From now on any petrolhead discussion regarding function-over-form will have to pull out Exhibit A., the new 2018 McLaren Senna supercar, a 789-horsepower internal-combustion work of engineering mastery honouring late Brazilian three-time Formula 1 world champion Ayrton Senna who bagged all his titles driving McLaren cars.
Note, engineering mastery, not styling artistry… The McLaren Senna is a pure track machine, designed to smash lap times with no compromises. Except obviously when it comes to the profile view, which with that much front overhang is one hell of an aesthetic compromise.
McLaren is unapologetic — the 2018 Senna looks like it looks because of a single-minded mission, this being ridiculous performance. How ridiculous? Actually Woking isn’t saying yet, but you can easily begin to imagine. The thing weighs 1,198kg, which makes it the lightest McLaren road car since Gordon Murray’s legendary 1992 F1, and with 789bhp and 800Nm of torque for a power-to-weight ratio of 659bhp-per-tonne, we’re looking at a top speed easily beyond 320kph depending on aero set-up, and a 0-100kph time well under three seconds.
Porsche, are you paying attention yet? The Zuffenhausen company benchmarked the McLaren 720S most closely for the Porsche GT2 RS, and the result was the fastest production road car to ever lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife, setting a time of 6:47.3 for the new record. Now McLaren will be eyeing that kind of glory with its latest Ultimate Series model that succeeds the previous McLaren P1 hybrid, and weighs 85kg less than the 720S to boot.
This time it’ll just burn baby, burn: the McLaren Senna shuns electricity for a mid-mounted 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, coincidentally the most powerful one from Woking yet. Engineers went with dry sump lubrication and a flat-plane crankshaft for a particular kind of wail, and the aural intensity gets all the better for the occupants according to the manufacturer, with a roof-mounted snorkel sucking in air for the carbon fibre intake manifold.
The company promises the “purest connection between driver and car of any road-legal McLaren” yet, and that means forget day to day usability.
Just 500 Senna will be hand built in Woking from next year, and all are accounted for with a price of over a million dollars each, or about Dh3.7 million. There will additionally be another Ultimate Series car coming this time next year, but that will be a hybrid central-seater with more power and at double the price. Yes, it’s a great time to be alive. And rich and into supercars. And indifferent about styling.
A breath of fresh Aero
With the 2018 Senna, McLaren paid particular attention to aerodynamic performance, which is the main reason why the car looks like it does. Mainly, with a gigantic front overhang that actually functions as a huge front splitter channeling in air towards the rear mounted diffuser. Both front and rear ends feature active aerodynamics, adapting to the car’s behaviour and changing whether under braking, adjusting the throttle mid corner, or lighting it up on corner exit. The rear carbon fibre wing, hydraulically operated, also acts as an airbrake when you’re hard on the big pedal.