McLaren 540c: the budget model

McLaren 540c

The 540C is McLaren’s most affordable, entry-level car, says Will Beaumont in Evo magazine. But with its carbon-fibre chassis, 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine and £126,000 price tag, it’s still not exactly what you’d call basic. The 540C shares most of its architecture and looks with its bigger brother, the 570S, but is less powerful and has fewer body panels made from carbon fibre. Nevertheless, that hardly feels like a compromise – the 540C is still just as exotic and exciting as you’d expect a supercar to be.

Flat-out performance is much the same as in the more expensive models, says Ollie Marriage on TopGear.com. But the lower torque means the 540C doesn’t “ramp through the mid-range quite as ferociously as the 570S”, so you’ll have to make more use of the paddle gearshifts. Other than that, though, there are very few differences. You save £16,000, “which is pocket money worth having”.

The cabin is reasonably civilised by supercar standards, the driving position “racy” and the pedals and steering all operate with a precision that smacks of proper engineering know-how. The chassis, though, is the “star of the show”: its dynamics make for a car that’s “terrifically absorbing to drive”.

“With everything turned up to 11”, the 540C is almost as quick as its more expensive siblings on public roads, says Andrew Maclean on Drive.com.au. It’s not as fast or dramatic or as challenging to drive, but it “slices through corners with poise” thanks to that beautifully balanced chassis and pin-sharp steering. “McLaren’s business-class ticket is better presented and better value without being any less exciting.”

It faces stiff competition from other manufacturers, says Beaumont. The Porsche 911 Turbo costs just a fraction more and is as fast. The Audi R8 is cheaper and has an incredible engine. But neither offers the level of connection and interaction of the 540C. It is more than worthy of its supercar status.

Price: £126,000
Top speed: 199mph
0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
Power: 540bhp