The Senna really comes to life on a circuit. Popping the car into Race mode lowers the Senna by 50mm and, thanks to underfloor wizardry, is responsible for creating 60% of the car’s total downforce. There are active aero elements front and rear, including a 20deg variance in the rear wing angle. And this is the kind of approach that begets walloping lap times: add power, forget hybridisation, take out a load of weight and add aero. It’s why the Lamborghini Huracán Performante laps faster than any of the famed hypercar trio: LaFerrari, Porsche 918 and McLaren’s own P1. And why a McLaren 675 LT would be as quick around the same circuit as a P1, for example.
And now, the Senna eclipses that. By a distance.
It has, as standard, a new compound and design of Pirelli Trofeo tyre (you can get more ordinary Pirellis as a no-cost option), which mean it can pull 0.3g (10mph) more than a 720S in high-speed corners and 0.2g (5mph) in lower speed ones. A P1 is, typically, ‘merely’ around 0.2g and 0.1g quicker than a 720S respectively.
And then there are the Senna’s going and stopping credentials. That power is up by 9% over the 720S doesn’t sound like a lot, but to try it on circuit is to whack into the soft rev limiter repeatedly, rather than never get there, as you do on the road. It’s odd: there are cars with half of the Senna’s 789bhp where you’d hesitate to extend your throttle foot. But there’s such a smoothness and reassurance in the Senna’s delivery that it’s easy to trust it.
McLaren’s approach to the transmission is as it usually is: that V8 drives the back wheels only, through a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. McLaren knows its way around this power unit (or different units, it would say, because of the many internal differences) to the extent that using it is as straightforward as in a 570S, only turned up to warp speed. It’s nothing like, say, a similarly powered Ferrari F12tdf or Aston Martin Vulcan in that respect. You want to use 789bhp? Just have it. Oh, there’s the soft limiter. Click a paddle and help yourself to another 789bhp.
If there’s a more approachable car with this level of power, I haven’t driven it, so the engine isn’t what is shocking about the Senna.
Nor is it the hydraulically assisted steering, which is responsive yet smooth, deadly accurate and feelsome, and perhaps the best power steering set-up in existence today. And neither is it the low-speed cornering, during which the Senna feels to the 720S like a Lotus 2-Eleven does to an Elise.
The intrinsic McLaren character is there: the incisive turn-in, the accuracy with which it can be placed, the resistance to roll and yet the compliance over bumps, but it’s all amplified on account of the weight reduction.
You feel that so very, very much – much more than the power. If you were given the choice of more power or less weight, one corner would be enough for you to pick the weight loss, every time. But all of this comes in a faintly reassuring character that you can feel in every McLaren from the 540C upwards.