Control, building on McLaren's interlinked damper technology, with two valves in each damper to adjust for compression and rebound. Linked side to side and front to back, it means greater control of roll and warp stiffness than with conventional anti-roll bars.
In addition to regular springs - described by McLaren as "small, lightweight and comparatively soft - the Senna features a hydraulic centre (K damper). It's said to act as a third spring in the middle of each axle, hydraulically connected by an accumulator to reduce pitch, squat and dive.
Like a P1 - and every other McLaren, in fact - the Senna's suspension is adjustable by the driver via the Active Dynamics Panel. In Race mode it lowers by 39mm at the front and 30mm at the back, increasing rake. McLaren says the Senna is actually softer at low speed in Race mode than a P1, to increase grip and traction. The track focus won't require racer expertise to get the most from, either, the fastidious attention paid to aero balance meaning that "there is no sudden step into the dynamic unknown, rather a predictable build-up of extra grip to accompany the increase in speed." As always, McLaren's focus is on involving, exciting and engaging the driver, right down to maintaining hydraulic steering for the Senna because customers "favour the detailed feedback and textured impressions it delivers."
Still with us? Good, have some stats as a reward. We'll delve into the specifics in a moment, but consider these for openers: the Senna will do 0-124mph in 6.8 seconds, 0-186mph in 17.5 seconds and a top speed of 211mph. Should somebody you know have a very fast Dodge Charger, you'll be pleased to know that the Senna can do the quarter-mile in 9.9 seconds. We're told it will be faster around a circuit than a P1. Arguably even more incredible is the braking performance: a Senna will come to a standstill from 124mph in just 100m, which is 16m less than a P1. It needs only 215m to do the same thing from 186mph, and just 29.5m from 62mph.
How does it do this? A 1,198kg dry weight will contribute (including just 60kg of body panels, but no-cost option climate control will add precious kilos back in), as will the new Pirelli Trofeo R tyres (245/35/R19 up front, 315/30/R20 behind), though of course it's the engine and the brakes which are most significant. While it's easy to assume all McLaren engines are kind of the same (they're not, but people do), a great deal has changed for the Senna's V8. It's now the most powerful McLaren combustion engine ever, the M840TR receiving new pistons and cams, as well as an overhauled intake system including a roof scoop and carbon intake plenum, to create 800hp and 590lb ft. Feel, engagement and emotion were again said to be key for Senna engine development, so changes such as repositioning the dump valves outside the turbochargers - to reduce compressor noise - have been implemented. In theory that should provide more V8 noise, and McLaren says the sound is different to anything else they've yet produced - "singing like a motorcycle race engine" is its view.
The brakes that contribute to those phenomenal stopping distances are the ceramic 'CCM-R' rotors, 390x34mm each and with four times the thermal conductivity of regular carbon ceramic discs. They take seven times longer to make than those, too. More efficient discs benefit mass as well: greater efficiency means discs can be smaller, reducing unsprung mass, and lower operating temperatures mean smaller cooling ducts. McLaren has even done away with the raised logo on the calipers to save just a little bit more.
Unsurprisingly, the Senna's interior adheres very strongly to the lightweight ethos and unwavering driver focus. Each seat weighs just 8kg fitted (or 3.35kg on their own), the Bowers & Wilkins sound system weighs 7.32kg and switchgear that isn't vital for driving - door releases, windows, that sort of thing - is in the roof, so it doesn't distract you. The McLaren Folding Driver Display will be familiar from the 720S, although a few Senna options probably won't be: buyers can have a 'push-to-drink' system installed (with a carbon dispensing unit), McLaren Track Telemetry and even a 24-carat gold heat shield if they so wish. As for exterior colours, while the choice is unlimited, ours would have to be Caliber Black; not because of its design influence, but because it's a lightweight paint specifically for the Senna, formulated "to reduce the volume of liquid needed." Fabulous.
So there you have it; the McLaren Senna in all its glorious detail. Not just a 720S with a remap and a bodykit after all. If it really can offer all that's great about contemporary McLarens in terms of feel, feedback and connection, as well as unparalleled circuit ability, the Senna promises to be something truly extraordinary. Following a Geneva debut, the first drives are scheduled for the summer - we'll do everything possible to get in one of those ultra lightweight seats.