The McLaren 570S Spider left a swirling vortex of freshly fallen snow in its wake. I was piloting the 562-hp supercar through Government Camp as I crossed Oregon’s Mount Hood on Highway 26. The road was dry, and the snow wasn’t sticking. I felt confident pushing the Curacao Blue car just a little harder. This was the third modern McLaren I’ve had the chance to drive. Three years ago, it was the SV650 on the Northwest Passage Tour. Last year I drove the 570GT to the Oregon Festival of Cars. McLarens, like all great automobiles, have their own style and panache. They define a singular approach to a modern supercar. On this early winter trip, I’d just put several hundred miles on the McLaren, cruising up the Columbia Gorge and then heading to Oregon’s High Desert by way of Maupin. The performance from the Spider is predictably startling. It will exceed every U.S. speed limit it its first two gears, with five more to follow. Top speed is listed at 204 mph, and 0–60 mph arrives in 3 seconds. The race-bred suspension of the McLaren causes the car to grip the road like a Chaparral 2F — without the two snowmobile motors in the rear creating downforce. The harder the Spider is pushed, the more it sticks to the road. This breeds an enormous sense of confidence as speeds increase.

The essence of artistry

My destination was the Keller Auditorium in downtown Portland. The Oregon Ballet Theatre was presenting the world premiere of “Rhapsody in Blue,” created by resident choreographer Nicola Fonte and danced to the two-piano version of George Gershwin’s masterpiece. The pianists were Thomas M. Lauderdale and Hunter Noack. The McLaren got me to Portland in time for the opening curtain. The choreography and performance of “Rhapsody” were stunning; the standing ovation it received was well deserved. I’m privileged to serve on the board of directors of the Oregon Ballet Theatre, and I have enjoyed watching it mature and develop its own unique style. The finest example of a “purpose-built dance company” is the New York City Ballet. Its founder, George Balanchine, trained dancers to move with an unmistakable style of petit allegro and elegant upper-body carriage. It’s no different with a modern supercar. The McLaren, unique among all the hypercars I have driven, speaks its own alluring language. Its desire to have its superpowers unleashed ripples through the carbon-fiber chassis and beneath the aluminum skin of the car. The steering of all McLarens is sublimely responsive; that of the 750S was the best of all. The trademark dihedral (scissor) doors open easily and reveal a purposeful cockpit. The seven-inch touchscreen is a nod to the way all interiors will be equipped in the future. The ingenious folding convertible hard top of the Spider was extremely effective. In just 15 seconds it condensed into a small package that tucked neatly behind the seats. The car is equally handsome top up or down. The driver has the typical choices of Normal, Sport and Track for the suspension and the gearbox. I left it in Sport — when I’m driving someone else’s $250,740 car, I want all the nanny-aids I can get. The Spider had a light, aggressive feel to it — the car wanted to be pushed. I found that going through a set of high-speed sweeping turns coming into the town of Maupin, the Spider didn’t become nervous as I fed more throttle to the twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8. It whispered in my ear, “How fast you want to go is up to you; I won’t let you down.”

Step out of the car, please

During my drive through Oregon, I woke up a sleeping Wasco County deputy sheriff outside the small town of Dufur (population 632). I was passing a string of cars on a long uphill stretch of two-lane highway. The posted limit may have been 55 mph — I only recall the sound of the V8 reaching towards redline in third and fourth gears. The car was wearing New York plates, and I had left the registration and insurance documents for the car at SCM World Headquarters in Portland. The officer was not impressed when I explained that the 570S at 150 mph (not that I would have gone that fast) was probably safer than his Ford Explorer at 60. As he asked me to get out of the car, visions of the McLaren going away on a flatbed while I took up residence in the local jail danced through my eyes. Then the officer smiled and said, “Aren’t you the guy on ‘What’s My Car Worth?’ I’ve got pictures of my Impala, would you like to see them? How much do you think I could get for it at auction?” We became best friends. As I left, he gave me his card and said, “If anyone else stops you, just have them call me and I’ll vouch for you.” Sometimes the planets just align in your favor.

A car that needs a driver

Our automotive world is bifurcating. Self-driving, mindless Google Cars are surely a part of our future. For those who need that type of car, driving skills will be irrelevant, as will road feel, handling and acceleration. These autonomous cars will be mobile Rubbermaid storage containers, designed to keep you fresh while you go from Point A to Point B. At the other end of the spectrum, the McLaren will always be a definitive sports car. It’s built for the driver who savors finding just the right line through a turn. Like a dancer executing multiple pirouettes and finishing with a flourish, the McLaren invites its driver to sink into the cockpit and experience a driver’s machine like no other. This 570S Spider was a ballet unto itself, a four-wheeled rendition of a “Rhapsody in Blue.” ♦

One Comment

  1. I never meet that officer… I always get Officer Poker Face who just says “tell it to the judge”