A quick glance at the $ 1 million speedometer, 789 hp McLaren Senna showed I was knocking at 300 km / h, and fast brain math meant 186 mph was approaching. My foot stopped on the gas. Then on the 200-meter board … I stepped on the brakes to make turn one in Estoril. We lost over 100 km / h in no time.
My face felt heavy, then my neck picked up the tension of the right-hander and my left cheek tried to come away from my face. Every sense was alive, every movement carefully choreographed, every control on a hair trigger.
The senna brings you to your limits and afterwards.  Full Disclosure: The people of McLaren wanted me to drive the new senna so badly that I was flown from London to Portugal, housed, fed and soaked in a super chic hotel I was able to drive the car around the Estoril race track and also knew that I was photographing awfully poorly and had a team of professional snappers handy.)
The latest Ultimate Series McLaren is not for the fainthearted. It plays with your face, tests your abilities, and it's a great time. Let's just say it lives up to that big name.
What is it?
McLaren's Ultimate Series cars are the hypercars that push the boundaries of what's possible. They have the most power, the most specialized setups and the wildest looks that McLaren's designers can muster.
However, they are not all intended for the same tasks. The first, the P1, was the ultimate mix of road and racing cars (it is said), the upcoming BP23 will be the ultimate road car (fast, comfortable, three seats), but the senna is the ultimate race car.
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It is safe to say that the appearance of the senna has caused some consternation. It is a case of function over form and not vice versa. Its shape is determined by aerodynamics and cooling, and the more time you spend with it, its brutal shape becomes more appealing.
Despite its forward thrust, it runs on road tires: specially designed Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R rubber. They will probably be a handful in the wet, but on a dry day they will be almost unbeatable. This and the fact that his big wing does not exceed the footprint of the car means that the senna license plates can. It is legal.
It is not difficult for him to recognize his outstanding feature: the massive rear wing. Not only does it provide active Aero support, it also acts as an air brake, because that's a thing that cars need right now.
McLaren has made some nice details possible to keep the senna as simple as possible. The cabin was designed according to the track position and thus the use of helmet / HANS devices. The door opener is on the ceiling and the gear selector switches are attached to the seat so they can move with you. Everything you need is within sight, and although it is wonderfully built in, there is little that distracts you from the work of driving a car.
Specs That Matter
Breathe in, because there are many numbers here. So many that fans of statistics are likely to lose their shit. I know that I did that.
The Senna is powered by a modified version of McLaren's turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. This means unique air intake and intake manifold, custom camshafts and two high flow pumps. And that means a claimed power output of 789 HP and 590 lb-ft of torque. For this reason, McLaren expects this car will reach 0-62 mph in 2.8 seconds, 0-124 mph in 6.8 seconds and 0-186 mph in 17.5 seconds. The 0-62 and 0-124 numbers correspond to the stronger, heavier P1.
It is vivacious, under the risk of understatement.
Oh, and you'll claim a 211 mph if you clip a flagrant disregard for the law or a long strip of straight racetrack.
Big power is not everything that counts in the senna. There is also the weight or lack thereof. Dry, it weighs in at a claimed 2,641 pounds, 667 less than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. McLaren managed to keep the weight down in the right places with the use of carbon fiber. The rear wing weighs only 10.7 pounds, a fender only 1.5. And there is nothing there that does not have to be there.
And even a light car with a lot of power must be able to stop. Each carbon ceramic brake disc takes seven months to produce a booster previously used in the P1 GTR. McLaren says they will take you from 100 km / h to a stop in just 100 meters. Ow. You can almost feel the safety belt in your breastbone just thinking about it.
Well, the spoiler again. It produces downforce. Much of it. 1,763.7 pounds of it at 155 mph (fun fact: that's 63.7 pounds more than the Viper ACR). In fact, McLaren had to weaken him because of the springs and tires.
The look. Yes, it is a little embarrassing in pictures, but spend time with it and over-pour the details that makes it meaningful. Every slash, vent, strut, angle makes sense. There is beauty in functionality. And also, I think, in the eye of the beholder. As with anyone who sees the key to this monster and the incredible driving experience it offers.
Even the windows down the doors are cool. You can see the lane / street rushing by as you go.
Obviously, the light weight and the wild energy are a highlight. I mean … how could they not be?
Having control in reasonable places is a stroke of luck. Not only because you can move your head, but also because the engine start button on the roof is cool.
And the senna looks best in white, like a furious stormtrooper. Disagree and I will fight you.
I do not know that the door opener is on the roof and locked in the car on a hot day. It's a mistake you made once and you're very grateful that people who know what's going on are stopping by to prevent you from cooking in a very expensive oven. Thanks, people. I owe you something.
