A Lamborghini? No, it’s a McLaren!

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IS THAT a Lamborghini, asked the guy at the car park as I emerged from the low-slung two-seater coupe.

No, it’s a McLaren, I answered. I felt obliged to add that it’s a British sports car brand which is doing rather well at the moment, because he clearly thought McLaren made prams.

He’s not alone, for McLarens are still rare on our roads, which is one of the attractions for wealthy individuals looking for something quick, exotic and unusual.

The reason he thought it was a Lamborghini was the vivid Orville-the-duck green paint job. In truth this car costs a lot less than its Italian rival, but offers performance figures to entertain a petrol-head for hours.

Top speed 204mph, 60mph in 3.2 seconds, 570 brake horse power and, amazingly, 38mpg on a country run. OK, so you may average 26mpg and get as little as 17mpg in town, and the emissions (249g/km) are high, too.

But in the world of high-powered sports cars, they are more than acceptable figures. The list price of £143,250 is positively affordable compared to motoring aristrocracy such as Ferrari and Lamborghini.

To be honest, this car doesn’t need lurid green to be noticed. Or vivid orange. It got just as many second and third glances in grey. I think I’d prefer orange, purely for historical reasons (it was McLaren’s racing team colours).

I loved it for lots of reasons: performance, style, the thundering engine note, the easy way it drives and, most of all, for its doors, which are both a work of art and a feat of engineering. Scissor doors, as they are called, open upwards and you need the litheness of a gymnast to get out gracefully. Me? I settled for an ungraceful roll and hoped people were still occupied by the verdant paint job.

It isn’t a car anyone would ever use as an everyday motor. But you could, as long as you remember to hit the ‘lift’ button which hoists the car by four inches to avoid road humps.

It is happy to pootle, but of course if you want to go quickly, the McLaren will oblige. The engine note is astonishing. The handling is firm, very firm, but somehow still comfortable.

If you do have £146,000 going spare and you fancy a very quick car, you will need to do a history lesson for everyone will ask you questions.

In short, McLaren Automotive is a British manufacturer of luxury, high-performance sports and super cars, located at the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking, Surrey.

For the past 30 years, McLaren has pioneered the use of carbon fibre in vehicle production and since introducing a carbon chassis into racing and road cars with the 1981 McLaren MP4/1 and 1993 McLaren F1 respectively, McLaren has not built a car without a carbon fibre chassis.

Following the global launch of McLaren Automotive in 2010, the 12C was revealed in 2011, the 12C Spider in 2012, and the limited-run McLaren P1 went into production in 2013. In keeping with its plan to introduce a new model each year, the company unveiled the 650S, in Coupe and Spider form in 2014, while 2015 proved to be a year of unprecedented growth with five new models.

The limited edition 675LT Coupe premiered at the Geneva Motor Show alongside the track-only McLaren P1 GTR which, with 1,000PS, became the most powerful model ever produced by the brand.

The Sports Series became the third – and final – model tier in the McLaren range with the 570S Coupe and 540C Coupe debuting in New York and Shanghai respectively, less than a month apart. The end of the year saw the launch of the fifth model, the 675LT Spider, which was as a direct response to customer demand.

McLaren 570S Coupe

PRICE: £143,250

ENGINE: A 3,799cc eight-cylinder unit delivering 570bhp via seven-speed gearbox to the rear wheels

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 204mph and 0 to 60mph in 3.2 seconds

COSTS: Town 17.1mpg; country 38.2mpg; combined 26.4mpg

EMISSIONS: 249g/km

INSURANCE: Group 50E

WARRANTY: Three years’ unlimited mileage

In a nutshell: a stunning, graceful high-performance car capable of explosive power and guaranteed to turn heads

ALTERNATIVES:

Aston Martin DB11: At £154,000 it’s more expensive and it’s also slower. But it runs the McLaren close in style and ability.

Ferrari California: Again, more expensive at £155,000. It offers similar performance to the McLaren and has plenty of glamour.

Maserati GranCabrio: It starts at under £100,000 but it is a slouch compared to the McLaren. Looks good for the money.