Finding the Limits of the McLaren 570S

McLaren was steadfast in claiming the new 570S wasn’t a track car, that it was meant to handle the everyday in style and class-leading comfort.

They probably would have claimed, too, that it was not suitable for off-road use – if they had actually thought they needed to say it.

The $184,000 super sports car has begun delivery recently since its April 2015 debut at the New York Auto Show, and most of its testing and praise has come from taking it to its limits on track or putting it through its paces on the open road. So we knew what to expect when we took one of our demo cars out through the forested back roads of central Chester County in search of some new photo spots. What we weren’t sure of was how it would manage without any asphalt at all.

The 570S is tasked with being the trailblazer of the new McLaren Sports Series, but we requested it to navigate a different trail on the outskirts of Downingtown, PA alongside the Brandywine Creek. The road is no less a good choice as it carves its way out of town, but the mystique of a seemingly-abandoned driveway right off the main road has us caving. It doesn’t appear to have an end to it, so we go in search of it.JMW_5485-Edit

The vehicle’s available axle lift system is ideal for these situations. Not necessarily for off-roading, but just managing through uncertain driving situations without nicking any of the precious carbon fiber. Our problem wasn’t that this car wasn’t fitted with the lift system, it’s that we didn’t even bother to check the cluster menu for the option. Fortunately, this car isn’t to be sold, so our apprehension eases a bit.

It didn’t ease for long.

The pathway, marked only by the tracks of previous adventurers, sits on the bank of the creek with only a few feet separating a fun adventure from a tumbling submersion of a supercar. For probably half a mile, the delicate balance between avoiding large divots in the path and staying atop the hill was more nerving than it was excitingly dangerous. But we pressed on, even as signs pointed out that we weren’t really allowed to. However, turning around meant maneuvering a 180 in a 15-foot-long supercar on a path that was probably less than 10 feet wide. It was purely mathematical to know that it was a bad idea.

When the holes were unavoidable, we pass over them with a bracing fear but the 570S takes them in with little issue, aside from a few uncomfortable noises as the car traverses – many of those being nervous laughs as we go along.

The light at the end of the tunnel didn’t turn out to be driving nirvana, as someone who is behind the wheel of a 562-hp car would hope. It came from a slight patch of normal asphalt again, in a break in the woods where simply a lonely brick shed remained opposite a concrete wall, both tagged with generations of graffiti. The lone bright spot in the path cast a warm silence after the tumultuous drive in, and allowed us to stop – for photos, and just a general appreciation.

JMW_5448There was still an inherent panic, no longer a result of the timid trek through the woods but now due to the constant awareness of all the “keep out” signs posted and sprayed on the nearby trees and structures. We swiveled the orange McLaren around for a handful of photos and then it was back inside to set off, which meant right back the way we came.

Here we go again.

We follow the guidance of our previous tire tracks, and eventually the 570S is back on the road where McLaren says it belongs. A quick shakedown flings the leftover mud back into nature as the 570S sprints toward another photo destination. Getting through town requires patience, which the 570S exhibits calmly, and the reward is more open road.

And that truly is the best place to experience the McLaren 570S. The team from Woking knows exactly what they’ve made, and it’s a car that you can truly enjoy every day. It’s not engineered beyond its road bounds simply for optimal track use, nor is it any less competitive in a segment that had already established leaders.

But the 570S has already proven itself as a competent trailblazer.