As an ode to one of the racing community’s esteemed and legendary drivers, McLaren has built a super car that is every inch a reflection of Ayrton Senna’s illustrious racing career.
McLaren’s Senna joins the lineage of the F1 and P1 as one of the company’s ultimate hyper cars. The F1, P1, and Senna were all created with a somewhat different design philosophy. The F1 was intended as the ultimate purist performance car possible with 1990s technology, equipped with a naturally-aspirated V12 producing 627 hp.
The P1, on the other hand, represents McLaren’s adaptation to the modern times with a hybrid design putting out a total of 903 hp from a twin turbocharged 3.8 liter V8 and an electric motor. It was also a much heavier car compared to the F1 at 3,411 lbs.
The Senna is a combination of both cars, but unlike the F1 and P1, the Senna is at home on the race track, though it remains road legal. The twin turbocharged 789-bhp 4.0- liter V8 is the most powerful engine built by McLaren for a street legal race car.
The McLaren Senna has been designed, engineered, and developed with a 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 super car daily usability; instead, it provides the purest connection between driver and car, to deliver the most intense circuit experience of any road-legal McLaren.
A technical recipe
The technical recipe is classic McLaren Automotive super car, a pedigree established and earned in the short time elapsed since the pioneering sports and super car company was founded in 2010, but taken to another level entirely in the McLaren Senna. This hyper car is molded using ultra-lightweight construction materials, with a carbon fiber chassis and body panels. A potent mid-mounted, twin-turbocharged V8 McLaren engine assures power on tap and sits on a rear-wheel drive configuration.
For race track duties, McLaren engineers equipped the Senna with a sophisticated race-derived suspension system that delivers an unparalleled blend of control and dynamic balance. Electro-hydraulic also steering results in accurate inputs and gives the purest feedback. And two seats – but with absolute focus on the importance of the one that the driver occupies.
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 is 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 1,198 kg.
With maximum power of 800 PS (789 bhp), the McLaren Senna enjoys a power-to-weight ratio of 668 PS per ton. This statistic immediately underlines the performance credentials of the newcomer to the McLaren Ultimate Series.
“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,” said Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer of McLaren Automotive.
Tribute to Senna
Given the famous name that this new McLaren bears, its unrivalled extreme performance and dynamic excellence should be no surprise. Senna, the legendary Formula One 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 was hardwired into the dynamic experience the car delivers. Their connection to the car comes through the steering wheel, pedals, and the seat. Every sensation that comes from driving at speed is precisely communicated, putting the driver in total control.
Visually, the McLaren Senna shocks. The first impression is of an aggressive, unforgiving machine, with organic shapes having given way to a design language that is purposely fragmented in pursuit of absolute performance. With downforce and aerodynamic balance being the guiding principles, this car is the purest expression yet of the “form follows function” design philosophy embraced by McLaren.
The McLaren Senna introduces a new generation of ground-breaking front and rear active aerodynamics, raising downforce and aero control to an unprecedented level to ensure the performance potential can be fully exploited. Every element of the body design, from the front splitter to the double diffuser at the rear, has been developed to optimize downforce and aerodynamic balance, whether under braking, adjusting the throttle mid corner, or applying power on corner exit. There is also an opportunity for added visual drama, with the front aero blades available finished in one of five “By McLaren” theme specifications that include Azura Blue and McLaren Orange. The same linked accent color can also feature on the brake calipers, visible door gas struts, and seat trims.
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 louvers 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 louvers 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 it 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 1,219 mm from the road when the car is stationary. Hydraulically actuated and with a platform surface area of more than 6,500 square centimeters, the wing constantly adjusts to optimize the levels of downforce and aerodynamic balance and functions as an airbrake under heavy braking.
The doors, which are constructed of carbon fiber, feature two-piece glass side windows with a fixed top part and a smaller opening section below. Both the door upper (effectively part of the roof) and the lower half of the door side can be specified with glass as a replacement for the carbon fiber panels that are standard-fit. This enhances the sense of space inside the cockpit and in the case of the glazed door lower, dramatically reinforces the visual connection between driver and track environment. To accommodate the door design, the release mechanisms and window switches are housed alongside the engine start button in a carbon fiber console above the driver’s head.
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, facia, 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.
Driver controls have been deliberately kept to a minimum to reduce “cockpit clutter” and the three-spoke steering wheel is free of buttons and switches, creating a pure focus on sensory feedback. All the information the driver needs comes from the high-definition McLaren Folding Driver Display and central infotainment screen. And while McLaren designers stopped short of removing the second seat altogether, there is no contingency for excess baggage, so storage space is restricted to a chamber behind the seats integral to the Monocage III. There is just enough room for two helmets and race suits.
Twin turbocharged engine
Codenamed M840TR, the 4.0-liter 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 800 PS (789 bhp) and torque of 800 Nm (590 lb-ft). The engine’s dry sump lubrication and flat-plane crankshaft are technologies with their roots in motor sports. Lightweight internal components reduce mass in the power train and combine with ultra-low inertia, twin-scroll turbochargers and electronically controlled waste gates 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.
Seamless shift gearbox
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 gearshifts 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-liter twin turbocharged McLaren V8 and the transmission can be tailored using the Active Dynamics Panel, with the driver having a choice of Comfort, Sport, or Track power train 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,” said Andy Palmer, vehicle line director of the McLaren Ultimate Series.
Advanced suspension system
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. And 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.
The adaptive dampers are interconnected hydraulically, both left to right and front to back, with two valves per damper to independently adjust for compression and rebound. The stiffness of the McLaren Senna is separately controlled using a kinetic roll system, or K-damper. The continuously variable RCC II system advances the control strategy introduced on the McLaren 720S and also adds a Race mode, which introduces a lower ride height, lower center of gravity, and significantly stiffer suspension. 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.
Most advanced braking system for a McLaren
The braking system of the McLaren Senna is the most advanced ever fitted to a McLaren road car, using carbon ceramic discs and motor sports 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.