How fast is fast enough? How much will customers pay to indulge their need for speed? And exclusivity? Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, the limited production McLaren Senna coupe is conceived to be an answer to those questions.

Comfort and connectivity were secondary considerations in the creation of the latest McLaren supercar. Named for Ayrton Senna, the late Brazilian driver who won three Formula 1 world championships for McLaren, the mid-engine 2-seater has one primary purpose: going from point A to point B as quickly as possible. The two points generally represent the start and finish of a lap around a road racing circuit, an environment where Ayrton Senna made his lasting mark.

What would Senna think of this latest McLaren?

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McLaren’s max V8

Like any racing driver, he’d appreciate the brutal thrust: 789 horsepower, 590 lb-ft of torque from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, the most potent street car engine yet from McLaren. He’d appreciate it more for its power-to-weight ratio. With a carbon fiber central tub and carbon fiber skin, the Senna weighs in at a very lean and mean 2,641 pounds dry (no oil or other fluids).

As an example, McLaren’s use of new, lighter carbon fiber panels yields front fenders weighing just 1.4 pounds each. The Brembo brake rotors are composed of a new type of carbon fiber that helps reduce both size and weight. The lightweight center-lock forged alloy wheels wear extreme performance Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tires.

The turbocharged V8 sends power to the rear wheels via a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and limited slip differential. Owners can expect to achieve 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, according to McLaren, with a top speed of 211 mph.

Would it be even faster without the drag created by that enormous 7-square-foot rear wing? Possibly. But the wing provides a crucial element in the car’s ability to post spectacular lap times at the track: aerodynamic downforce.

One glance at the exterior should make it clear that beauty was not the number one priority. Every surface has been shaped to exploit the air flowing over the car, exploitation that provides some latitude for adjustment. For example, the angle of the rear wing can be altered to increase downforce or reduce drag. Similarly, the air intakes on either side of the front bumper have adjustable flaps that can increase front end downforce, balancing the influence of the rear wing.

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The downforce is with you

With the adjustable elements set to generate maximum pressure, and the speedometer reading over 120 mph, the Senna’s downforce is rated at a formidable1,764 pounds, according McLaren. Beyond that, there’s a race mode baked into the auto-adjusting suspension settings that drops the ride height about two inches, enhancing the aero effect and further reducing drag.

The Senna’s scissor-style doors yield access to a minimalist interior—a pair of racing-style seats with lightweight frames and not much padding; a central touch screen governing secondary controls; a rudimentary audio system; a tiny space behind the seats for stowage; and settings for four operating modes: Comfort, Sport, Track, and Race.

An odd feature for a high-priced supercar is two-piece side windows. A fixed pane surrounds a central section that can be raised or lowered. Subaru used this approach for its SVX coupe, and McLaren had it on the F1. The word elegant does not come to mind. But elegance wasn’t the Senna’s primary design objective. While few would characterize it as beautiful, it’s impossible to ignore, and says speed in every line and angle.

The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. The base price in England is $837,000. But in this case, if you even ask, you’re too late—the Senna’s entire 500-car was pledged before McLaren loaded up to head for Geneva. 

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