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McLaren announces a new lightweight, open-cockpit roadster


McLaren's Elva open-cockpit, V8, carbon-fibre beast

McLaren is set to build its lightest and perhaps most radical car ever, in the form of the Elva two-seater roadster.

McLaren has just announced an all-new, limited-edition model that costs upwards of $2.6 million. Here's everything you need to know about this exhilarating car.

The original McLaren Elva

  • Name and design pay homage to a classic race car. McLaren says the new model is inspired by a lightweight, mid-engined, V8-powered historic racing car known as the McLaren Elva M1A. This competition car was driven by the British car maker's namesake, Bruce McLaren himself.
  • It has no roof or windows. Just like the racecar that it's based on, the Elva has no roof or side windows, and not even a windscreen. Instead, it has an open-cockpit layout. The body and chassis are made of carbon fibre. For those who want one, an optional windscreen can be purchased.
  • Passengers are protected by an air dam. You might think that racing helmets are a requirement, but that's not the case for the Elva, thanks to a clever harnessing of airflow. Using a contoured inlet and activated deflector, air is channelled into a high-speed stream, directly ahead of the occupants. McLaren calls this feature an Active Air Management System (AAMS). Behind the stream of air, passengers sit in a protected pocket that the company describes as comparatively tranquil. Consequently, driver's don't need to wear a helmet and can have a safe but still visceral experience of driving without a windshield. AAMS automatically kicks in over a pre-set speed threshold but can be manually deployed.
  • Power comes from a fire-snorting V8. The Elva is sure to get motoring enthusiasts' blood pumping, thanks to a large 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8. You'll find similar engines under the bodywork of the McLaren Senna. With almost 600kW and a punishing 800Nm, an Elva can streak from 0-100km/h in under three seconds. It'll even beat a Senna off the line, up to 200km/h. The performance engine transfers power to the rear wheels through a seven-speed, seamless transmission. Even the exhaust is a technological marvel, with a 3D printed titanium tip.
  • McLaren has merged engineering and design. Rather than designing a solid, lightweight tub that is then styled to achieve a compromise between aerodynamics and looks, McLaren took a more homogeneous approach. While the car resembles a supercool, wingless stealth fighter jet, the design also allows ideal cooling for the engine and gearbox oil. Airflow is directed through the carbon-fibre doors, to provide critical ventilation of the two rear High-Temperature Radiators (HTR). There are dual Low-Temperature Rads (LTR) neatly located in front of each wheel. McLaren likens the body to the "shrink-wrap" design of a Formula 1 car.

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  • It's slippery. To reduce aerodynamic drag, the underside is almost entirely smooth. Aft of the rear axle though, a tapered diffuser generates downforce and eases the cars wake in the surrounding air. A rear active spoiler adjusts to deliver a balance between grip and low resistance. The Elva even has an airbrake that actives when high-speed braking, to help shed forward momentum.
  • Even the interior is carbon fibre. The seats and interior make heavy use of the extremely rigid and lightweight material. There are even optional six-point racing harnesses, showing the true intent of this machine. Again, like a track-ready car, the seat bases are shortened, meaning you can actually climb in and out of the Elva without opening the door.

McLaren Elva cockpit

  • There's more equipment than you'd imagine. Looking at the pictures of the Elva, you might think it has little by way of passenger comforts. And you'd be wrong. In addition to your usual driver controls, you receive an eight-inch edgeless touchscreen. The glass display shows telemetry information, climate controls, the rear camera view and even satellite navigation directions. Seats can be upholstered in element-proof leather or a material McLaren calls "Ultrafabric". It's a hard-wearing, multi-layered synthetic fabric that is breathable yet moisture resistant and helps you stay in your seat in fast corners.
  • It even has a place to store your helmet. A removable carbon fibre panel reveals a cubby that can hold helmets or other small luggage.
  • It's exclusive. The Elva is marketed as part of the exclusive Ultimate Series range. Orders are limited to just 399.
  • It has the McLaren Senna's brakes. The Elva has lightweight, carbon-ceramic disc brakes with titanium pistons. The calliper pistons alone make the car 1kg lighter.
  • It's hand-built. Every Elva is put together manually at the McLaren Production Centre (MPC) in the UK.

When does it launch?

McLaren says deliveries will commence at the end of next year.

Recent car reviews

Picture: Supplied

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