Every so often at Hey Gents, we have the opportunity to take home a very exciting car for a weekend. More often than not, it’s a struggle to bring ourselves to hand the keys back on Monday. The latest instance of this happening was with a 2017 McLaren 540C. It was, as you’d expect, an incredible experience, and the thought of going back to driving around in our non-supercars was disappointing. But as the saying goes, it’s better to have driven a McLaren for a weekend and then given it back, than to never have driven a McLaren at all… or something like that.
2017 McLaren 540C
The 540C is McLaren’s “entry-level” model in its Sport Series. It sits under the 570S and 570GT in the range. While these two have more power and a few more luxuries, it certainly doesn’t diminish how beautiful the 540C is to both look at and drive.
Our test model had a positively electric ‘McLaren Orange’ coat of paint, a head turner if we ever saw one. And turn heads it did; nearly everywhere we travelled, we noticed people staring, mouthing “McLaren” when they figured out what it was. It looks incredibly sleek and sporty, sitting tremendously low to the ground. While we were driving the car, there were at least three incidents of being stopped at a traffic light and looking up into the rear-view mirror to see people in cars behind us taking photos. So to say the 540C looks impressive is a huge understatement.
The car’s butterfly doors added to the allure, although it did take some time to get used to them. Needless to say, we were more than happy to put in the effort. It also took a while to be able to gracefully enter and exit the car, given that it’s so low to the ground. But again, if we had to be the ones to drive the car for a while and figure this out, then so be it.
The purpose of McLaren’s Sport Series is to combine high-performance with everyday usability for the driver. So in other words, it’s not meant to be relegated to special weekend drives; you can take it on your daily commute too. With that in mind, McLaren has crafted a comfortable cabin with well-laid out controls. A seven-inch IRIS touchscreen floats in the centre console, offering controls for the infotainment system and air-conditioning too.
There are only two seats in the car, so your mates will have to take turns when you take it out. Storage is found at the front of the car, and while you wouldn’t be able to fit a bunch of suitcases, you could comfortably transport a couple of backpacks or grocery bags. That is if you’re willing to brave it in shopping centre car parks. We wouldn’t blame you for wanting to drive this car everywhere though – even if it is just up to the shops.
The voracious roar that the car emits when you put your foot down on the accelerator is enough to send a shiver of excitement down your spine – each and every time. Although McLaren says the 540C is the entry-level model, it still packs a massive punch. Its 3.8L V8 Twin Turbo engine delivers 397kw of power at 7,500RPM and 540Nm of torque. These specs are only marginally different to that of the 570S, and in day-to-day driving, you probably wouldn’t notice much difference. The 540C is quick off the mark, racing from 0 to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds. The car’s breakneck speed is also aided by its lightweight carbon fibre chassis; a component that’s common to all McLaren vehicles. The MonoCell II chassis weighs less than 80kg and delivers exceptional dynamics to the drive.
While driving the 540C around the city was nice (driving it anywhere, really, was nice), it came into its own when we had a bit of space. We took it down to the Royal National Park, where it moved in and out of corners like it was built for that job alone. It was easy to underestimate the speed at which we were travelling, because it felt super smooth the whole time. Being so low to the ground really added to the overall experience too; we never felt like we were being flung around in our seats when taking corners at speed. The car handled exceptionally well, with little to no roll.
The 540C features three different driving modes; Normal, Sport, and Track. This offers varying levels of control over how the car performs. Drivers also get further control of the car thanks to paddle shifters allowing you to change gears manually if preferred. This makes for a really intimate driving experience, especially when you have the space and opportunity to put the car through its paces.
The Wrap-Up – 2017 McLaren 540C Review
The 2017 McLaren 540C was an absolute pleasure to drive. It was always a thrill, not only in terms of its performance, but walking up to the car when it was parked, knowing that it was ours (for a little while). The car is unquestionably impressive, and it would be irresponsible of us to not recommend you at least consider giving one a go if you can swing the roughly 350k price tag.