Six weeks after establishing the Sports Series wing of its supercar family in New York with the 2016 McLaren 570S Coupe, the legendary British automaker pulled the wraps off of its even-more-affordable sibling in Shanghai. Based on the same platform mechanicals, the new 2016 McLaren 540C Coupe has 29 fewer horses on call but still promises the same kind of scintillating overall performance at a pricepoint intended to rival cars like the Porsche 911 and Audi R8 instead of the Porsche 911 Turbo S and Audi R8 V10 Plus that the 570S Coupe has its sights set on. Once envisioned primarily for China and other Asian markets, McLaren has now confirmed the new 540C Coupe will be available on a global basis in over 30 countries - including America. It will go on sale in the first half of 2016 with a projected starting price of $137,000, which is roughly $48,000 less than the estimated MSRP on a 570S Coupe.  

A purebred McLaren pedigree  

Like the 570S Coupe, the new 540C alternative features the automaker's carbon fiber MonoCell II core structure with its more user-friendly sill configuration and also is wrapped in aluminum rather than composite body panels. In addition to a number of subtle aero tweaks to its front/rear fascia areas, the 540C Coupe wears bespoke 19-inch front/20-in rear silver or stealth-finish alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero performance rubber. 

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Motivation for the McLaren 540C Coupe is provided by the same mid-mounted "M838TE" version of McLaren's 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8, but here it's been tuned to deliver 533 instead of 652 horsepower and makes 398 lb-ft of torque instead of 443 peak twist units as it does in the 570S Coupe. As in its more potent Sports Series sibling, that motive force heads to the rear wheels via the firm's 7-speed SSG twin-clutch transmission. Given their near-identical curb weights, the 540C's 0-62 mph sprint time does rise from 3.2 to 3.5 ticks and its top speed slips from 204 to 199 mph compared to the pricier 570S. But McLaren believes would-be owners will be able to live with those modest tradeoffs. Fitted with standard start/stop circuitry, the engines in both of these super coupes return the same 25.5 mpg on the EU combined fuel economy cycle.

Retuning for greater refinement 

The 540C Coupe's chassis design parallels the basic configuration of the 570S Coupe, teaming front/rear dual wishbones and anti-roll bars with adaptive dampers that offer Normal/Sport/Track settings. However, the shock tuning has been revised to place greater emphasis on day-to-day driving comfort. The 540C package also incorporates the F1-derived Brake Steer system originally seen on the 12C that helps the driver brake later into and accelerate more quickly out of corners. 

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Like the 570S Coupe, the new 540C Coupe offers primo interior appointments that include leather trimmed seats, dash and door panel, a "floating" center stack with a 7.0-inch touchscreen that controls the air conditioning, satellite navigation and digital audio systems. Bluetooth hands-free phone and media streaming also is part of the standard kit, although the McLaren Special Operations (MSO) wing will no doubt be offering buyers a full range of personalization options. 

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