The McLaren Senna: The Ultimate Road-Legal Track Car
“You commit yourself to such a level where there is no compromise. You give everything you have; everything, absolutely everything.”
The McLaren Senna has been designed, engineered and developed with single-minded purpose: to be the ultimate McLaren track-concentrated car for the road. Legalized for road use, but not sanitized to suit it, the new Ultimate Series deliberately compromises McLaren’s trademark breadth of supercar daily usability; instead it provides the purest connection between driver and car, to deliver the most intense circuit experience of any road McLaren.
The carbon fiber Monocage III chassis that forms the core of the McLaren Senna is a further development of the structure that underpins the McLaren 720S and the strongest monocoque ever built by McLaren for a road-legal vehicle. Every body panel is made from carbon fiber, in line with a relentless focus on the weight of every individual component that has resulted in the McLaren Senna being the lightest road-legal McLaren since the iconic F1 road car, at just 1,198kg*.
With maximum power of 800PS (789bhp), the McLaren Senna enjoys a power-to-weight ratio of 668PS per ton. This statistic immediately underlines the performance credentials of the newcomer to the McLaren Ultimate Series, a product family introduced with the McLaren P1 that is reserved for the rarest and most extreme McLaren cars.
“The McLaren Senna is a car like no other: the personification of McLaren’s motorsport DNA, legalized for road use but designed and developed from the outset to excel on a circuit. Every element of this new Ultimate Series McLaren has an uncompromised performance focus, honed to ensure the purest possible connection between driver and machine and deliver the ultimate track driving experience in the way that only a McLaren can.”
Given the famous name that this new McLaren bears, its unrivalled extreme performance and dynamic excellence should be no surprise. The legendary Formula 1 racing driver was renowned for his exceptional powers of concentration and single-minded focus on being the best on the track. The McLaren Senna driver is hardwired into the dynamic experience the car delivers. Their connection to the car comes through the steering wheel, the pedals and the seat. Every sensation that comes from driving at speed is precisely communicated, putting the driver in total control.
The indomitable spirit of Ayrton Senna has always been alive at McLaren and the McLaren Senna will further amplify his global legacy and link to the McLaren brand.
“Our family is extremely proud of the naming of the new Ultimate Series McLaren Senna. This is the first project that really connects with Ayrton’s racing spirit and performance. The McLaren Senna honors my uncle because it is so utterly dedicated to delivering a circuit experience that allows a driver to be the best they can possibly be. There is an absolute, seamless connection between car and driver and this pure engagement, these sensory cues that a driver responds to and relies upon, ensure an experience so focused and immersive that you are left in awe of the depths of excellence the McLaren Senna possesses.”
Visually, the McLaren Senna shocks. The first impression is of an aggressive, unforgiving machine, organic shapes having given way to a design language that is purposely fragmented in pursuit of absolute performance. With downforce and aerodynamic balance the guiding principles, this car is the purest expression yet of the ‘form follows function’ design philosophy embraced by McLaren.
Viewed from above, the body is nature’s most efficient shape – a teardrop – with body components ‘clipped’ onto the cabin to deliver optimal aerodynamic performance. McLaren’s designers went to extremes by cutting open the ‘shrink-wrapped’ body to reduce weight visually and functionally; while recognizably a McLaren in proportional terms, you cannot follow a single line from the front to the rear without it passing through a functional air intake or vent.
Cooling requirements played an equally crucial role in the overall design of the McLaren Senna: the rear clamshell, for example, was born from the twin demands of aerodynamic and cooling performance, with prominent ‘gurney’ flaps ahead of a succession of stepped louvres directing air away from the rear deck and down the sides of the body. The resulting area of low pressure draws hot air out from the high-temperature radiators and engine bay, with the louvres ensuring that the airflow does not impact the efficiency of the rear wing. The ‘slash cut’ finishers of the unique Inconel and titanium exhaust exit through the lowest rear deck (measured at the trailing edge) of any McLaren road car, the angle of the pipes directing exhaust gas away from the rear wing. The slim, rear LED taillights have been subject to the same exacting attention to detail as the headlights and every other aero-relevant component, the single-blade design minimizing interruptions to airflow.
The double diffuser at the rear of the car is unmistakable. Created as a single piece of carbon fiber, it begins under the rear axle and as it increases in height accelerates air out from under the vehicle. This creates a low-pressure zone that sucks the McLaren Senna even tighter to the ground. Equally unmissable is a huge, double-element carbon fiber rear wing that at its highest point sits 1,219mm from the road when the car is stationary. Hydraulically actuated and with a planform surface area of more than 6,500cm2, the wing constantly adjusts to optimize the levels of downforce and aerodynamic balance and functions as an airbrake under heavy braking.
