McLaren’s 540C – Worth selling your spleen for

Ian Lamming experiences an automotive nirvana inMcLaren’s 540C

Daddy and Laddy get serious in the McLaren 540c

Posted by Ian Lamming on Wednesday, 21 November 2018

OMG, I need to work more, save harder, sell off my body parts, because I want a McLaren.

If I did auction limbs, fluids and organs to raise the necessary readies then it wouldn’t matter. Just plop what is left inside the 540C because it is the nearest thing yet to an exoskeleton.

Driving a McLaren is like wearing one. Feel around for the hidden handle and the lightweight door rises up and forwards. This is not a gull-wing it is a signature dihedral door and it is as cool as it is unique.

Transplant your mind, body and soul into the racing bucket seat and you are the brain of an automaton, a veritable Robocop set to conquer the world. Look where you want to go and you are there before the thought has left you.

Sounds over-emotional, far-fetched even? But if anyone can do it it’s McLaren. Approaching its HQ in Woking, glancing across swathes of manicured lawn and a glorious lake, a low rise glazed structure barely peeps above the ground.

This is the nerve centre of McLaren Automotive and F1 and its has been transported straight from the celluloid of a science fiction blockbuster.

Greetings couldn’t be warmer, but then McLaren’s VIP guest relations manager Sarah Rothwell is from up North, Howsham near Malton to be precise, so that explains that then.

And as this wide-eyed visitor is given a tour, the automotive laboratory melds the past with the present and offers a glimpse of the future. There’s Bruce McLaren’s first race car, a heavily modified Austin A7 with the first longtail, resplendent in red, looking like a car Noddy would be proud of.

There’s Senna’s F1 race car and McLaren’s tribute road car that takes his name. In the line up is the radical F1 three seater, which placed driver in the middle of the supercar. The glorious P1 hybrid still takes the breath away, then there’s a customer’s track tool, which he leaves there for safe keeping, until he fancies a blast.

In another gold fish bowl technicians work on two McLaren F1s readying them for the next grand prix.

Then entering deeper into the McLaren lair reveals a road car production line like no other. No robots here, just skilled technicians. No conveyor belts either as the shells move on trolleys after being torqued together with love. The atmosphere is industrious but serene, the final cars emerging only to drive through glass test chambers.

Tour over, the turquoise 540C awaits. Its lines could not be simpler, low, wide, sleek, sculpted by the wind tunnel that lies behind the glass, a hi-tech facility that uses the decorative lake to cool its heat-producing energies.

Cockpit door snicks into place and the McLaren takes on the persona of a jetfighter. A dab of the starter button ignites a snarling, growling, addictive 3.8 litre V8 into life. Adrenaline stimulates the senses, emotions swinging between fear and excitement. But if the prospect is daunting, it needn’t be, the interior is intuitive, cosy, putting concerns aside. There’s no gearlever, just a button sporting the letter D for drive, and the 540C moves gently forward under complete control.

Barely a wheel has turned before I feel at home. This is a car that fits my frame, my driving style, my mindset.

It will do 199mph and hit 62mph in 3.5 seconds. Yet unlike many supercars it is easy to drive, comfortable and you could drive it happily down to the local supermarket to pick up some groceries.

Many of its competitors feel fat on the road, awkward, intimidating. They are a culture shock to mortal man and woman, a relief to leave behind, but not so the McLaren whose relationship with driver is symbiotic.

Even nose to tail traffic around McLaren’s Woking home fails to frustrate – but oh to be on the empty roads of the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria. At least there are plenty of admirers and at city speeds the windows are lowered while second gear releases an audible joy from mid-mounted engine and twin exhausts. It’s incredible how polite white van man can be in the presence of greatness and grandeur.

Then it is time to sweat and to age 20 years in a few seconds. My guide finds an empty country road – good – but at its end is a canal crossing so acute and steep I wonder whether it is possible to cross. At one point I am staring at sky as blue as the paintwork praying there are no chains, bars, bollards or canal boats to damage this most graceful of bodies. Prayers answered I see road again and am clear, thinking this is the measure of this wonderful car, manageable in any situation.

Then suddenly, around the bend, there is space, dual carriageway and the national speed limit which 540C reaches in the prod of the throttle, the roar of induction. Two seconds later the fun is over and we are back to a crawl.

No matter, no trouble, no biggie, not when you are in a McLaren as it gives me time to plot and plan what I need to do in order to buy one. Body parts anyone?


Fact File

McLaren 540C

Engine: 3.8 litre V8

Power: 540PS

0-62mph: 3.5 secs

Top speed: 199mph

Combined MPG: 26.4

Transmission: seven speed manual sequential auto

CO2 g/km: 249

Price: £135,000.00

1 comment on “McLaren’s 540C – Worth selling your spleen for

  1. Really enjoyed reading your article. Full of great information. Thank you and keep up the good work.

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