The term entry-level usually refers to
the cheapest and most basic version of a car. Now, while the 540C may be the
cheapest McLaren you can buy, it’s anything but basic. Its rivals are
seriously impressive too – and include the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo.
In this price bracket buyers are expecting a thrilling driving experience,
hefty performance, and plenty of luxury. Enough in fact, to make their six-figure
purchase usable every day. So how well does the 540C fit that brief?
In this video review, we’ll tell you what it’s like to drive, how easy it is to live
with, and how practical it is. Yes, stay with me! And, if you would prefer to shop
for your new McLaren from the comfort of your own home, go to our New Car Buying
section of whatcar.com, and normally we can help save you some money.
First though, let’s see what it’s like to drive. If there’s one area every sports car
needs to shine, it is out here on the open road. In the McLaren 540C your right
foot is connected to a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine.
It’s the same one found in many other McLaren’s. In this guise, pushes out 533 brake
horsepower. Which gets this beast from 0 to 62 miles per hour in just 3.5
seconds, and if you keep going you can get to almost 200 miles an hour.
Now, while mid-engine sports cars do have somewhat of a reputation for being scary to drive.
You don’t have to be a racing driver to have fun in the 540C and if you’d
rather not change gear, there’s a very competent dual-clutch automatic gearbox,
or you can take control with these paddles, here, on the steering wheel.
Even pottering the city streets won’t cause you too much stress. The accelerator
pedal isn’t overly sensitive, and while the steering may be heavier than many are
used to. It’s very communicative – so you always know what your front wheels are
doing. The 540C is also surprisingly comfortable on scruffy B-roads, even
though it’s not fitted with the more expensive hydraulic suspension that
you’ll find on other McLaren models. Once you’ve found an open bit of road, the 540C
has the kind of performance which leaves you grinning. Put your foot down
for more than a few seconds and you’ll be skirting the speed limit.
Our only complaint, in fact, is that while this engine sounds great, the Audi R8 V8
petrol motor sounds better. Finding a comfortable driving position
should be a doddle, whether you’re tall or not so tall, because there’s plenty of
adjustment in the seat and the steering wheel has reach and rake. The seats are also
quite comfortable so they’re good on long journeys, and there’s some sideways
lateral support if your cornering quite hard, you can feel quite snugly in the
seat. Forward visibility is excellent, rear visibility is quite good, but you
can spec a reversing camera – which is displayed in front of you here. There
are no analog dials, instead there’s a configurable screen showing the most
useful information, which is just below your eye line for the road. The same
can’t be said for McLaren’s infotainment system called IRIS, because
it sits quite low. So when you take your eyes off the road, you are actually
moving them quite far. That said it’s quite easy to navigate, but some of the
menu systems are a little slow to respond, and the icons are quite small.
And you only get four speakers with the stereo, so if you like your music you
might want to spec the quite expensive stereo upgrade!
As you’d expect from a car in this price range, build quality is right up there with the best, and
there’s an extensive use of high quality materials. I just love this stitching
that goes up and down here, you certainly won’t feel shortchanged. [Music] Like it’s Audi and Porsche rivals, the McLaren 540C is a sports car that’s
been designed to be usable everyday. So it’s actually wider than its more
expensive siblings, which means you can drive along without rubbing elbows with
your passenger – unless you are exceptionally large of course. And you
may have noticed that you will just have one passenger, because there are no rear
seats, and if you are 6 foot tall you will find that there is plenty of
headroom. Now I did say stay with me! It is a lot more practical than
you might think, there’s some secret storage here… which I think might be
perfect for a banana, yes! There’s two cupholders here, two here, some more
storage underneath the armrest which also has three USB ports and a plug
socket. So this bottle will probably have to travel in the netting there, yep,
that’s secure, and if you’re driving in McLaren you have to look cool
so I’ll put my sunglasses in there. Spare bottle of water, and I think I can fit more in there… If you’re a golf player, you’ll be
pleased to know that you can put your golf clubs behind these seats. And if I’m
driving there’s a little bit of space, so you’ve got an umbrella there in case it
rains! You don’t get a traditional boot, but what you do get is
a space in the front to fit a couple of suitcases. Let’s be honest, a brand new McLaren 540C is going to be a little bit too much of a financial stretch for
most of us. Okay, you get niceties for your money such as climate control,
leather seats, and a touchscreen infotainment system. But not many cars
are going to leave the factory standard, and if you get blasé ticking on the
options list, the price ratchets up dramatically. Although you’re not likely
to be worrying too much about fuel bills, it’s still good to know that the 540C
is less thirsty, and has lower emissions than most versions of the Audi R8
although a Porsche 911 Turbo is even more fuel efficient. The 540C is a
magnificent sports car, it’s surprisingly usable everyday, it’s shockingly rapid,
and it’s great fun to drive, even at normal everyday road speeds.
For plenty more on the McLaren 540C, including our online review, and its rivals, head to
whatcar.com, if you would like to buy one, remember you can go to our New Car
Deals section where hopefully we can save you some money! But, before you go
anywhere remember to hit subscribe. Now I might keep this one! [Music]