As the brand’s first open-cockpit road car, the Elva adds a new dimension to the range-topping Ultimate Series lineage. Like its McLaren P1TM, McLaren Senna and Speedtail predecessors, volume of the new McLaren Elva will be strictly limited: just 399 are being offered for customer order. The new McLaren Elva is a ferociously fast open-cockpit car; an extreme two-seater with a bespoke carbon fibre chassis and body but no roof, no windscreen and no side windows. With every sensory input heightened, this is a car that exists to provide unparalleled driving pleasure on road or track.
A 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged McLaren V8 from the same family of engines that powers the McLaren Senna and Senna GTR combines with the lightest vehicle weight of any road car produced by McLaren Automotive to give the superlight new Ultimate Series roadster truly breathtaking performance across the board, with extraordinary levels of acceleration, agility and driver feedback.
The appearance of the McLaren Elva is as striking and unique as the driving experience. The low nose and pronounced front fender peaks provide visual drama and at the same time enhance forward vision. Large, carbon fibre rear fenders flow from the front of the door to the rear deck, while the height of the twin rear buttresses is minimised by using a deployable roll-over protection system. Helmets can be worn if preferred, but the form and sculpture of the upper cabin wraps around the driver and passenger to provide a secure environment. A fixed windscreen derivative of the car is also available for most markets as a factory option.
World-first aero protection
A true connection with the elements is integral to the McLaren Elva driving experience but that hasn’t stopped McLaren innovating a world-first, the Active Air Management System (AAMS) to enhance driving pleasure. The system channels air through the nose of the Elva to come out of the front clamshell at high velocity ahead of the occupants before being directed up over the cockpit to create a relative ‘bubble’ of calm. The system comprises a large central inlet situated above the splitter, a front clamshell outlet vent and a discreet carbon fibre deflector that raises and lowers vertically; when the AAMS is active, the deflector is deployed at the leading edge of the bonnet outlet, rising 150mm into the freestream to create a low-pressure zone at the vent.
The vented air is directed through a 130-degree radius, using a network of transverse and longitudinally mounted carbon fibre vanes across the bonnet outlet; distributing the airflow both in front of and along the side of the cabin further assists air management in the cabin environment. At urban speeds, when the level of airflow into the cabin means the AAMS is not needed, the system is inactive. As vehicle speed increases, the AAMS automatically deploys and remains active until speed reduces, at which point the deflector retracts. The system can also be button-deactivated by the driver.
Aesthetic and technical design in harmony
McLaren’s design philosophy intrinsically links aesthetic design and technical design, rather than separating the disciplines of design and engineering as is commonplace in the automotive industry. The AAMS is an example of the results of this harmonious approach, being perfectly integrated within the aerodynamic and cooling functionality of the McLaren Elva.
When the AAMS is inactive, the central duct is sealed, diverting air flow into the low-temperature radiators and increasing their cooling efficiency. To provide optimal packaging conditions for the AAMS, the McLaren Elva features twin low-temperature radiators (LTRs) positioned ahead of each front wheel. The new cores used in these LTRs contribute to the engine’s 815PS power output by reducing charge air temperature and also cool the oil in the seven-speed seamless shift transmission.
In addition to housing the AAMS, the front clamshell features deep contours that guide air into a discreet duct in the leading edge of each carbon fibre door – notably the lightest that McLaren has ever created. This captured cooling air is then directed into the two rear-mounted, powertrain-cooling, high-temperature radiators (HTRs) located just ahead of the rear wheels. A second, lower duct that starts inside the front wheelarch also channels air through the bodyside to the HTRs, which are additionally fed through the visible main side intakes. Intakes on the rear of each buttress channel combustion air into exposed air filters under the tonneau, which feed the carbon fibre engine plenum.
