First off, here’s the geography lesson.
Curaçao is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea and thanks to the adventurous Dutch explorers and traders of previous generations, is part of the group of territories formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles.
However, the name is probably better known in this country as a blue-coloured liqueur which makes its way into some devilish cocktails and is sometimes cursed the following day.
Or…it’s one of the new colours which the supercar company McLaren have given to their latest stunning machine. The 570S Spider is a two-piece retractable hardtop version bristling with the dynamic qualities and refinement of its sister Coupe and GT but with the added exhilaration of open-air driving.
The dramatic new colour is one of three to join the existing 20-colour palette and it is electrifying, which appropriately sums up the new car and gives an idea of the performance you can expect on the road.
McLaren 570S Spider
Engine: 3.8-litre, V8, twin-turbo petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, rear wheel drive
Top speed: 204 mph
CO2 emissions: 249 g/km
The 570S Spider is the latest in McLaren’s entry-level Sports Series, which although expensive, could be more within the reach of committed sportscar enthusiasts who might otherwise look to the Italian Ferrari or Lamborghini or the German Porsche 911 or Audi R8.
It’s going to go down a storm and the biggest problem for customers won’t be gathering the cash to pay for one, it’ll be getting their name on the order form in the first place.
McLaren production is strictly limited. They’re pretty much at full pelt to turn out their hand-built 12-model range and most of them have already been sold or accounted for. The company sold almost 3,300 cars last year and say they will make a maximum total of 5,000 cars a year when they eventually hit peak production.
They have increased their workforce to try to keep up with demand. In addition to their main production centre in Surrey, they are opening a second centre at Rotherham in Yorkshire to produce their signature carbon-fibre tub cockpits which form the chassis of all their cars.
It’s a remarkable success story. Formed just seven years ago, McLaren Automotive are already in their fourth year of profitability, and looking to a strong future, investing around £129 million a year – about 20 per cent of their turnover – in R&D.
So I was more than happy to join motoring writers from around the world to get the first look at their latest car before its global release. To ensure we got the most from the drop-top, we were set free on a 400-kilometre route around the fabulous roads of the Catalonian countryside north of Barcelona.
There were several things which stood out about my test car apart from its eye-catching paintjob. The big silver brake calipers blinked out from behind the huge diamond cut alloy wheels, which looked every bit their £4,240 price tag and before I’d even hit the road the distinctive dihedral doors made it look as if the car was preparing to fly.
Once on the move the sensational rasp from the double sports exhaust burbled and roared at the rear end and with the roof down I got the full wonderful effect, especially when heading through the numerous tunnels where I admit I gave the throttle an extra blip for the full reverberation. I felt it almost justified its additional £3,370 cost.
If you’re unlucky with the weather and you have to keep the roof up, there’s an electrically-operated, glazed rear window which can be lowered for the full sound effect and acts as a wind deflector with the roof down.
The car is only slightly heavier than the hardtop versions but with the full grunt of the mid-engine 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 there’s no effect on performance. The seven-speed, seamless-shift gearbox is a delight and handles effortlessly different driving styles or is happy to hand over control through the paddle shifts on the steering column. The suspension and performance can be adapted through the active dynamics panel for Normal, Sport or Track modes so that the car can be just as home in everyday use as it is flat out on a racetrack.
It felt beautifully balanced on the open road and superbly stable even when driven enthusiastically round tightening bends. I actually felt it was relishing the experience as much as I was with the sound of that beautiful exhaust note burbling just a few feet behind me.
In some of the quiet villages, it looked like the rash of speed bumps might prove a challenge to the car’s low clearance but the car had an optional steering-mounted lever to raise the nose to avoid teeth-gritting scrapes to the underside.
The car looks great from every angle with none of the aggressively sharp features of the Italian competition. Those dihedral doors are sculpted into the flow of the whole body to increase performance, with floating tendons which channel air to high-temperature radiators through feather-shaped air intakes.
When the roof is closed, its lines mirror the Coupe’s and with it open, it highlights the two buttresses that taper into the bodywork either side of the engine lurking deep inside the machine.
The interior is relatively simple without the utilitarian look of some other flying supermachines. There’s a floating centre console with all the business controls and I like the mix of traditional craftsmanship such as hand-stitched leather trim on the hugging seats, sitting alongside advanced technology like the 10-inch instrument cluster and touchscreen.
Storage area inside is limited to a small space behind the seats but the loadspace under the bonnet can take a surprising amount of gear like two largish squashable bags and a rollalong case.
With its great motorsport pedigree McLaren’s aim is to put the driver at the centre of the action to produce something they rightly call “pure and fun”. And oh boy, in this car there are bucketloads of that.