The McLaren Senna – This is Going to be One For the Books
Mind, Body, Spirit? How About Machine, Driver, Track?
Published December 26, 2017
As the newest addition to the Ultimate Series of cars in the McLaren lineup, the McLaren Senna moves the bar in terms of track worthiness even further than what we have seen with the P1. This is a car without a compromise. A car with aero at every turn and windows in its friggin’ doors.
Although made purely for the ultimate track fun, the McLaren Senna (named after the famed F1 driver who won all three of his F1 championship titles in a McLaren) is surprisingly road legal. That being said, we doubt anyone would actually take it for a drive in the city or a long road trip. Driving from home to the track and back is possibly the only real-world application the Senna will endure, but to say that this car wouldn’t simply be trailered around is simply unrealistic. If one of these ever touches a public road, color us surprised.
What is the McLaren Senna All About?
Using ultra lightweight carbon fiber construction and a carbon fiber body (lighter compared to the P1), the McLaren Senna has a dry weight of only 2,641 lbs in its lightest configuration. It’s all possible due to the fact that McLaren ditched the heavy hybrid systems like those found on the P1. Don’t think for a second, though, that this McLaren isn’t powerful enough. It is, in fact, the most powerful McLaren ever using only an internal combustion engine.
The newest iteration of the four-liter V8 has been dialed up to 789 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. A lot of power for such a low weight. While massive power is definitely a good thing to have, the McLaren Senna is so much more. I am thinking it would be exceptional even with 200 hp less.
Why Does it Look Like a Rocketship on Wheels?
Making an uncompromising track car usually means that manufacturers have to forget about making some parts of it eye pleasing. I mean, just look at LMP1 racers – all GT cars and what not – there are very few, if any, that actually look like something you’d gladly drive in the city. No, this car design is purposely rooted in motorsport.
Every shape on it was carefully designed to provide additional downforce when needed, but not hamper its top speed capabilities. Selecting Track Mode, the McLaren Senna hunkers down by two inches – a whole lot considering this is already a very low car. In that case, even the tops of the rear tires hide behind the fenders. At the same time, the rear wing can adjust to a more aggressive angle of attack, and winglets in the front air intakes do the same. It is an active system providing downforce when needed, but lowering the car when high top speed is what the driver is after. This is not something we haven’t seen before, but complemented with all the other racing touches, this system can almost act as a DRS on F1 cars.
All things considered, the McLaren Senna may produce so much downforce at certain speeds it can, in theory, drive upside down – on the ceiling. Nothing is official about the downforce numbers though. McLaren will release these numbers down the road.
How Does it Sound?
We don’t actually know because as far as we can tell, nobody has a video of the startup or exhaust note just yet. That being said, McLaren crafted a whole new sound system to enhance the engine sound. There’s no resonator trickery or sound system amplification here – McLaren went the proper acoustic route with this one.
See that scoop up there on the roof? It’s designed to send air directly to the carbon-fiber plenum. There, rushing air produces a precisely tailored high-frequency sound. At the same time, the engine gives out low-frequency sound which is purposefully translated through the monocoque chassis via special engine mounts. It makes the rear structure of the Monocage vibrate. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do engine sound enhancements in the 21 century – not with speakers. This should elevate the experience in the car and provide a sound experience like no other. Like the engine is next to the driver.
If nothing else, I’d like to sit in it and just rev it for a minute or two.
Windows in the Doors?
I have seen a design like this on Scania trucks. It actually makes sense – if you are driving a semi truck, you can definitely use added visibility in this section. What about on the McLaren Senna though?
After reading and researching about the Senna, I came to the conclusion that McLaren wanted to improve the connection between the driver, the car, and the track. Seeing the track through Gorilla glass on the sides should enhance the driving experience. This design feature meant that the Brits did not have space to integrate standard buttons on the doors. Thus, the door release mechanism and window buttons had to be placed next to the start button above the driver’s head.
Interestingly enough, in its purest form, the Senna won’t have Gorilla glass there – only carbon fiber. Same for the glass surfaces on the roof part of the doors – yes, the doors cut into the roof and have windows up there, too.
Sparse is Good When it Comes to Track-Worthy Machines
The only trim one may see is carbon fiber in nature. Of course, some segments can be covered in leather or Alcantara (take the seats, for example), but the cockpit definitely feels clutter free and weight-free – like in a proper race car. As it should clearly translate race car experience to the roads, McLaren did not even bother with storage space. The only room there is, is the only room you’ll need – space for a couple of helmets and gloves. Now THAT’S barebones.
The Senna’s connection with other McLaren cars comes in the form of a central display and astonishingly simple yet stunning McLaren Folding Driver Display. It is much the same piece as on the 720S.
Engine and Transmission
“M840TR” – that is the name of the top-spec four-liter twin-turbocharged V8 found in the McLaren Senna. The engine features a racecar derived dry sump lubrication system, flat-plane crankshaft, low inertia turbochargers, electronically controlled wastegates – all for 789 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. This is the most powerful engine McLaren ever produced.
It is linked with “a dual-clutch, seamless-shift, seven-speed gearbox.” All the power is translated to the rear wheels controlled by a RaceActive Chassis Control II (RCC II) hydraulic suspension.
These features can be somewhat controlled via the Active Dynamics Panel located on the center console. There, one can select Comfort, Sport or Track modes. Race mode? One has to reach a switch in a roof-mounted panel to access it.
Number Produced, Price and Availability?
- 500 units to be produced.
- $1 million+ car
- All sold even before McLaren actually revealed the car to the public.
As the new ultimate in the Ultimate Series of cars, the McLaren Senna will actually sport a grand touring version as well. Hiding behind the BP23 name I wrote about earlier, that machine should sport a three-seat layout – just like the original McLaren F1.
Categories: New Cars