Is the supercar market finally changing?

After decades of tremendous success in Can-Am racing and Formula One, McLaren built its first road car in 1992. It was the most advanced vehicle on the market back then, and it’s still among the best, despite being nearly three decades old. The Brits needed 21 years to launch a successor, which arrived as the P1 in 2013. Although built in significantly greater numbers (375 versus 106 unit), the P1 was short-lived, with production coming to a halt in December 2015. Exactly two years have passed, and McLaren introduced a new flagship model, the Senna. By far the most spectacular McLaren ever made, the Senna comes with a few surprising facts.

Despite numerous rumors about its three-seat layout and hybrid drivetrain, the Senna sports a traditional two-seat configuration and a gasoline-only powertrain. It’s also less powerful than the P1 hybrid. And while newer supercars tend to become more exclusive and expensive, the Senna is actually more affordable than the P1, and it will be built in greater numbers. It’s like McLaren is going against market trends, and that’s what makes all these facts a bit strange. Let’s have a closer look at the five most unexpected facts about the Senna supercar below.

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Where’s the Central Driver’s Seat?

Meet the 2019 McLaren Senna – Track-Going Evil With a Hunger For the Road Interior
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Will feature that central driver layout...
based on the McLaren F1
There's been a lot of talk about McLaren planning to revive the three-seat layout of the iconic F1

There’s been a lot of talk about McLaren planning to revive the three-seat layout of the iconic F1 in a brand-new supercar. At first it was just a rumour, but McLaren unveiled that it was actually testing a modified 720S with a centrally mounted driver’s seat. We got excited because it made sense that this configuration would find its way in the new range-topping supercar. But no, the Senna arrived with a standard seating layout. Surprising and somewhat disappointing.

But hope is not lost. McLaren might be crazy at times, but it’s not crazy enough to build a prototype just for fun. The modified 720S must be the start of something and I bet that the center-mounted driver’s seat will be part of that "Hyper-GT" project everyone is talking about. It’s also known as the BP23 and it will probably be part of the Ultimate Series lineup. It remains to be seen whether it will be launched alongside the Senna or after the new supercar ends production, but a three-seat McLaren is definitely underway.

No Hybrid Drivetrain

Meet the 2019 McLaren Senna – Track-Going Evil With a Hunger For the Road Exterior
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Powered by a 4.0-liter V-8
This twin-turbo beast delivers 789 HP and 590 LB-FT of Torque
It is awkward because its predecessor, the P1, was a hybrid

The Senna is powered by a gasoline engine only and this came as a surprise. Not that it’s uncommon for modern supercars to use gasoline power only, but it is awkward because its predecessor, the P1, was a hybrid. Granted, the P1’s electric motor was far from spectacular in terms of range and fuel consumption, but it was a sign that McLaren is moving toward electrification. So it was natural to believe that its successor will follow the same route and get a even more capable electric moto with better range and more output. But it didn’t! Instead, McLaren went with the updated 4.0-liter V-8 in the 720S.

Why? That’s a question I cannot answer. McLaren had nothing to say on the matter, and I doubt it will talk about it anytime soon. It feels even stranger to ditch the hybrid drivetrain given the company’s claims to electrify its entire lineup in a few years, but maybe McLaren wanted to launch one last gasoline-only supercar before going green across the board?

Less Powerful than the P1

Meet the 2019 McLaren Senna – Track-Going Evil With a Hunger For the Road Exterior
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With a dry weight of 2,641 pounds
it’s the lightest McLaren road car since the McLaren F1
The new Ultimate Series is no match for the P1's hybrid drivetrain

Although the 4.0-liter V-8 in the Senna is more powerful than the 3.8-liter V-8 in the P1 — that’s 789 horsepower and 590 pound-feet versus 727 horses and 531 pound-feet — the new Ultimate Series is no match for the P1’s hybrid drivetrain. With both the electric motor in use, the P1 cranks out a whopping 903 horsepower and 723 pound-feet of torque, or 114 horses and 133 pound-feet more than the Senna. If we look at this in depth, it’s not really an issue. The Senna is definitely more powerful than the P1 if we ignore the electric motor, which makes for a fair comparison. The Senna is likely quicker than the hybrid P1 too (no official figures yet) because it has a better power-to-weight ratio.

So why is this an issue?

Well, new-generation sports cars have been more powerful than their predecessors since the early days of the automobile. Having it the other way around feels weird. It’s something I’ve seen on regular, affordable vehicles and I wasn’t expecting a similar scenario from a supercar manufacturer. It doesn’t make the Senna less appealing and I bet it doesn’t make it slower either. But is this some kind of new trend? Are supercars going to lose power and increasingly more extreme aerodynamics?

More Affordable than the P1

Meet the 2019 McLaren Senna – Track-Going Evil With a Hunger For the Road Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Only 500 examples being built
The fact that the Senna is less expensive than the P1 is yet another anomaly

The fact that the Senna is less expensive than the P1 is yet another anomaly. New-generation supercars are usually more expensive than their predecessors, yet somehow McLaren is selling the Senna for a smaller price tag compared to the P1. Despite the new supercar having a new Monocage tub, a significantly revised engine, and redesigned aerodynamics. At £750,000 before options, the Senna is around 15 percent more affordable than the P1, which retailed from £866,000. How is this possible? I have no idea. It could be the absence of the electric motor, the battery, and all the stuff that comes in a hybrid, but it’s still weird to see this from a company who has no issue selling the entire production run of a supercar before the official launch. Heck, the Senna would have been just as successful if it went for £2 million instead of "only" £750,000

Bigger Production Run

Meet the 2019 McLaren Senna – Track-Going Evil With a Hunger For the Road Exterior Wallpaper quality
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All other 499 examples
were priced at £750,000 or just over $1 million

Not only less expensive, but the Senna is also slated to be manufactured in more examples compared to the P1. While the hybrid supercar was built in 375 units, the Senna will be limited to 500 vehicles. This makes it significantly less exclusive than the P1. Granted, it’s still an exclusive car compared to regular-production vehicles on the market, but it’s a strange decision for McLaren to increase the output of its flagship model for this generation. On the other hand, a strictly limited three-seat BP23 model make up for that.

References

McLaren Senna

Meet the 2019 McLaren Senna – Track-Going Evil With a Hunger For the Road Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Will Debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show

Read more about the 2018 McLaren Senna.

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Read more McLaren news.

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