McLaren’s road cars have juggled usability and ultimate performance, and done so admirably, as to limit compromise along the way.
When rumors swirled around the codenamed “P15” being more track-focused than anything else, it sounded like a foray into an unfamiliar segment. Committing to that singular focus would inevitably redirect attention away from what makes a McLaren so appealing. It’s accessible performance and a balanced everyday driving experience, but throughout history, McLaren’s biggest achievements have truly come by putting all hands on deck at the circuit.
Bruce McLaren’s early racing career spawned McLaren Cars, making an instant statement in the Can-Am series then becoming a Formula 1 powerhouse that posted eight Constructors’ Championships. This success culminated in the McLaren F1, utilizing all the brainpower of McLaren motorsports to build the greatest road car ever, while still being capable of disrupting Le Mans in a debut win for the F1 GTR.
All told, the brand has been synonymous with its innovation yielding victory in a spectrum of classes. And since the genesis of McLaren Automotive in 2010, that know-how has been applied to full-production road cars in more ways than thought possible, which has led to incredible advancement in design and engineering.
The flagship McLaren Ultimate Series was, as its name suggests, the ultimate in road and track performance. Birthed from the McLaren P1 and the GTR variant for track use, the Ultimate Series welcomes the McLaren Senna as the newest introduction to that inspired performance. And as advertised, it plans to break even McLaren’s wildly successful mold.
None of the posted figures for the Senna really come as a surprise – as is the trend, the 4-liter twin-turbo V8 continues to climb up the charts and now pushes 789 horsepower, more than any other McLaren engine to date. But simply squeezing out more power isn’t enough for the Senna to be a breakthrough.
What positions the Senna in line with the insane P1 and P1 GTR in the Ultimate Series, despite having more than 100 horsepower less from the exclusion of electric motors, is its unfazed commitment to the nuances of a track car. It is the lightest McLaren road car since the F1, and it clearly values the aesthetic of a purpose-built racer, with the slogan “form follows function” never being more applicable than now.
The design, as with nearly every other facet of the car, tends to extremes. Nothing appears derivative; the see-through doors, dual-element rear wing and triple exhaust above the rear bumper are unmistakable new features not attributable to any McLaren before it, but now all equate to the most extreme, track-focused package put together in Woking.
This dedication is what warranted the “Senna” name, meant to honor one of the most fearlessly competitive drivers in Formula 1 history. Ayrton Senna claimed three championships as a pilot of McLaren, and to this day, his nephew Bruno remains an ambassador for the brand that continues to carry his uncle’s legacy forward.