McLaren 540 C Coupe Review

McLaren Road Test Review

McLaren occupies a unique position amongst the rarefied world of super sports cars. Its new, but with such a pedigree in Formula One, that its credentials are questioned by no one.

Bruce McLaren, born in 1937, was a F1 driver, then racing team owner, car designer and visionary. Unfortunately he died in 1970, but his vision ultimately led to the release of the legendary McLaren F1 in 1992.

With a chequered history the recent versions of McLaren sports cars are produced by McLaren Automotive which was re-launched as a standalone manufacturer in 2010.

This leads us to the McLaren 540C Coupé Sport Series that I had the opportunity to drive for a few days.

McLaren 540C Coupé

McLaren 540C Coupé Exterior

Style is such a subjective concept. Some buyers love the angular shape of a Lamborghini, some love the extremes of a Koenigsegg or a Bugatti Veyron, styled to suit and they are cars that are singular in purpose.

The McLaren 540C Coupé is also styled for a purpose, however one that is different to other super sports cars. That is to be easier to live with on a daily basis.

Unlike many others, the 540C Coupé is beautiful from any angle. It has a low, rounded shape with design features that are not only stylish, but purposeful as well. It is simple yet elegant.

There is no door handle as such, more a button under the side scoop, and the rear wings funnel air flow to the engine.

McLaren 540C Coupé

The vehicle, to my mind, looks best from the side and rear. It is simply elegant.

The overall look is enhanced by the 5 double spoke alloys running Pirelli P ZERO 225/35/R19 @ 285/35/R20 tyres.

McLaren 540C Coupé

McLaren 540C Coupé Interior

Some words come immediately to mind. Small, tight, compact and more. An elegant entry and exit is reserved for those that are 170cm tall and weigh about 85kg. Other than that, especially for someone my size, it’s an exercise in acrobatics in a way my body just shouldn’t bend.

For those of you that know me, I am larger than the average bear and generally more at home in a F250 Pickup than such a sports car.

McLaren 540C Coupé

Despite the embarrassment of trying to slide this tall frame in, once you are inside it is surprisingly roomy, not in the way an F250 is obviously, but I didn’t feel confined too much. There is actually plenty of head room and shoulder room, just restricted in where I could put my size 12 boots. There is more room inside that a Mazda MX-5 or a Toyota 86.

The thick leather steering wheel is pleasantly free of adornments, fulfilling a singular purpose. The dash similar in function, framed perfectly by the steering wheel. I think if I was buying one of these I would opt for electronic doors as reaching for the handle to pull it shut was ok but a little awkward.

Overall visibility is excellent unlike some similar cars where all you can see is straight in front of you and nothing else. The nose does slip away and you have no idea where it is but judgement comes quickly to the forefront. Rear view mirrors both internally and externally do a commendable job and you can actually see over your shoulder.

McLaren 540C Coupé

I have to admit that while the dash area is functional, the centre console with the transmission buttons works well enough but the centre stack is clumsy and it lets down an overall great package. I never did get to hook up my phone and finding a radio station wasn’t high on the priority list. However if I was living with the car on a longer basis, I would feel frustrated with the configuration.

The seats were amazingly comfortable and the air conditioner was great. One problem was that you actually can’t see the switches for the electronic adjustment for the seats, so you are flying blind while trying to find the driving position. I actually could see myself travelling for a few hours in comfort, just getting out would be the problem after.

McLaren 540C Coupé

The overall ambiance internally though was sporty, comfortable and functional. However I forgot to take photos of the inside and those I took looking in were ruined by errant sun, so I have used O/S shots apologies.

McLaren 540C Coupé

McLaren 540C Coupé Engine and Drivetrain

Powered by a mid-engine configured 3.8L V8 producing power of 397kW @7500rpm and torque of 540 Nm  @3500-6500rpm, the 540C Coupé  will run from 0-100kmh in 3.5 seconds and top out at 320 kmh. Importantly it will also run from 100 – 0 kmh in 3.1 seconds in 34 metres. Outstanding!

Not that most drivers will experience it unless on a race track, or lose their license, the McLaren will also run from 0-200kmh in 10.5 seconds. 200-0kmh in 4.9 seconds but will take 139 metres.

Driving the rear wheels through a 7- speed Seamless Shift dual clutch Gearbox (SSG), the shifts are truly seamless with none of the hesitation or jerkiness usually associated with a DSG. As you would expect the transmission also extracts the best from the engine.

With carbon fibre construction and a MonoCell II chassis with a dry weight of only 1,350kg the McLaren is definitely a lightweight but with awesome power to weight ratio. Suspension is double wishbone with Adaptive Dampers, along with an open differential with Brake Steer. Other driver aids include ABS, Traction control, ESC and Launch control.