Restricted numbers can honestly say. Only 500 Sennas are built, another 75 Senna GTRs, and then it's time. They are all spoken depressingly. The fact that it is so rare is a shame. A 720S will probably have to suffice for us mortals.
To warm me up for the senna, McLaren brought me into a 720S with a pro driver and told me to go crazy. Hell one day when a 720S is your "warm up" car. The ability that the car has is breathtaking. It will make ends meet to turn the rounds and tilt until the cows come home.
The back of the 720S gets pretty mobile when pressed hard. It will stop in a moment. It was pretty brilliant as a warm-up, but you have to wonder what the starter will look like if the starter runs down the main straight for regular 170 mph runs.
As I was strapping on the Senna, with Paul O'Neill, the former driver of the British Touring Car Championship, to push me, the 720S I drove earlier seemed to be full of unnecessary … to be stuff. His seats are too big, too many buttons to press. My eye line had the huge senna windshield, the speedometer and relevant mirrors in view, the necessary HANS device prevented me from moving freely. On the slopes, you only need the essentials, so that's what's there for you. Even through a helmet, you can hear the triple tubes of the senna clanking at idle and knock them to make it bark.
The car was set for races, the front lowered by 39 mm and the rear axle by 30 mm. RaceActive Chassis Control II is set to "angry". Perfect.
The slow exit from the box gave a little time to realize how bright the cab is. The shiny, new and super-strong Monocage III means that there are almost 360-degree views, but with HANS, you can only really enjoy how much light it lets in. Not a bad thing.
Out on The circuit, the short straight line between the first and second turns, meant a gentle approach to the gas pedal. However, the senna throttle is on a hair release, so "gentle" is a relative term. The car thumped slightly before it hit the brakes to make the corner safe. Acceleration can be brutal, even brutal, but it's fun to explore when you have the space.
Driving through the DCT at seven speeds is worryingly easy. It's quick when it changes cogs by itself, but if you choose your own adventure, it's instant. Since the accelerator pedal is so sensitive, you can easily adjust the car in the middle of the curve: play with the cord at will.
But braking is the party piece of the senna. Thanks to its trick-braking system, its light weight and its enormous combination of air brake and wings it loses immensely in speed. The pedal is hard, so it will take a while to get used to the senna, but once you've got a good shoe, you're thankful to stay in place with the four-point harness.
I've never braked so much that I was worried that I would lick a windshield at the end until I drove this car.
To put it in a nutshell: In the 720S, we would cut off 180 miles per hour and brake hard at the 300-meter board to slow for turn one. In the Senna, you brake at over 200 miles per hour on the 200 board. Then take your line and turn around as the blood in your face returns to where it should be.
Steering is direct and sharp. The bike feels a bit light, but you can feel pretty much anything. Just like the gas, you have to be accurate with your inputs, as it's easy to over-inflate and end up understeering. However, once you have adjusted to its sensitivity, you can always find your brand.
The available grip is breathtaking. Stand on warm rubber and it sticks on the road. Yes, you can confuse it by exaggerating things, but when things are just right, the force that puts it on your face moves into funny positions.
You feel the car invade, make up for it and drive out of a corner. Senna's active aerodynamic and mufflers work together to corner you like you will not find anywhere else. It's the kind of thing that you think fast cars feel when you watch them on TV as a kid.
If you overdo it and find that the tail is starting to slip, it's pretty easy to catch up with it to check it out. While the senna is a hardcore turbomegan butter bastard it was built so that the human can drive it. So, if you do not pedal like a dumbass, it'll warn you before anything unforeseen happens.
The Aero of the car is simply breathtaking. You can feel how it works when you screw it in, you can feel how it works while starting it in a straight line. It's just … epic. In fact, the whole car is.
If you have $ 1,000,000 (before options) and a love of driving, the senna will likely be worth its weight in gold (over $ 54 million, in case you're wondering.)  Every time you go in, you'll crank the engine and know where your money is gone. You will feel more than you might feel, you will fall for it when you pass a track again and again. However, you may have difficulty placing a weekly store there. If your priorities in choosing your $ 1 million car include grocery stores, then the senna and their ilk are probably not for you.
McLaren has yet to make a dud. The 720S is one of the most powerful cars ever, one of the fastest. But the senna manages to make it heavy and a bit slow. The delicacy of controls, the way you have to learn to reap great rewards, the fact that it will not eat you to make a mistake, it will still teach you a lesson.
With a senna you get the rawness of a real track toy, like a caterham, but in McLaren finesse and technique. And of course, much faster. When the race cars drive, there will be some beating. As a hypercar, you can do without the unnecessary and keep everything you need to have fun.
It's wild and addictive. And it stops better than anything on this side of a race car.