• 2016 McLaren 540C

McLaren is doing all it can to make its vehicles more accessible to the public, and the lineup set to springboard this effort is the Sports Series. At the 2015 New York Auto Show, the first of the Sports Series models, the 2016 570S, debuted with its 562-horsepower V-8 and $184,900 price tag. Less than a month later, at the Shanghai Auto Show, the Brits introduced the less-expensive 540C version.

The 540C is essentially a detuned and more accessible 570S, in terms of premium features. As its name implies, the 540C has less power than the 570S, but it’s still quite the performer. The real test is whether it can hang with the big-boys of this segment, like the 911 Turbo and the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe. In the meantime, let’s have a closer look at the fourth new McLaren to break cover in 2015 (quite an achievement for the manufacturer).

Updated 04/20/2015: McLaren officially unveiled the second model in the Sports Series lineup at the 2015 Shanghai Motor Show. The model will be put on sale in early 2016, with prices on the British market starting from £126,000 - or about $188,000 at the current exchange rates.

Continue reading to find out how this new McLaren sports car will stack up to its competition.

  • 2016 McLaren 540C
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    7 Speed SSG
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    533 @ 7500
  • Torque @ RPM:
    398 @ 3500
  • Displacement:
    3.8 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    199 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:


2016 McLaren 540C High Resolution Exterior
- image 627399

On the outside, the 540C does not differ all that much from the already unveiled 570S. It sports the same "designed by air", P1-style front fascia, and the brand’s dihedral doors with "floating tendons". Out back, we can see the same flying buttresses and teardrop-shaped rear glass for improved aerodynamics, large taillights, and the unique apron that incorporates side-mounted exhausts and a sexy diffuser. However, there are few details that set the 540C apart from the more powerful 570S.

Although McLaren quotes "a subtly revised aerodynamic package," it’s only the diffuser that stands out here. Specifically, the 540C’s employs less six fins instead of eight, as the center tray is now flat. Then there’s the distinctive new cast alloy wheels. They measure 19 inches at the front and 20 inches at the rear and can be had with either silver or stealth finish. The 540C depicted here also features body-colored roof and side mirrors, whereas the 570S’ are carbon-fiber, but customers will probably have access to a similar option sooner or later.

All told, the 540C is by no means a lesser 570S as far as its exterior design goes.

Exterior Dimensions

Weight distribution (f / r) 42 / 58
Length 4,530 MM (178.34 Inches)
Width 2,095 MM (82.48 Inches)
Height 1,202 MM (47.32 Inches)


McLaren has yet to release photos of the 540C, but judging by the press release it’s identical to the 570S. Luxury features include standard leather upholstery for the seats, dashboard, and door panels, a seven-inch IRIS touchscreen, standard DAB digital radio, and satellite navigation. The 540C also joins the 570S in being the McLaren with the most usable interior space to date.

To better differentiate the 540C, McLaren could offer limited customization possibilities compared to the 570S, but there’s no official confirmation for that as of yet. Still, the 540C’s options list should include a wide range of Alcantara, Nappa leather and carbon-fiber selections, an audio system upgrade, and various bespoke colors and materials.


2016 McLaren 540C Exterior
- image 627398

Under the hood is where the most obvious changes can be found. Although the 540C features the same twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8 engine that McLaren wisely spreads across its entire lineup, its power has been turned down to 540 PS – a 30 PS drop from the 570S. This number converts out to 533 horsepower in the U.S., which is still plenty to have a hell of a lot of fun with. Torque sits at 398 pound-feet, a 45 pound-feet drop from the 570S. The 540C uses the same seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.

New output also means new performance figures. The 540C needs 3.5 seconds to hit 62 mph and 10.5 ticks to charge from 0 to 124 mph, which makes it 0.3 and one second slower than the 570S, respectively. Top speed comes in at 199 mph, which is enough to outgun the 911 Turbo’s 195 mph. On the other hand, the 540C is about 0.2 seconds slower than the standard Turbo from 0 to 60 mph and nearly a half-second slower if the Porsche is equipped with the Sport Chrono option.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine configuration V8 Twin Turbo / 3799cc
Power 533 HP @ 7,500 RPM
Torque 398 LB-FT @ 3,500-6,500 RPM
Transmission 7 Speed SSG
CO2 258 g/km
Economy 25.5 mpg (EU combined)
Engine lubricant Mobil 1 New Life™ 0W-40
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) 3.5 seconds
0-200 km/h (0-124 mph) 10.5 seconds
Top speed 320 km/h (199 mph)
Power-to-weight 412PS per tonne


Much like the 570S, the 540C employs McLaren’s unique carbon-fiber, MonoCell II chassis — tipping the scales at less than 176 pounds — which has been revised with focus on day-to-day usability. It also has the newly-developed suspension system with Formula 1-style dual wishbones and independent adaptive dampers. The damper tuning, on the other hand, has been revised with even more focus on daily road driving over the 570S.

