Journal: Does The McLaren Senna Mean We've Reached The End Of The Horsepower Wars?

Does The McLaren Senna Mean We’ve Reached The End Of The Horsepower Wars?

By Alex Sobran
December 11, 2017
13 comments

It seems like we hear about a new thousand-horsepower supercar each week. There’s alway another wannabe trying to emulate Christian von Koenigsegg or group of venture capitalists walking onstage with yet another limited production series of a car that no one will remember past the press release. It’s not that this new crop of rocket ships isn’t welcome, but it’s hard to deny that the market’s been increasingly diluted over the last decade, and most its members are forgettable, if they’re even built at all. Since the Veyron unofficially heralded in a new era of the “Horsepower Wars” in the 2000s, the recipe has gotten a little tired: pool together enough cash to buy some twin-turbo V8s, build a few composite bodies, name the car like a cheap Italian suit brand (bonus points for including either “Z,” “X,” or “R”—just like the ’90s import scene but for a million plus), announce to the world that “there’s a new player in the game,” achieve frankly nothing new whatsoever, and then fade back into obscurity the moment someone else does the same thing but with a set of slightly bigger figures. It’s kind of tiring.

The upcoming McLaren Senna isn’t participating in this; it has better things to do than appeal to the wallets of desert royalty. For one, it’s probably not  pretty enough to tempt people away from the other 200mph options for parking in front of the shops on Bond Street. There are no electric motors here either, horsepower readings have remained in triple-digit territory, the car certainly doesn’t look faster than its lap times like so many others tend to, and not much is likely to keep up to it on the race track.

The McLaren Senna, which will start shipping to its 500 customers later in 2018—same old story here: already booked, waiting lists, angry rich people, etc.—will use a developed version of the 720S’s engine to produce 789 internally-combusted horsepower and 590ft-lbs of torque from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, and it weighs a scant 2,641 pounds. It doesn’t have the stat-sheet game wholly beaten by any means, but when it comes to power-to-weight ratios there’s not much at this level that’s still road-legal.

The Senna will come with license plate mounts so you can drive yours down the freeway with everyone else if you choose, and while the company has offered world-beating street cars for some time, they say their latest is the first to be a fully compromise-free performer. It was built for the track first and foremost, even if it does have a Tesla-esque screen slapped on the dash and the ubiquitous drive mode options bookended with “comfort” and “track.” It’s likely we won’t learn a whole lot more until the car makes its official debut in March at the Geneva International Motor Show, but we know the $1M McLaren sit comfortably at the top of the company’s performance pillar where the out-of-production P1 used to be, for now.

Along with the Aston Martin-Red Bull Valkyrie and the Mercedes-AMG Project One, it looks like the cutting edge supercar wars will be fought on the grounds of aerodynamics and the pursuit of lightweight construction rather than power alone. We’d be happy to see this trend continue, but there is an undeniable allure to really big numbers too, so what do you think of the Senna? Is it a step in a better direction?

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Gavin Langier
Gavin Langier
4 years ago

This car is relevant if only because there are many talented engineers out there who are begging to be allowed to design the “ultimate” car of the moment – and this website exists, in a major way, to throw fuel on such a fire. The guys that orchestrated this car have grown up dreaming of cars and to deny them the opportunity to have a go at one of their own would be a great shame, the fact that the bar keeps on rising isn’t their fault.

If we call a stop to such a pursuit then what is the alternative? A life of watching youtube, dreaming that you’re (Sir) Stirling Moss on the way to the ultimate victory, the 1955 Mille Miglia? There’s only so may times you can do that before you catch the bug and set out to make something new, something faster, better, more powerful than the current crop. Perhaps the proper alternative would be for all that engineering talent to go towards solving some actual, real world problems. How about Petrolicious becomes the champion for clean energy, protecction of our oceans, removal of plastic from the food chain etc.? If we’re all willing to keep following then who knows…..

I hope that people do continue to produce great cars but I feel the development effort would be far better placed at the lower end of the price range. What I do take exception to however is the “Senna” tag. Clearly the marketing dept. has applied this to help justify the extravagance of the whole enterprise. Yes, Senna once drove for Mclaren but not this car….. it would be far more ingeniuos if McLaren could identify a star of the future and put his name on the car, when he eventually suceeds they’ll look very smart and the car’s value will soar, it could indeed be marketed on the basis of such inside knowledge; nudge, nudge, wink, wink….. If that’s too much of a risk maybe McLaren could hire a very sucessful driver from their reent past? Someone who’s actually alive, who could lend his name as well as help out with track development? BUT and it’s intentionally a big BUT, would anyone spend £1m for the new Mclaren “Hamilton” except the man himself or a few of his popstar friends? Maybe nowadays big ticket cars are indeed all about marketing and nothing to do with actual driving…..

David
David
4 years ago

The horsepower war isn’t over, the Rimac C2 has 1914 PS just to prove the point. I know, it’s electric, but that’s where we’re headed, the internal combustion engine’s not here to stay.

Daniel Zizka
Daniel Zizka
4 years ago

Function over form… I understand this, and quite like the idea, but surely just a little bit of form wouldn’t hurt? This literally looks like it has been designed by computers and wind tunnels with no human interaction whatsoever.

Jacque Richardson
Jacque Richardson
4 years ago
Reply to  Daniel Zizka

Agreed….I tend to think that no one does body sculpture like Ferrari.

RDMcG
RDMcG
4 years ago

I cannot imagine myself actually driving this. Maybe if I were a 20 year old aspiring professional driver. I understand that it is primarily for track, but not sure what it it eligible for in terms of racing. Aesthetically too outrageous for me.

JB21
JB21
4 years ago

I really dislike gaudy details on a lot of cars today, and everything about this car is that. And despite that, I actually like the way it looks, maybe because it’s so unapologetically gaudy, piled on and on with design/technical details. I feel like it’s the case of “it’s so bad that it’s good.”

wing nut
wing nut
4 years ago

Another reason to love and cherish the one and only Mclaren F1. The original and in my opinion, still the champion. Not a fan of this cars styling or others from this same group.

Dennis White
Dennis White
4 years ago

Looks to me like McClaren has come to the end of the line with trading performance for aesthetics. The Ford GT combines the best of both.

Paul Ipolito
Paul Ipolito
4 years ago

I would prefer reaching “the end of the extremely ugly supercar era”.Has there ever been a Mclaren road car that is pleasing to look at? If the wing and mirrors were removed I would not be sure what direction it was heading in.

Carlos Antillón
Carlos Antillón
4 years ago

The horse power war is electric now….

Robz3mc
Robz3mc
4 years ago

The new Ford GT is espousing the same philosophy: an aerodynamic, lightweight chassis with respectable, not ridiculous, power.

Andrew James
Andrew James
4 years ago
Reply to  Robz3mc

the ford gt nailed it.. its stunning to look at.with correct proportions . something which mclaren failed very badly

Andrew James
Andrew James
4 years ago

that is seriously hideous!, why drag the senna name down with that… mclaren have lost it..!