Whilst McLaren has been releasing teasers and titbits about a new McLaren F1 successor, codenamed BP23, they’ve been working on another Ultimate Series model concurrently and under the radar. The McLaren Senna is what the brand touts as “the ultimate road-legal track car”.
The McLaren Senna is the third vehicle in McLaren’s Ultimate Series of vehicles, following the P1 and P1 GTR; but where those were hybridized monsters designed with one eye on the future, the McLaren Senna is something a little more traditional. The recipe is a simple one – take one part lightweight carbon fibre, one part turbocharged V8, and strip out all excess, unnecessary weight. “Simplify, then add lightness” may have been Colin Chapman’s philosophy at Lotus, but the same principle has been applied now by McLaren to great effect.
The McLaren Senna is built around the latest carbon fibre monocoque chassis from McLaren. Dubbed Monocage III, the platform is an advancement of the Monocage II found in the McLaren 720S. McLaren claim it to be the strongest monocoque ever built for a road-legal vehicle by the British firm. Furthermore, every body panel attached to the chassis is also manufactured from carbon fibre, making the McLaren Senna the lightest McLaren since the F1 at just 1 198kg.
At the heart of the mid-engined McLaren Senna sits a tweaked version of McLaren’s M840TR engine – a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 sourced from the 720S, but tuned to deliver 588kW (800PS) and 800Nm. Power-to-weight is an impressive 491kW-per-tonne, and throttle responses have been refined by means of electronically controlled wastegates. Power is directed to the rear wheels via McLaren’s 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox – with manual shift paddles. McLaren is yet to release acceleration times or a top speed for the Senna – the focus of the McLaren Senna being on the driving experience more so than numbers.
The engine and gearbox’s responses and programming are able to be tailored via McLaren’s Active Dynamics Panel, offering the choice between driving modes such as Comfort, Sport, or Track.
But don’t expect Comfort mode to offer the levels of comfort found even in a McLaren P1. The double wishbone RCC II (RaceActive Chassis Control II) hydraulic suspension has been race-tuned to deliver the best possible track-focused experience available. The suspension adjusts in tandem with the active aerodynamic elements – including the massive top-hinged carbon fibre double-element rear wing. McLaren has tuned the suspension to supposedly feel ‘fully alive’, even when well beneath its upper limits, to enhance the connected feeling between driver and vehicle – something a certain Mr. Ayrton Senna would surely approve of.
Adaptive dampers are standard, courtesy of McLaren’s ‘K-damper’ kinetic damping. The continuously variable dampers are connected left to right and front to back, replacing the need for mechanical anti-roll bars. The dampers pair with adaptive suspension that can be lowered in its most hardcore mode for a lower centre of gravity and a significantly stiffer suspension setup.
Though road-legal, the McLaren Senna’s suspension setup is intended for hardcore track use – supreme handling and driver engagement being central ideals in the engineering of the Senna. Aiding this further, carbon ceramic brake discs are housed within the wheels, which are shod exclusively in bespoke Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R road-legal circuit tyres. Only one choice of wheel is available – an ultra-lightweight alloy wheel with a race-inspired centre lock system.
Functional Design – Inside and Out
The McLaren Senna has been stripped down and simplified – a two-fold strategy to reduce weight as well as increase driver focus. The interior features little to no sound deadening, as well as McLaren’s Folding Driver Display, first featured on the 720S, to give the driver all necessary information in a compact display. The three-spoke carbon fibre steering wheel is devoid of all ancillary controls – creating a focused environment for the driver. Behind the steering wheel, carbon fibre shift paddles enable manual control of the dual clutch gearbox.
In an effort to save weight, storage space in the McLaren Senna is limited to just the space behind the driver and passenger seats – a space precisely large enough to house two helmets and two racing suits. Other weight savings measures include a bare carbon fibre exposed interior – with Alcantara or leather available only to cover the seats, dash fascia, and side airbags. Even the gas struts of the dihedral doors are left exposed to minimise weight.
Outside, the McLaren Senna’s design is more functional than stylish. The design language is reminiscent of the 720S, but pared back and cut away for aerodynamic efficiency and increased levels of cooling. Flying buttresses and body-integrated aerodynamics won’t appeal aesthetically to everyone, but the effects on track will surely be appreciated. Even the slim taillights have been developed to reduce interruptions in the flow of air passing by them. Furthermore, the design elements also add to the theatre of the drive, with the roof-mounted air intake adding a layer of aural adventure to the V8’s soundtrack.
Production and Pricing
Just 500 units of the McLaren Senna will be built, all assembled at the McLaren Production Centre in Woking, Surrey. All units will be hand assembled, with production starting in the third quarter of 2018. In the United Kingdom, the McLaren Senna will retail for £750 000 (R 12 750 000*), and all 500 units have already been allocated. The McLaren Senna will make its public debut at the 88th Geneva International Motor Show in March 2018.
*Price correct as per exchange rates at time of publishing.