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McLaren Elva: track-day missile

An awe-inspiring sports car that delivers thrills and keep the gnats out of your eyes too.

Britain has a fine tradition of producing “heroically stripped out” track-day specials, says Stephen Dobie in Top Gear. McLaren, the supercar maker based in Woking, has made a fine contribution to that tradition with the Elva, a “ferociously fast” car with an open cockpit and a worthy addition to McLaren’s top-line Ultimate Series, which includes the Senna and the Speedtail. Expect the Elva to weigh in at less than the 1,198kg claimed for the Senna, which should also make it faster. You might wonder how fast you’ll want to go given that there is no windscreen. You can request one, or wear a helmet, but “McLaren suggests you’ll need neither” thanks to its innovative Active Air Management System (AAMS).

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Oncoming air is collected from the front of the car and diverted to the air vents on the bonnet, which release the collected air at higher pressures, explains Alvin Reyes on SlashGear. The effect is to create a “virtual windscreen”, which is backed up by a carbon-fibre wind deflector, which rises automatically as you drive. Given the car has a top speed of more than 200mph, this is a necessary innovation if drivers are to preserve their hairdo, not to mention their face. 

The virtual windscreen system can be switched off, but the system goes to work automatically as you approach those higher speeds. And it will be hard to avoid those thanks to the “awe-inspiring” rear-mounted, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which delivers an 804-horse “stampede” and 590 pound-feet of torque, says Craig Cole on CNET’s Road Show. The engine is from the same family as the powerplant used in the Senna and Senna GTR models and will catapult the Elva to 62mph in under three seconds. “With all this speed, the car’s linked-hydraulic fully active suspension and electro-hydraulic steering systems seem almost like afterthoughts.”

Thank heavens that, “despite its race-car-like no-screen cockpit, the Elva is homologated as a road car, not just a track missile”, says Howard Walker in the Robb Report. Only 399 of these cars are to be made, costing £1.4m apiece. The first Elvas are due to meet their new owners towards the end of the year.

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