McLaren Automotive, the niche supercar maker, is launching an offensive against its uber-posh competitors.
The bespoke British brand, which quietly competes with Italian mainstays Ferrari and Lamborghini, has unveiled plans to become a stronger household name. It revealed last week aggressive goals for new models and increased production through 2022, with a research and development budget of about $1.4 billion.
Enter the 675LT Spider, McLaren Automotive’s newest model. I skirted it around the bottom of the Scottish Highlands last week, trying to contain its ominous 666 horsepower through the local villages’ 30 m.p.h. zones – an exercise in temperance. The 3.8-liter twin turbo V8, the same engine found in the 675LT coupe, wanted to take the quaint, topsy-turvy turns faster than I did but its stiff suspension, lessened traction control and increased throttle in sport mode coaxed me to push a little harder. With its low, muscular stance and brazen gull wing doors, the car’s silhouette suggests it is meant for the freedom of the open road. Naturally, it’s fast, traveling from 0 to 62 m.p.h in 2.9 seconds. Should road conditions comply, the car can accelerate from 0 to 124 m.p.h. in 8.1 seconds. But that’s not important, according to McLaren. “We’re not about more speed,” said Mark Gayton, product manager for the 675LT Spider, adding that the car can reach top speeds of 203 m.p.h. (Not that I ever found out.)
The 675LT Spider is McLaren’s tenth model since launching its sports car business in 2010. But, like its cars, it’s showing no signs of slowing. McLaren said it plans to introduce 15 new models or variants by 2022. Half of those will be hybrids. McLaren is also developing a full electric vehicle prototype. The 675LT Spider joins the 570S and 540C sports cars, the ultra-high performance P1 and P1 GTR track cars, and, of course, McLaren’s 675LT coupe supercar. (The LT stands for “long tail,” a nod to 1997’s iconic McLaren F1 GTR Longtail.)
The Spider can fully raise or lower its roof in 17 seconds at speeds of up to 22 m.p.h., an especially useful feature if you are contending with Scotland’s capricious weather fronts. But don’t get too excited – it's not easy to get. Even if you can afford the $372,000 sticker price, there aren’t enough to go around. The first 500 – that’s how many they’re making this year – sold out in less than three weeks in December.
Even though production is limited, the Spider will aid McLaren in its plans to double its global sales to 3,000 units this year, with an eye toward eventually producing 4,000 cars annually, which is maximum capacity for its Woking factory headquarters outside of London. McLaren added a second shift this year to build the 675LT Spider and is recruiting 250 new staff.
At six years old, McLaren is the youngest road car maker of any major automotive brand sold in the U.S. It owes its heritage to the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing legacy of the 1960s, but it didn’t begin producing cars for consumers until 2011 with the 12C. Since then, the marque has managed to introduce at least one new model or derivative annually. McLaren, which has 70 dealerships globally, said it plans to grow its network to 80 retailers in 30 markets worldwide next year.
Unlike McLaren’s exotic counterparts, who are racing to produce the most luxurious sport utility vehicle on the market, the company has no plans to make an SUV. “Firstly, we’ve got nowhere to make them,” Global Communications Director Wayne Bruce told a group of reporters assembled in Scotland. “We don’t necessarily have the knowledge to build one. We don’t want to make one. Customers are not asking for one. We don’t need one.” Bentley and Jaguar introduced their first-ever SUVs this year, while Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini are gearing up to launch their own versions in 2018. Maserati said it plans to deliver its Levante SUV later this year.
But McLaren won’t join the fray, Bruce said: “Our business is sports cars, and that’s where we plan to stay.”