Braving Frozen Europe in a $1.8M McLan 'o McLaren Supercars

Forbes 4 months ago
©2018 McLaren Automotive, Inc.

Our Skittles-colored convoy of McLarens makes its way across frozen Europe

“The good news is that we have equipped each of your McLaren supercars with winter tires. The unfortunate announcement is that nobody else on the road has them — we suggest avoiding everyone around you.”

Brilliant words of reassurance, delivered with enchanting British character, spill from the mouths of our hosts as we relax inside McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, England. The weather outside is frightfully miserable – blowing snow and record low temperatures – yet despite the gloom, a few of us are about to embark on a multi-country tour across Western Europe in a traveling pack of supercars. We will be anything but discreet. Even if passers-by don’t hear the wail of our turbocharged V8 engines, they won’t miss our Skittle-colored convoy as it zips by, leaving a contrail of blowing snow in its wake.

Boarding a blue McLaren 570GT Coupé while wearing a winter parka and boots is simply ridiculous, so despite below-freezing temperatures, I shed my big jacket and stuff it into the weather-sealed frunk on the nose of the two-seater. My boots remain in my suitcase, which is safely loaded into a van that will be following our party – my sneakers aren’t weatherproof, but they will be much more comfortable over the next four days. Speaking of well-being, the technicians have pre-heated my vehicle. It’s already snug and warm inside the cabin, which is where I find my driving partner, Jonny Lieberman — of Motor Trend fame — already settled.

©2018 Kelley Blue Book

We smile for a few obligatory press pictures before releasing the parking brake and pointing the McLaren’s nose towards France.

Our British hosts weren’t kidding about the public roads. A few inches of snow have wreaked havoc on the highways surrounding London. Crashed vehicles – one nothing but a burned-out hull – litter the medians. The roads are slushy, literally layered with an unscientific concoction of salt, grime, ice, and water. The low-slung McLaren doesn’t have any issue with traction – the winter tires are a blessing from the heavens – but the spray coming off the surrounding vehicles hits us squarely at eye level. The slush is pelting the windshield to the point where we are nearly blinded. We flood the front screen with defrosting washer fluid and move out of the lane, choosing to forge our own path down the highway at 55 mph (this works well, as most everyone else is driving with a velocity that makes us question if they have ever seen frozen water). We, on the other hand, have a train to catch.

You can’t drive from England to France these days (historians say that Britain broke free of mainland Europe during the Mesolithic period, about 6,100 BC), so we opt for the next best thing – rail through the subterranean Channel Tunnel. Yet, despite our best efforts to slalom through slower vehicles on the highway, our scheduled train leaves without us. Time parked, waiting for the next departure, gives me time to acclimate with the automaker’s entry-level Sport Series.

©2018 Kelley Blue Book

Launched in 2016, the 570GT is a touring-friendly version of the track-ready 570S. With softened damper settings, more sound insulation, and a unique hatchback that holds additional luggage, it a grand-tourer for those who don’t need the rawness of its sibling. With only a few exceptions it is mechanically identical to the S, right down to the second-generation carbon-fiber tub that forms the chassis of today’s road-going McLarens.

Mid-mounted in the 3,350-pound chassis is a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8, developing 562 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque – a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that offers automatic or manual shifting – the sprint to 60 mph takes about 2.8 seconds. Find the proper real estate, and it tops out at an eye-opening 204 mph. But not today, not even for a minute. And certainly not on squeamish winter tires.

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