There are things we don’t know about the McLaren Senna, the newest $1 million hypercar to come out of the British marque’s design studio. We don’t have a 0-60 time, or a top speed. And we don’t know exactly when the 500 being made will hit the road. Those details will be shared when the car is shown off in full at next year’s Geneva Motor Show.
What we do know is the Senna looks appropriately wild for a car that will succeed the mega-powerful McLaren P1, the company’s previous hypercar. The Senna’s specs aren’t quite as brawny as the P1’s — 789 horsepower from a 4.0-liter V8 — but the lithe 2,461-pound dry weight makes it sound like this car is going to absolutely fly.
Metaphorically, that is. Thanks to all the wild aerodynamics going on throughout the design of the Senna’s body, this car will be practically glued to the ground. That will make it a fantastic tool for the fantastically wealthy people who want to use on a proper racetrack. For those who buy it just to store or display it, though, those aerodynamics are at least good enough to make the Senna look unlike any other car they might have in their collection — especially from the sides.
The Senna’s hood is the part that’s most recognizably McLaren, but the rest of its body curls and cuts in on itself in new ways, creating fast lanes for air to scream through the car instead of slowing it down. Good luck finding a straight line on this car that’s not one of the ones in the McLaren logo.
Even though there’s purpose behind the Senna’s style, it still looks like a toy come to life. Looking at the scoops and swirls of body work instantly conjures up the metallic smell and cold touch of the many Matchbox cars I had as a kid. It feels like I could just as quickly snatch it up with two fingers and slide it along the ground as I could hop in the driver’s seat and hit the gas.
And yes, gas! Unlike the P1, this new McLaren apparently isn’t a hybrid, which means McLaren will try to wrangle the crown of fastest production car from its own predecessor with an internal combustion engine.
That’s pretty wild considering the P1 took that nebulous title (sort of) from the EP9, an all-electric car from Chinese startup NIO. And many top-tier performance cars these days are hybrids, especially the direct competitors to the P1 like the Ferrari LaFerrari. Even Porsche used hybrid technology to add ludicrous performance to its four-door grocery getter (Dean & DeLuca, of course).
McLaren’s press release for the Senna has knitted through it the kind of macho language you’d expect from someone grunting about an internal combustion engine car in the twilight of 2017. The Senna is an “aggressive, unforgiving machine,” according to the release, with a power to weight ratio that “delivers savage performance” good enough to make it “the most extreme McLaren road car yet.” I think I just heard someone crack open an energy drink.
It’s not that I expect every new car from every manufacturer to be hybrid or all-electric. I’m just saying that’s increasingly been the trend, and it’s one other reason why the Senna stands out. I’d imagine that’s what they were going for, especially considering it was named after F1 legend Ayrton Senna.
Visions of Senna’s unrelenting racing style will likely flash by in the minds of the lucky few people who get to drive McLaren’s new car, especially because there won’t be much to distract them otherwise. The company joyously boasts about how the cockpit is stripped of typical car creature comforts. “Even the gas struts are exposed to save vital grams,” the company writes. There are no buttons or switches on the steering wheel — two adjustment levers and the shifter paddles around the back are the only adornments there.
There’s also no air conditioning. When the driver inevitably reaches to roll down the window, though, they’ll be reaching up, not out. The controls for the window and doors are actually above the driver’s head, along with the engine start button. That’s also where the driver will find the switch to activate “race mode,” which lowers the car into a more track-ready stance.
It’s one of the crazier details of this unhinged new McLaren, and I haven’t even talked about the little windows in each door that let you see all the way through the car. Call it daring, call it stupid — if the Senna was any less of whatever it is, I think I’d actually hate it.
Are the millions of dollars you don’t have searing a hole through your wallet yet? Same. Tough luck, suckers. We have to find something else to dream about buying, because all 500 Sennas have already been sold. Surprise, the rich just got a little faster. The rest of us just get to watch.