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Review: McLaren builds a car for the masses, with a $200,000 price tag

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The McLaren 570S is the British company’s entry-level sports car but with a hefty price tag of nearly $200,000.

The supercar company McLaren, in an effort to boost factory capacity and bring new buyers to its brand, has gone downmarket.

The 570S, the exclusive British builder’s first sports car, is being advertised as an affordable, daily driver an attainable McLaren, available to any auto enthusiast with around $200,000 to spare.

This isn’t a track car, or a race car. It’s not part of the Ultimate Series, like the P1, or the Super Series, like the 650S or 675LT.

It’s the first of McLaren’s Sports Series. That means it’s just a regular car. It has cup holders. It has enough trunk space for a comfortable weekend away.

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It sits higher than the 650S, and the door openings are cut lower, for easier ingress and egress. The interior is clothed in luscious leather, rather than lightweight Alcantara.

It is even, you see, the first McLaren with a vanity mirror.

And yet, rudimentary amenities aside, it’s still very much a McLaren. Featuring the company’s signature “dihedral doors,” which open like an eagle spreading its wings, it’s a low-slung carbon-fiber tub covered in aerodynamic skin. The car is kept under control by sophisticated suspension and carbon ceramic brakes and powered by a powerful twin-turbo V8 with neck-snapping acceleration.

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The enthralling engine is a delight, hurtling the lightweight sports car forward with 562 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque.

This is a driver’s car, and it demands operator attention. The crisp rack-and-pinion steering, tight suspension and firm braking are not casual. To make these systems work properly, you have to drive like you mean it.

But what a drive!

Sliding up the PCH in “Normal” mode, then carving into the canyons north of Ventura in “Sport” mode, the 570 dove into the corners and rushed out of them assertively, hugging the road hard.

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It was literally LOL fun to drive. When the car was stopped along the Ventura coast, I found myself admiring the deep, rich Ventura Orange paint job. When it was moving, I found myself saying that driver’s prayer: Make the road longer, and the day longer, so I can keep doing this longer, please.

Having been on some of these same twisties recently in a Lamborghini Huracan another downmarket exotic being touted as a daily driver I found the McLaren solid by comparison. If anything, it felt a bit more precise in the technical sections, and made me long for an open track where I could test the stickiness of its Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires on a 100 mph sweeper.

It’s also very fast off the line. McLaren says the 570S will rocket from zero to 60 in 3.1 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 204 mph.

I didn’t check that with a stopwatch, but I believe it. And though I never engaged the “Launch Control” feature, and only tested the “Track” mode a bit, I found that the 570S, like the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe,” will get rubber in all four gears. (Though, on the 570’s automatic transmission, there are actually seven speeds.)

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The 3.8-liter twin-turbo engine winds up very fast, and the rear tires were ready to spin and smoke any time I put the hammer down hard.

The dashboard, though Spartan, delivered ample info. In addition to speedometer, tachometer and readouts for time, range and temperatures, it also can deliver not only tire pressure, but individual tire temperature.

It will even tell you that you have 48 parking days’ worth of battery charge a number that might be important if, like a lot of luxury sports cars, this vehicle doesn’t get driven every day, or even every weekend, but spends a lot of time in the garage looking good and waiting for attention.

The model I drove was fitted with a variety of optional creature comforts, including some fancy interior trim, electronically adjustable steering column, Bowers & Wilkins speaker system and heated seats.

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But it wasn’t all that comfortable.

The seats were adjustable, but not very enough for daily driving, but maybe not enough for long-distance touring.

Because the aerodynamic performance requires that the car stay close to the ground, the 570 is equipped with an electronic nose lifter. I found myself needing to use it a lot, like every time I encountered a driveway. Sometimes even a timely, full lift wasn’t enough to keep the car from scraping its chin on the pavement.

And the mid-rear-engine car is noisy. It makes a subtle, pleasant roar inside the vehicle, and especially with the optional sports exhaust package when it’s sitting at idle. Crank it up and that roar turns into a tremendous, gratifying growl, especially on the outside. Your neighbors will love this McLaren, and they’ll know every time you take it out or bring it home.

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Also noisy is the alarm system designed to warn the driver of any impending collisions. But it is so hypersensitive to the curb, a car in the next lane, a pedestrian or a bush in the driveway that in heavy traffic or a supermarket parking lot, the 570S was a cacophony of cheeps and chirps.

McLaren hopes to double its production and its sales with the 570S, having added a second shift to its factory in Woking, England. The company sold about 1,650 cars in 2015 and may hit 3,000 this year. That number may well rise when McLaren introduces a second 570, a GT version, probably next year, with maybe a Spider version to follow. (They already sell a 540C in Europe, but it is not offered in the U.S.)

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For now, the 570S is a gateway car. The thinking with the more affordable McLaren, the company says, is to bring new people to the brand by offering them an aggressively priced way into the supercar market.

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An enthusiast who buys or leases a 570S this year may be so smitten by the performance that he or she will want something more.

Or, hoping to impress other car nuts, a new owner may be embarrassed to roll up to the local Cars N Coffee gathering driving the “cheap” McLaren.

In that case, McLaren enthusiasts can buy a 650 or 675 Super Series car next year, or lay down the really long green if and when the next Ultimate Series car is built.

That will require some work on the wallet, though. The current 650 starts at about $270,000. The P1 sold for just over $1.1 million.

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2016 McLaren 570S

Times’ take: An entry-level British supercar

Highs: So fast! So much fun!

Lows: Embarrassing to drive the cheap McLaren?

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Vehicle type: Two-door, two-passenger sports car

Base price: $187,400

Price as tested: $218,030

Powertrain: 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine

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Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Horsepower: 562

Torque: 443 pound-feet

Zero to 60 mph: 3.1 seconds

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EPA fuel economy rating: 16 mpg city/23 highway/19 combined

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