Is This The Fastest Car Shape In Nature?

Jon Lawson

McLaren has revealed details of its extraordinary new Speedtail.

Every aspect of the car is mind-boggling, from the 250mph top speed to the £1.75 million price tag. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2020 and the entire production run of 106 has already been reserved.

The company has thought very carefully about the shape of the thing, with aerodynamics at the forefront of the body design. Numerous small touches abound, designed to wring the most out of the 1,050hp petrol-electric hybrid powertrain.

Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer, McLaren Automotive called it “a fusion of art and science,” describing it as “a groundbreaking hybrid within a lightweight carbon fibre body reminiscent of sleek ‘streamliners’ that once set world speed records, while the luxurious three-seat cockpit offers a sublime combination of an incredible driving experience, unmatched individualism and innovative materials never seen before in a road-going vehicle.”

These are some of the touches that make it unique.


Inside the teardrop-shaped cockpit a variety of options are available, including choices of interwoven carbon titanium deposition materials with digital embossing, and aniline (a Scandanavian leather dyed with soluble dyes to retain the natural surface) and lightweight leathers for the soft parts. Quilting is offered to create unique patterns.

The double-skinned power-operated doors feature what McLaren calls “single-piece ‘wrapover’ lightweight glazing,” while instead of sun visors, electrochromic glass darkens the top of the windscreen at the touch of a button. The same technology is incorporated into the panels above the driver.

In place of the rear-view mirrors two screens display the rear view on opposite sides of the instrument panel alongside high-definition displays and touchscreens. Many of the vehicle controls including the ignition are in a milled aluminium panel above the driver’s head.

The central driver’s seat is a one-off, also made of carbon fibre, lined with a directional leather finish that makes it easier to slide in and out but holds the driver in place under fast cornering.

Where stitching is concerned, there are also many options available, including decorative shapes.

Owners are being offered luggage with the metal, leather and carbon fibre parts matched to the individual vehicle specification. Stowage areas are in the tail and nose, with a small storage space under the seat.


Every McLaren built since 1981 has been made of carbon fibre. For this model, a new ‘digital loom’ process has been devised to create the weave. For the surface finish, a layer of titanium one micron thick has been fused in to it to give it a shimmer. This can be anodised into any colour. The front splitter, diffuser and side skirts are
all finished with this 1K titanium deposition technique.

Also novel is the use of another new technique, developed with Swiss horologist Richard Mille: thin-ply technology (TPT) carbon fibre. The front badge and several interior components are made up of this, with overlaid carbon layers 30 microns deep positioned at a 45º angle. This then undergoes a very fine milling to create the surface texture.

Velocity mode

The car has a setting designed to refine everything for performance: Velocity mode.

This lowers the vehicle by 35mm, leaving it 1,120mm from the road at its highest point. The rear-view cameras retract slightly to cut the drag, and the powertrain is optimised for speed. As for figures, it weighs 1,430kg and is just over 5m long. From standstill it’s claimed it will reach 186mph (300kph) in under 13 seconds.

To maintain stability at such dizzying speeds the patented rear ailerons are designed to be flexible and deform to move the centre of pressure to wherever it’s most needed. They are hydraulically actuated, and under deceleration provide an air brake function.

Aero extras

The revolution of a wheel can drive air away from a vehicle causing drag. To reduce this, the 20in, 10-spoke diamond-cut forged alloys hide behind a stationary carbon fibre cover to smooth the flow. This air is guided to the blades on the leading edge of the dihedral doors.

Various ducts are secreted in the wheel arch to further direct the passing air, for example the low temperature radiators vent hot air here, likewise the carbon ceramic brakes. This is channelled through the ducts in the fixed front wheel aero cover in a consistent pattern. The tyres are unique Pirelli P-Zeros.

Traditional door mirrors have been dropped in favour of high-definition digital cameras that slide out of the doors when the vehicle ignition is switched on.

From tip to tail, everything is orientated toward reduced drag. The wiper is hidden under a lip, and the snorkel air intake for the combustion engine is flush with the roof. Even the shut lines are just 1mm wide, such is the attention to detail.

Recent Issues