The trailing edge of the bodywork features a full-width active rear spoiler, the height and angle of which are adjusted simultaneously to optimise aero balance. Airbrake functionality improves braking from high speeds, the range of operation varying according to whether the AAMS is active. The rear diffuser works in conjunction with the active rear spoiler. The McLaren Elva has a completely flat underfloor until the point by the rear axle at which the diffuser starts and increases in height to accelerate air out from under the vehicle. The diffuser features vertical ‘fences’ to guide the airflow without reducing the air evacuation path and these combine with the rear bumper side extensions to further improve the aerodynamic efficiency.
Designed to deliver an elemental driving experience
Highlighting the intensity of the driving experience through the direct connection to the elements, there is no clear demarcation between the exterior of the McLaren Elva and the interior. The uppermost sections of the carbon fibre doors simply curve over and flow down into the cabin, the light, stiff and strong composite material providing the perfect properties to form such enticing shapes and forms. Complementing this unique design feature, the buttresses behind the driver and passenger also flow into the cabin behind the seats. While ensuring the driver and passenger remain exposed to the elements, the sculpture of the wraparound upper cabin environment enhances the feeling of security and protection within a cocooned interior.
Ahead of the driver and passenger, the view forward is unprecedented, with the dashboard seamlessly flowing down into the cabin and around to meet the swooping doors. The shapes are organic and natural – almost pebble-like – with the only interruption to their smooth forms the instrument cluster that stands proud, moving with the steering wheel to optimise visibility of vehicle data for the driver.
Stowage space is offered beneath the rear tonneau. Crafted from carbon fibre, the curving single-piece panel is operated manually and secured with soft-close latches. Elegant and lightweight, it further reduces weight at one of the highest points of the McLaren Elva. The compartment under the tonneau has space for helmets and also houses the porthole-like panels that showcase the two visible air filters – a fine example of the McLaren design principle of exposing functional engineering.
A portfolio of bespoke interior materials will be available for the new McLaren Elva, allowing customers to personalise their car according to its intended use. Interior leathers in a range of finishes and levels of protection – including an Enhanced Full Aniline leather with a second protective layer to the leather – have been developed to meet the requirements of the open-cockpit car. Additionally, a new technical interior material, Ultrafabrics®, is another innovation for the car. This breathable synthetic material offers a very different proposition to leather; comprising four layers, the outer two surfaces providing durability and moisture resistance and the inner layers adding a reinforced rayon-fibre base and cushioning, the Ultrafabrics® helps to ‘grip’ you in the seat.
Ultimate, immersive performance
The core of the McLaren Elva is – as with every McLaren road or race car since 1981 – a carbon fibre monocoque. This state-of-the-art ‘tub’ is incredibly strong and stiff, and its inherent properties mean an open-top roadster does not require any additional strengthening as would be the case with a vehicle built from aluminium or steel. Conversely, despite its rigidity, carbon fibre is also incredibly light, helping to reduce the overall vehicle weight.
To that effect carbon fibre has also been used extensively throughout the McLaren Elva. The entire body is carbon, and McLaren has pushed the limits of the material to not only create incredible sculpted forms, but to also reduce weight. The front clamshell, for instance, is just 1.2mm thick and meets all of McLaren’s structural integrity targets – yet it forms an astonishing one-piece panel that wraps around the entire nose of the vehicle and provides a clean, uninterrupted vision without any panel joins. Perhaps even more impressive are the body side panels, which are each over three metres long and stretch from the front wheels, past the side intakes, around the rear tonneau cover and all the way until the active rear spoiler.
The power of the McLaren Elva is complemented by a chassis set-up that maximises agility and driver engagement and feedback, enhancing the incredibly immersive and enthralling driving experience. Electro-hydraulic steering provides the purest feedback, as expected of a car when the open-cockpit design positions the driver so close to the elements. State-of-the-art McLaren linked-hydraulic fully active suspension offers a staggering breadth of ability on all road surfaces, with both unique software settings and bespoke springs and damper valving matched to the extremely light overall vehicle weight.
The new Ultimate Series McLaren is priced from £1,425,000 including UK VAT, the final specification is determined by customer choice, with infinite possibilities in terms of personalisation by McLaren Special Operations (MSO) to ensure each Elva is unique.