The depths of connection with the new Ultimate Series car will be experienced in full once in the driver’s seat and on a circuit, but the intimate relationship with the McLaren Senna begins before that, simply by entering the car. McLaren F1-inspired dihedral doors hinge forwards and upwards, opening with a portion of the roof to expose noticeably low sills and an aperture of sufficient size for drivers or passengers to easily enter or leave the cockpit, even when wearing a helmet and a race suit.
The cockpit environment reflects the stripped-back, functional nature that is evident in every aspect of the McLaren Senna. Visual carbon fiber is used extensively. Dependent on customer preference, Alcantara® or leather covers the seats, fascia and side airbags, but the absence of any other interior trim both saves weight and reveals the construction of the doors. Even the gas struts are exposed to save vital grams.
Codenamed M840TR, the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine at the heart of the McLaren Senna is the most powerful road car internal combustion engine ever created by McLaren, producing 800PS (789bhp) and torque of 800Nm (590 lb ft). The engine’s dry sump lubrication and flat-plane crankshaft are technologies with their roots in motorsport. Lightweight internal components reduce mass in the powertrain and combine with ultra-low inertia, twin-scroll turbochargers and electronically controlled wastegates to deliver lightning-quick throttle responsiveness.
From the outset of the program, McLaren engineers determined that the full mechanical symphony of the engine – from intake to combustion to exhaust – had to be central to the sensory experience. Those fortunate enough to drive the McLaren Senna will feel the cockpit come alive with the sound of air rushing into the roof-mounted ‘snorkel’ intake and mixing in the carbon fiber plenum, producing precisely tailored high-frequency sounds that deliver a vivid experience. At the same time, low-frequency sounds from the engine are transferred into the cockpit through unique engine mounts, exciting the double-walled rear structure of the carbon fiber Monocage and amplifying every change in engine revs, making it seem almost as if the V8 is sitting alongside the driver.
A dual-clutch, seamless-shift, seven-speed gearbox delivers power to the rear wheels. A fully automatic mode is the default, with the driver able to choose full manual control of gear shifts via paddles mounted on a rocker behind the steering wheel. The elongated carbon fiber paddles are optimized to be used both with or without racing gloves, and create a deep sense of mechanical connection with the McLaren Senna.
The character of the 4.0-litre twin-turbo McLaren V8 and the transmission can be tailored using the Active Dynamics Panel, with the driver having a choice of Comfort, Sport or Track powertrain modes. Whatever the mode, performance is suitably savage. Throttle response is immediate and neck-snapping, pinning the driver back into their seat.
“The McLaren Senna delivers true performance, all the way to the limit of a driver’s ability. With a truly astonishing power-to-weight ratio, this car is about performance that is accessible and attainable, yet at the same time exciting and challenging for the very best drivers in the world – and with an intense, sensory experience to match.”
RaceActive Chassis Control II (RCC II) hydraulic suspension works in harmony with front and rear active aerodynamics and the ultra-rigid Monocage III to deliver an incredibly intensive experience on a circuit. Every element of the McLaren Senna has been designed to maximize the connection between driver and car, at all speeds and in every situation. Painstaking work on the damping and steering weight has ensured that the car feels fully ‘alive’ well below its upper limits; even when the suspension is not fully loaded and tires not absolutely compressed, the rich texture of communication blends with the feedback transmitted to the driver as aero levels and cornering speeds build.
RCC II is a double-wishbone suspension system that additionally features hydraulically interconnected dampers and a hydraulic replacement for conventional mechanical anti-roll bars. It also further develops the variable stiffness and ride height technology first seen in the pioneering hydraulic system in the McLaren P1.
Dynamic parameters are adjusted by the driver through the Active Dynamics Panel located on the center console to select Comfort, Sport or Track modes or via a switch in a roof-mounted panel to access Race mode.
The braking system of the McLaren Senna is the most advanced ever fitted to a McLaren road car, using carbon ceramic discs and motorsport technologies to deliver extreme performance. Tire choice is equally focused, with bespoke Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires developed in conjunction with McLaren technical partner, Pirelli. Designed for race tracks but approved for road use, they enable a McLaren Senna to be driven to a circuit. Only one style of wheel is available: an ultra-lightweight alloy wheel with a race-inspired center lock system.
The third model introduced under the McLaren Track22 business plan, the McLaren Senna will be hand-assembled in England at the McLaren Production Centre. Production will be limited to 500 vehicles, each costing from £750,000 including taxes (UK price) and all already allocated.
The ultimate road-legal, track-concentrated McLaren hypercar will make its public debut in March, at the 88th Geneva International Motor Show. More information about the McLaren Senna, together with images and films, is available now at http://cars.mclaren.com/ultimate-series/mclaren-senna.
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