Senna breaks cover
McLaren launches ultimate track-day special
Unveiled – McLaren’s fastest road car yet. And they’ve given it the name of the fastest driver ever to race for its Formula 1 team. The McLaren Senna is the second in its ‘Ultimate’ series of cars, following the P1 hybrid hypercar of five years ago.
The two cars are very different beasts, however. While the P1 was intended to be both an effective track car and a plausible long-distance road car, the Senna is a track car through and through, albeit one that retains road-going capability for the sake of convenience and owners who want to show off to their friends. And while the Senna follows the P1’s lead by being built around a carbon cage, having carbon bodywork and using twin-turbo V8 power, the way it goes about generating its pace is very different indeed.
Most notably, the Senna does without the hybrid system that boosted the P1’s power output from 737bhp on engine power alone to a total of 903bhp. The Senna has ‘only’ 789bhp but doing without the additional weight of the electric motors and batteries means it hits the track with a dry weight of just 1198kg, making almost 200kg lighter than the P1 and providing a superior power to weight ratio of 668bhp per tonne compared to 647bhp per tonne.
The result is a car that will certainly be several streets quicker than the P1, whose performance insiders admit has already been eclipsed by the 710bhp 720S. It will also likely give it strong claim to being the world’s fastest production car around any given circuit, at least until the next generation of hypercars like the Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG Project One hit the track.
The Senna is based on a new development of McLaren’s ‘Monocage’ carbon-fibre tub said to be the strongest in the company’s history. Behind a new carbon rear bulkhead sits a version of the 4-litre V8 already seen in the 720S, located lower in the chassis to improve the centre of gravity. The use of lightweight internal components, ultra-low-inertia twin-scroll turbos and electronically controlled wastegates has resulted in a power output of 789bhp, making it the most powerful internal combustion engine in McLaren’s history. It is also knuckle-gnawingly close to hitting 200bhp per litre of capacity, a specific output once only the province of purpose-built Formula racing cars and sports prototypes.
McLaren has issued no performance data but despite the traction limitations of its rear-wheel-drive design, it is entirely possible it will be able to travel from rest to 100mph in fewer than five seconds.
However, this being a McLaren and a track-honed one at that, perhaps even more attention has been focussed on the car’s aerodynamic performance. Indeed it takes its ‘form follows function’ philosophy to such levels that you might fairly say the former now trails the latter by a considerable distance. The cars profile is dominated by a massive rear wing which can angle through 20 degrees according to the need for braking for corners, generating maximum downforce through the turn or reducing drag as far as possible on the straights. Each movement is met by an equivalent change in profile of blades in the front splitter to ensure the car’s handling balance remains consistent throughout. McLaren has not said how much downforce the Senna will produce but it is certain to eclipse the 600kg offered by the P1, which was itself a new level for road legal production cars. The suspension is a next generation of the inter-connected, hydraulically controlled system found on the P1 and is now snappily entitled RaceActive Chassis Control II. It provides modes from Comfort to Race and can lower its ride height to maximise on-track downforce.
McLaren admits the Senna will come as a shock to those used to Woking’s reputation for producing supercars that are easy to live with, saying it ‘deliberately compromises McLaren’s trademark breadth of supercar daily usability’. Instead it intends to provide ‘the purest connection between driver and car, to deliver the most intense circuit experience of any road McLaren.’
The Senna costs £750,000 before local taxes, just 500 will be built and all have been sold in advance of the car’s formal unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
More than five years after unveiling the concept, Lamborghini has finally revealed the production version of its Urus SUV.
Its eye-catching styling cleverly conceals the fact that it is the fourth SUV to be launched Volkswagen’s MLB platform following the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne. At launch it will feature the most powerful version yet of the group’s 4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, offering 641bhp, enough to push all 2.2 tonnes of Urus past 62mph in just 3.6sec and onto a top speed of 190mph, beating the Bentley by 3mph and allowing it to claim, at least for now, the title of world’s fastest SUV.
Lamborghini’s boss, ex-Ferrari F1 team principal Stefano Domenicali, claims the Urus is ‘a true Lamborghini in terms of design, performance, driving dynamics, emotion’ though as it is well over half a tonne heavier than any Lamborghini sports car, is the first to use turbochargers and the first to have five doors, the driving experience will be dramatically different to that of any previous Lamborghini, even the company’s other SUV, the outlandish LM002 of the late 1980s.
But it is crucial to Lamborghini’s plans to revolutionise a business that has spent over 50 years building up to its current production rate of 3500 cars a year: the Urus is tipped to double that volume in its first full year on sale.
The Urus is priced at £165,000, less than all other Lamborghinis bar the cheapest version of the Huracan supercar.
Lister Cars has started to tease images of the first road car to wear the badge since the 1990s. The new Lister Thunder will appear in the new year and is based on the Jaguar F-type, albeit discreetly modified in external and internal appearance, with revised suspension and, most importantly, a 666bhp tune for the 5-litre supercharged V8 from the 567bhp F-type SVR. Reports claim it is capable of 0-62mph in 3.2sec and 208mph. Just 99 cars will be sold at a price still to be announced.
LONG ARM OF THE LAW
A second Volkswagen executive has been jailed for his role in the Dieselgate scandal. Oliver Schmidt, who looked after VW’s compliance issues in the US, was given seven years and fined $400,000, far harsher than many had expected and interpreted as intending to have a deterrent effect. Schmidt does not appear to have been directly involved in the decision to fit VW diesel engines with so called ‘defeat devices’, his crime instead being not to divulge their existence once he knew about them.
He follows James Liang, former head of VW diesel competence in the US, who was jailed in August for 40 months and fined $200,000 after prosecutors argued he was a ‘pivotal figure’ in the design and fitment of the devices.