And it’s McLaren’s first open-cockpit road car

McLaren is on a roll to diversify its sports car lineup as much as possible, and the 2020 Elva is the latest creation to join the Ultimate Series family. Included in the same lineage as the P1, Senna, and Speedtail, the Elva is McLaren’s first-ever open-cockpit two-seater. A tribute to the iconic McLaren Elva race car that Bruce McLaren designed in the 1960s, the Elva is the company’s lightest road car. Rated at 804 horsepower, it’s also the most powerful non-hybrid McLaren, but it’s also among the most expensive with pricing set at £1.42 million (around $1.8 million as of November 2019).

The 2020 McLaren Elva is a radical open-cockpit design

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Exterior
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While it retains some of the styling cues seen on other road-going McLarens, the Elva takes things to a new level in terms of aerodynamics and looks.

The Elva is actually a modern rendition of the original McLaren Elva racer, borrowing the overall open-cockpit design and many individual features.

It sports a pointy nose flanked by muscular front fenders, a big vent on the short front hood, and a similar front bumper design. The Elva comes without a windscreen as standard for an authentic open-cockpit look and experience, but just like the old racer, it can be fitted with an optional one.

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Similarities continue onto the sides with a big vent mounted on the upper rear fenders, muscular rear haunches, and a low waistline.

Of course, everything else is as modern as it gets, with many styling cues borrowed from recent McLarens, including the Senna and the 720S. The Elva boasts some unique features, like the aggressively shaped side skirts or the holes in which the side mirror posts are mounted. Two large flying buttresses provide support for the seatbacks and give the Elva an aerodynamic, race-inspired design.

The rear end looks a lot like the 720S. While the hood is notably different thanks to the rollover hoops and the engine hood design, the fascia brings together similar elements, like a big honeycomb grille, thin LED taillights, and high-mounted exhaust pipes. You can argue that the grille is taller and the taillights aren’t curved like on the 720S, but it’s pretty obvious that the 720S served as inspiration.

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Exterior
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Many features, including the diffuser, side skirts, and front splitter feature a bare carbon-fiber finish, but the entire body is actually made from the lightweight composite.

The Elva also features active aerodynamic features, including a wing that extends far from the rear deck when needed.

The 2020 McLaren Elva features a unique, no-nonsense interior

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Interior
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Although sporty, most McLarens are also quite fancy for the segment they compete in. They feature premium materials, a somewhat complex interior design, and loads of options to choose from. The Elva is a bit different.

The first feature that sets it apart is the way the carbon-fiber bodywork extends into the cabin, forming a single design with the dashboard and the upper door panels.

McLaren calls this the "blurred boundaries" design principle. It’s a unique feature for modern vehicles, but it’s actually borrowed from 1960s race cars and it even goes back to production cars from the 1930s.

The dashboard is as simple as they get, with a thin fascia devoid of any controls or features. A tablet-style display is the only element that disturbs the simple and clean design. Like in any modern sports car, a flat-bottom steering wheel sits in front of an all-digital instrument cluster. The center console is equally simple and incorporates a pair of A/C vents and controls for the transmission and an engine start/stop button.

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Interior
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The McLaren Active Air Management system directs air through the nose of the car to come out at high speed ahead of the cockpit

The carbon-fiber seats are clearly inspired from those seen in race cars and are sportier than in any other road-going McLaren available. You can order them with different upper and lower colors and materials as well as with six-point race harnesses for track use.

The McLaren Active Air Management system is another important highlight. Described as a world first, it’s an air manipulating feature that directs air through the nose of the car to come out at high speed ahead of the cockpit.

The strong airflow creates an invisible "bubble" over the cockpit to protect the driver and passenger from air disturbance at high speed.

The system features a large central inlet above the splitter, an outlet vent in the front hood, and a carbon-fiber deflector that raises and lowers vertically. When the system is active, the deflector is deployed at the leading edge of the hood outlet, rising almost six inches into the airstream to create a low-pressure zone.

The vented air is directed at a 130-degree radius, using a network of transverse and longitudinally mounted carbon fibre vanes across the hood outlet, distributing the airflow both in front of and along the side of the cabin. The system activates automatically at high speed, but you can also activate it from a button inside the cabin.

The 2020 McLaren Elva is the most powerful non-hybrid McLaren

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Exterior
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Not surprisingly, the Elva features a version of McLaren’s award-winning 4.0-liter V-8 engine. But the Brits meddled with the gasoline mill in order to extract more power.

The twin-turbo powerplant cranks out 815 PS, which converts to 804 horsepower, making it the first iteration of McLaren's V-8 to develop more than 800 horses.

The 4.0-liter version of the V-8 is now available in three McLarens outside the Elva. In the 720S, it generates 710 horsepower, or 94 less than the Elva. The Speedtail hybrid comes with this V-8 as well, but rated at 746 horses, 58 below the Elva. Finally, the Senna cranks out 789 horsepower, which is pretty close, but still 15 horses less than the Elva.

On top of having the most powerful gasoline engine, the Elva is also the second most powerful McLaren in production, behind only the Speedtail.

The hybrid generates 1,036 horsepower with both the V-8 engine and the electric motor in place, a 234 horsepower increase over the Elva.

As far as acceleration goes, the Elva is nothing to sneeze at. The massive output enables it to hit 62 mph in three seconds. That’s a tenth-second slower than the 720S and two tenths slower than the Senna. It may seem strange given that the Elva is lighter and more powerful, but it’s the open-cockpit configuration that prevents it from being quicker.

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Exterior
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On the other hand, the Elva hits 124 mph in 6.7 seconds, which is a tenth-second quicker than the Senna and 1.1 seconds faster than the 720S.

Thanks to its bespoke carbon-fiber chassis and body, the Elva is the lightest McLaren road car. The British firm has yet to release a curb weight figure, but since the lightest McLaren so far, the 600LT, tips the scales at 2,749 pounds, the Elva should come in at around 2,700 pounds, if not less. But even if it sits just a few pounds below the 600LT, the Elva will be some 300 pounds lighter than the Senna and at least 400 pounds lighter than the 720S and Speedtail.

The 2020 McLaren Elva is exclusive and expensive

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Exterior
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As with most Ultimate Series models, production of the Elva will be limited to less than 500 units. In this case,

McLaren plans to build only 399 examples of the Elva

. The Senna, for instance, is limited to 500, so the Elva is the more exclusive choice. On the flip side, the Speedtail is limited to only 106 units, so the Elva isn’t the most exclusive Ultimate Series model out there.

Pricing for the Elva starts from £1.425 million, which converts to around $1.8 million as of November 2019. That’s almost twice as much as the Senna, which was offered for £750,000 (around $963,000) a pop. But the Elva isn’t as expensive as the Speedtail, for which McLaren asked £2.1 million (about $2.7 million) before options.

The 2020 McLaren Elva celebrates an iconic race car from the 1960s

The New McLaren Elva Is Faster Than the Senna, Lighter Than Any Other Modern Road-Going McLaren Exterior
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The Elva name may be a new trademark, but McLaren used this nameplate some 50 years ago.

We’re talking about a race car that Bruce McLaren designed in the 1960s ans was sold to customers as the McLaren Elva. Designed for the Group 7 racing category, it was produced in three generations known as the M1A, M1B, and M1C. These cars were produced in collaboration with Elva, a British car manufacturer that existed from 1955 to 1968. Not only were these cars successful on the race track and opened the door for McLaren’s domination in Can-Am, but their pioneering design and engineering principles are being used in the McLaren road cars produced today.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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