There is only one fundamental question to answer here. Is it worth saving £17,000 – some 15 per cent – and having the 540C instead of the 570S? After all, you’ve still got 533bhp and 398lb ft, drops of just 29bhp and 45lb ft, and although McLaren has equipped it with a marginally different front bumper and rear diffuser, plus a new wheel design, I’d have a heck of a job playing spot the difference.
And yet I still think I’d want the 570S. If you’re spending this much money you want to have the best version, and to my mind the 540C isn’t it. Two things knocked my sense of automotive equilibrium and, if I owned it, would make me wish I’d gone for the pricier model: the steering and the engine.
Let’s do the engine first. It’s not tuneful enough in either car, but the 540C’s mid range is slightly softer and less penetrating. Flat-out, it’s bananas fast – we ran the numbers on it, and with 60mph and 100mph times of 3.1 and 6.3secs there’s barely a fag paper between this and the 570S.
But you don’t drive like that every day. Instead you use the mid range, and here the 540C lacks an edge – not just of power, but response too. Below 3,700rpm, pick up is a tad sluggish, and that means you have to do a lot of paddle pulling when the slow coach on the motorway pulls over and you’re at l,500rpm in seventh and want to pass him with “verve”.
Meanwhile the steering is the same as in the 570S, but the dampers have been retuned and the result has adversely affected steering response, injecting a fractional delay between you turning the wheel and something happening.
These are slender reasons for telling you to spend the extra £17k, so I’m assuming you’ve already decided McLaren’s Sport Series is the car for you over the more versatile Porsche 911 Turbo or Audi R8.
Maybe you want to buy British, but the better reason for heading McLaren’s way is the car’s chassis. It’s the best in the class. The only reason I noticed any steering issues is because the rest of the package is so precise and detailed – it dances where its rivals lumber. But I’d still have the 570.
Seventeen grand cheaper than a 570S and about £17,000 worse. Still mega, though. Your call.