McLaren Elva is a roofless stunner
Andy Palmer talks to Phuti Mpyane about the newest supercar and its ‘invisible windscreen’
There’s a new type of supercar at McLaren. Andy Palmer, Vehicle Line Director of McLaren Ultimate Series, tells Motor News about the upcoming Elva, the brand’s first open-cockpit road car. With no windscreen, it’s designed to give the ultimate connection between driver, car and the elements.
Powered by a 4.0l twin-turbocharged V8 with outputs of 600kW and 800Nm, it will accelerate from 0-100km/h in under three seconds, and it’s coming to SA.
Only 399 are being built at £1.425m (R27m) each, before import duties.
Phuti Mpyane: The Elva is an interesting car. How is the development coming along?
Andy Palmer: It’s great! The team has delivered something special. We are just finishing off with the last of the prototypes after probably two years of testing and I’d say we are now at a stage where we’ve literally got the final version.
PM: Describe the McLaren Elva experience.
AP: Imagine something that’s lighter than a Senna with more power and accentuated by incredible forward visibility because, well, you have no windscreen. And because there’s this very clever and innovative aero system in front of the car, it gives you essentially a driving experience that I certainly have never felt before, not even driving race cars.
It’s such a thrill and it leaves a huge smile on your face.
I drove the prototype a few weeks ago and I can tell you that it’s an experience that’s not going to be matched on roads. It’s a real driver’s car as all our cars are but the Elva takes this to new heights with the visibility.
PM: It sounds like a hair-raising experience that harks back to the early days of mobility, horses and tricycles perhaps?
AP: It’s funny you say that because the pattern search on the active air management for the device in front of the car existed and it came from America dated 1908. It came from a gentleman named Mr Winslow who created this aero device at the front of this (Ford) Model T-looking car, and it’s a fascinating insight into the way people were thinking even back then. It comes exactly to your point on the Elva taking the driver back to the beginning but putting in modern technology, modern suspension and powertrains.
PM: Ferrari and Aston Martin have similar roofless cars. Did they inspire the Elva?
AP: When we set on a project we don’t think Ferrari is doing this, we’ve got to do the same. We had this on the drawing table for many months if not years before Ferrari came out with the Monza. What I like to think we do very well at McLaren, from an innovation perspective, is the use of technology and aerodynamics to benefit the drive experience.
Look at what we achieved with Senna, giving the driver the ability to use the downforce on the road or predominantly on the track for a very different experience. And then you look at the Speedtail where we use aerodynamics in a different way to enable the car to accelerate and drive incredibly very fast. With the Elva we manipulate the airflow around the driver and passenger to give another different feeling again.
PM: How do you manipulate air rushing towards the passengers?
AP: There’s a large and angled duct in front of the car. As the car drives forward at normal driving speeds this angled conduit channels the approaching wind away from the passenger cabin, creating the "bubble of calm" as we call it.
PM: Can this nifty system withstand higher speeds?
AP: No. We have a deflector or gurney flap that rises up in front and creates this low pressure area. It comes up about 150mm into the free stream, and that coupled with this duct air that comes round essentially creates this low pressure zone that doesn’t attach until it almost passes back over the passengers. That is essentially how we create this bubble.
PM: It sounds incredible but I suppose it still won’t make the Elva drivable in the rain.
AP: Indeed. We see the Speedtail more as a car for going from A to B with a level of comfort, luggage space, a Grand Tourer for three people. Senna is about how fast I can go around a track. We see Elva as something that brings alive your senses, not through an intercontinental drive. It’s not about that. It’s about taking those fast and fun B roads you know well and not necessarily going on a destination but just going for a drive. I suppose that we are fortunate that our customers have the ability to go and do this.
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