Senna Sonic: Tempus takes the McLaren Senna for a spin
Does the British brand McLaren’s latest hypercar model live up to the iconic name it wears?
With its singular purpose, that being the pursuit of track lap times, the McLaren Senna exemplifies the name it wears. It’s defined and described by that, every element of its make up being about performance, from the way the body exploits the air rushing over, under and through it, pushing it into the track, feeding its 4.0-litre turbocharged engine and allowing it to generate such shocking, eye-widening lap times. We’re at Estoril to experience exactly that, fittingly at the circuit where Ayrton Senna won his first Formula 1 race – the location inextricably linked to the legendary racing driver. It’s a fast, daunting track, the 4.18km and 13 curves throwing in gradients and interesting cambers to increase the challenge.
It’s incredible that the Senna feels so natural here – this an 800hp car with the synapse-like immediacy you’d expect from a kart. The keenness of the steering and the quickness of the accelerator is in the realms of the other-worldly. It’s the brakes that define it. This a road-legal car that stops like a race car. In fact, the new brakes are so advanced that they take seven months to produce, being lighter and more powerful than anything I’ve ever experienced on a road car. Even more incredible to think it’s on road tyres, albeit a set of Senna-specific compound Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres.
The detail work in every area is obsessive, the pursuit of lightness, that air-exploiting shape, its busy, bold lines assiduous and unrelenting in their shaping of the air. The McLaren Senna is not a conventional beauty then, but a purposeful one. The powertrain matches that, its relentless urgency, the utter faithfulness of response, the engine eagerly revving, demanding more gears as the speed rises with searing ferocity, 62mph arriving in 2.8 seconds, 186mph in 18.8 seconds. That’s not so much quicker than its 720S relation – its acceleration also having the capacity to shock – but the Senna exploits it so much better, carrying more speed into, through and out of any given corner. And that counts.