No-one really needs a car that can top 400 kilometres-an-hour on a public road, but that has not stopped McLaren from building one and at least one Australian from claiming one.
The McLaren Speedtail is described as a ‘hyper car’ by the British marque and follows two earlier king-of-the-hill heroes – the McLaren F1 that hit 386km/h in 1998 and the McLaren P1 hybrid that managed 350km/h in 2013.
Arriving in 2019, the Speedtail is the first in a new generation of all-out road rockets such as the Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG One that tap-into Formula One technology for their speed secrets.
Only 106 Speedtails will be built – the same as the number of F1s sold to well-heeled clients including comedian and motoring enthusiast Rowan Atkinson – and the car also picks up the three-seater ‘arrowhead’ cabin layout of the landmark 1980s car which sits the driver centrally in a position more like an F1 racer than a regular road car.
Despite a price that tops $3.5 million in Australia - before taxes - Australian Business Traveller can confirm that one is definitely set for delivery in Melbourne through the city’s McLaren dealership, Zagame Automotive.
McLaren is more guarded in its official statement on the Speedtail, revealing only that “We can confirm we’ve had interest in Speedtail from our Australian customers”.
But any hurdles to owning and driving one in Australia are being tackled by McLaren, unlike the P1 which was only sold in left-hand drive that prevented it being driven down under.
“We have ongoing conversations with the relevant regulators in both the local and international markets regarding compliance for our special vehicles. It would make a thrilling addition to Australia’s roads,” says a McLaren spokesperson.
Mechanically, the Speedtail combines a bespoke carbon fibre chassis with a hybrid powertrain that makes more than 1000 horsepower and tiny tweaks including special Pirelli tyres and electrochromic glass that darkens the top of the windshield at the touch of a button, removing the need for sun visors.
But the big difference in the car, and the key to its speed, is a 5.2-metre long body that is shaped like a teardrop to minimise drag.
Triggering the unique ‘Velocity’ mode for a top-speed run lowers the car by 35 millimetres – which means the roof sits just 1120mm off the ground – tailors the aircraft-style rear ailerons for minimum drag, and even retracts the digital rear-view cameras which replace conventional mirrors.
Inside, the Speedtail is clearly the most luxury-oriented model McLaren has made. Engine controls shine in polished aluminium and are set in panels above the driver’s head. That overhead control panel, as well as the gearshift paddles and steering wheel clasp, also uses a separate kind of highly refined carbon fibre made in partnership with watchmaker Richard Mille.
The optional white-gold detailing and other accoutrements make this the most luxury-oriented McLaren ever. For further luxury, the McLaren Special Operations team can oblige with optional platinum or 18-carat white gold-and-carbon fibre badging and inlays, instead of the standard gloss-black on aluminium.
The badges, which come in a set of three, are cut in the U.K. by Vaughtons – the same 100-year-old company that makes the U.K.’s Olympic medals – and dramatically increase the cost of the car by at least £50,000 in the UK. For those worried about the additional weight of a golden or platinum badge, a special, lacquered-on golden badge is available, too.
Additional material by Bloomberg