Other features shared by the two include the F1-derived Brake Steer system, which enables later braking into corners, the Pirelli P Zero tires (standard), and the three handling settings: "Normal," "Sport," and "Track."


McLaren did not release U.S. pricing for the 540C as of April 2015, but it did say it will start from £126,000 in the UK, which represents a £19,000 drop from the 570S’ sticker. That’s a 13 percent reduction, which, when applied to the 570S’ U.S. starting price of $184,900, results in a sticker from around $161,000. Its most important rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo, retails from $151,100. The big mystery here, however, is whether McLaren will sell the 540C in the U.S. or not. Much like the 2015 625C, a detuned version of the 650S sold in Asia, the 540C may very well be restricted from crossing the pond to North America.


Porsche 911 Turbo

2014 Porsche 911 Turbo High Resolution Exterior
- image 504677

If the 570S battles the 911 Turbo S, then it is obvious that McLaren has its sights on the 911 Turbo with the 540C. With Porsche having more assets to pull from, the 911 Turbo does have slightly more premium features than the 540C has. Things like full-leather interior and a 12-speaker audio system will stand out as key benefits inside the 911 Turbo.

Under the skin, the 911 Turbo is at a tiny bit of a power disadvantage, as its 3.8-liter turbocharged flat-six develops 520 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque, but the performance figures are stronger than the 540C’s. This power travels through a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission and out to all four wheels. This results in a baseline 0-to-60 sprint of 3.2 seconds (three seconds with Sport Chrono) and a top speed of 195 mph.

Pricing is very similar, as the 911 Turbo checks in at $151,100.

Click here to read our full review on the Porsche 911 Turbo.

Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

2016 Jaguar F-Type AWD Coupe High Resolution Exterior
- image 576543

For 2016, the F-Type R Coupe gets a nice update that includes a handful of new standard features, and a new all-wheel-drive system. The standard features, which include a 770-watt Meridian audio system, 14-way power seats, and a panoramic glass roof, should easily trump the 540C.

Under its hood, the F-Type R Coupe comes with a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 that puts out 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. This engine mates to an eight-speed Quickshift transmission and an intelligent all-wheel-drive system. This results in a 0-to-60 sprint of 3.9 seconds, making it significantly slower than the 540C.

In terms of pricing, the F-Type R Coupe wins big at $103,600.

Click here to read our full review on the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe.


2016 McLaren 540C Exterior
- image 627396

You’ve got to love the genius that is McLaren. It continues to repurpose various parts from its lineup to create what appear to be all-new vehicles. The 540C is set to be the next example of this strategy when it hits dealerships. Unfortunately, we still have to wait to find out whether McLaren will offer this cheaper Sports Series model in the U.S., or not.

  • Leave it
    • * Fewer standard features
    • * Slower than the 911 Turbo
    • * A good bit more money than its competition

Updated History

Updated 04/09/2015: British magazine AutoCar reports that the new 540C will be unveiled on April 22nd at the 2015 Shanghai Motor Show. Apparently McLaren opted for a Chinese motor show mostly because the 540C is aimed at the Asian market.

Justin Cupler
Justin Cupler
About the author

Press Release

McLaren will launch its second model in the new Sports Series, the McLaren 540C Coupé, at the Shanghai Motor Show, 20-29 April 2015. The most attainable McLaren yet, the 540C Coupé joins the recently revealed 570S Coupé in the Sports Series as the brand brings its race derived DNA to a new audience and segment. These introductions bring the number of new McLarens launched in 2015 to four as the brand continues its rapid growth. Globally available and priced from £126,000, the 540C Coupé can be pre-ordered now with deliveries scheduled to being in early 2016.