Fuel consumption is something to chat about. The official figures are urban 16.6/100km, extra urban 8.1/100km and combined 11.1/100km.  CO2 Emissions are 258 g/km.

Surprisingly the 8.1L/100Km I can actually believe. Coming out from the pickup point, I cruised on cruise control on the freeway and saw an estimated 540km out of a tank. This dropped dramatically when you plant the right foot for even a little while, down to 170km from the tank.

McLaren 540C Coupé

McLaren 540C Coupé Driving Experience

Exhilarating yet sane. Here is a super sports car that you can genuinely drive around like a normal V8.

The ride in normal setting is compliant over bumps and you don’t need a kidney belt like you do with others. Of course switch to sport or track and the ride changes, but you have the choice. Same with the transmission, leave it in ‘N’ and the world is smooth, easy and fun.

However you have the choice to go from normal to insane and if you switch the traction control off, downright dangerous. Power is delivered in a smooth and linear fashion, there is not an ounce of being temperamental.

Feedback through the steering wheel is superb as is the direct response to input.

I don’t know what the audio system is like because to be honest I spent the whole time listening to the engine and exhaust note.

Driving the McLaren 540C Coupé was FUN

McLaren 540C Coupé Safety

As you would expect, the McLaren 540C Coupé hasn’t been crash tested, but there are still a number of safety features, which is a good thing when you can travel at 320kmh.

There are airbags, traction control (please leave it on), active torque transfer, ABD and ESC. Unfortunately that’s about it.

McLaren 540C Coupé

McLaren 540C Coupé Fit For Purpose

Here is a super sports car that you can use every day. Mind you if it was me using it I would probably have to lose about 40kg and 10cm in height, and it would be worth it.

Little features such as a small but useable boot space up front, large enough for a couple of overnight bags or easily fit the groceries for a few days, the all-round visibility that many normal sedan manufacturers would do well to follow.

The wing lift doors that are both stylish and practical. You would never be able to find a parking space wide enough to open them to exit otherwise. The ability to lift the front spoiler 45mm, which is needed, to allow entry to driveways and over speed bumps.

But the key to the purpose of the McLaren 540C Coupé is, as mentioned, the fact that you can drive this car with phenomenal performance, like a normal V8 around town without fuss. It is not pretentious or fussy in any way, delivering smooth linear power, directly related to your right foot.

This is a super sports car designed as an entry level to the marque and for those that want to enjoy their car on a more practical level around the city, for weekends as well as the race track. For that purpose it is beautifully designed and executed.

McLaren 540C Coupé

McLaren 540C Coupé Summary

Well what can I say? I loved the McLaren 540C Coupé, where most super sports cars I can take or leave, mostly leave.

Here is a car that you can actually drive around town on a daily basis, yet head for the open road or race track and experience levels of exhilaration that only a few ever do.

Most of us have a top 5 wish list of cars that if we ever won lotto we would buy, well at least I do, and I have to say the McLaren has just joined that list and is the first Super Sports Car on there.

McLaren 540C Coupé

Also look at

The Good:

  • Stunning design style
  • Amazingly practical
  • Engine note

The Not so Good:

  • Not designed for taller drivers
  • The centre stack system
  • Giving it back

McLaren 540C Coupé Details

  • Model Price from $325,000 RRP*
  • Engine                 3.8L V8 Petrol
  • Drivetrain           8 Sp AT RWD
  • Power                 397kW @7500rpm
  • Torque                540 Nm  @3500-6500rpm
  • Safety                  TBA
  • CO2                     258g/km
  • Economy ADR   8.1L/100 km combined
  • Servicing             Discuss with McLaren
  • 0-100KMH          3.5 Seconds
  • Top Speed          320kmh
  • Warranty           3 Yrs. / Unlimited km Roadside Assist

*excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP.

McLaren 540 C Coupe
4.0

Summary

Most of us have a top 5 wish list of cars that if we ever won lotto we would buy, well at least I do, and I have to say the McLaren has just joined that list and is the first Super Sports Car on there.

About Rob Fraser 210 Articles
Rob Fraser – General dogsbody & Director Rob is the founder of the business. Coming from a Financial services background, where everyone drives a prestige car, he has a unique perspective on the market segment.He has owned a number of prestige cars himself amongst the way too many cars he has owned in his time. Having previously lived at the top of corporate life he retired in 2000 and hasn’t put a suit and tie on since. Cars are his passion so why not have a business doing what you love he figures.The Prestige Car Guide eventuated from a continual demand from Rob’s strong ties to the financial services world and the advice he still provides to prospective buyers