2016 McLaren 540C Exterior
- image 627397

The 540C Coupé is a pure McLaren, and a pure sports car, sharing its DNA with the models in the Super Series and Ultimate Series, including a light weight carbon fibre chassis and race-derived technologies. It is fitted with a mid-mounted 3.8-litre twin turbocharged V8 engine which has been developed to be responsive and thrilling, even at low engine speeds. As its name suggests, the Sports Series dedicated application of the award-winning McLaren power unit generates 540PS at 7,500 rpm and 540Nm of torque at 3,500-6,500 rpm. With stop-start technology, it offers optimised levels of efficiency and a longer range suited to the typical usage of cars in this segment.

At the heart of the 540C, as with the 570S, is the unique carbon fibre MonoCell II chassis which has been newly designed with a greater focus on day-to-day usability, offering improved ingress to and egress from the cabin, along with class-leading occupant protection and safety. A dry weight of as low as 1,311 kg (2,890lbs) is achieved as a result of this lightweight structure and the use of aluminium body panels. This figure sees the 540C almost 150kg lighter than its closest competitor.

Power is delivered through the rear wheels via a seven-speed seamless shift gearbox (SSG) which, aided by the low weight of the 540C, sees the 0 to 100km/h (62mph) sprint completed in 3.5 seconds, 0 to 200km/h (124mph) in just 10.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 320km/h (199mph). Given this level of performance, 25.5 mpg on the EU combined cycle and emissions of just 258 g/km are an impressive achievement.

A subtly revised aerodynamic package and a dedicated wheel design mark out the 540C Coupé against the more powerful 570S Coupé. Unique aero blades below the front bumper channel cold, clean air through the lower bodywork and up over the sculpted bonnet, flanked by large LED headlamps. At the rear, the diffuser sits between the twin exhausts which exit below the rear bumper. The aerodynamically-led styling of the Sports Series Coupé includes intricately designed dihedral doors which include the elegant floating door tendon. This design feature channels air along the length of the door into the two integrated air intakes mounted in the rear quarter panel. This creates a clean path for the air to flow along the bodywork with minimal drag, directing air to the flying buttresses at the rear of the cabin which optimise air flow over the rear deck to increase downforce levels and aid engine cooling. An integrated spoiler at the trailing edge of the rear deck provides optimal downforce.

2016 McLaren 540C Exterior
- image 627396

The 540C Coupé is fitted with distinctive new cast alloy wheels, available with silver or stealth finish, 19-inch at the front and 20-inch at the rear. These are fitted with Pirelli P Zero™ tyres as standard, which have been developed specifically for the Sports Series to offer high levels of performance in all conditions, with progressive levels of grip and a focus on comfort. The 540C retains the Formula 1™-derived Brake Steer system, designed to aid cornering through the application of braking force to the inside rear wheel. This enables later braking into corners, and earlier application of power on exit.

The 540C features a newly-developed suspension system ensuring enhanced levels of driver engagement and refinement on both road and track. The system uses front and rear anti-rollbars Formula 1™- style dual wishbones and independent adaptive dampers. The damper tuning has been revised on 540C, over 570S, with more focus on day-to-day road driving. Adaptive dampers offer control over bump and rebound settings using the familiar McLaren ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Track’ handling settings, with the Sports Series having its own unique damper settings. In ‘Normal’ mode, the system provides a refined yet engaging ride, while the ‘Sport’ and ‘Track’ settings allow a greater level of focus and engagement when required. Twin damper valves ensure precise control, while dual wishbone suspension provides optimised levels of ride quality and driver feedback.

2016 McLaren 540C Exterior
- image 627395

The interior of the Sports Series has been created with a focus on space and ergonomics, offering great outward visibility and interior space for occupants and their belongings. Organic curves carried inside from the exterior design bring delicate tension without aggression to ensure the cabin remains a welcoming environment.

Inside the cabin, the 540C Coupé is luxuriously appointed with leather upholstery to the seats, dashboard and lower doors as standard. The ‘floating’ centre console features a seven-inch IRIS touchscreen which controls all elements of the infotainment system. The air conditioning controls are also incorporated, as first seen on the McLaren P1™, minimising switchgear in the cabin. The touchscreen also controls the standard DAB digital radio, as well as satellite navigation, Bluetooth telephony and media streaming, voice activation and the audio media player. The IRIS system also includes the electronic owner’s manual.

The McLaren 540C Coupé is the second model to join the Sports Series, and sits alongside the 570S Coupé. Both models are available to order from the dedicated global McLaren retail network, operating in every major automotive market, in more than 30 countries. Pricing for the 540C Coupé starts from £126,000.

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Press release

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