McLaren has continued its rapid range expansion with the unveiling of its new "entry-level" 540C Coupé at the Shanghai Auto Show. This isn't your average poverty-pack range starter, however, with the cheapest member of McLaren's Sport Series still capable of a 3.5 second sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) thanks to its twin-turbo V8 engine.
As is evident in the name, the latest addition to McLaren's model lineup is producing 540 ps (533 hp/397 kW) from the British brand's twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 motor. This is enough to shoot the 540C to 100 km/h in only 3.5 seconds, which is only 0.3 seconds slower than the 570S with which the 540C shares its V8 engine. Backing up its lightning-quick 0-100 km/h time is an equally impressive 0-200 km/h (124 mph) time of 10.5 seconds, and the car will keep on pulling to 320 km/h (199 mph).
Peak power is available at a lofty 7,500 rpm, while the V8's torque curve is incredibly flat, with the engine's full 540 Nm (398 ft lb) of torque available between 3,500 and 6,500 rpm. The 540C Coupé is also fitted with automatic start/stop technology for improved fuel economy, which McLaren says is 25.5 mpg (9.2 L/100 km) on the EU combined cycle.
As well as sharing a motor, the 540C and 570S are both built around McLaren's carbon fiber MonoCell II chassis. On top of making a safe, strong backbone for the car, the MonoCell is seriously light – in the 570S, it weighs less than 80 kg (176 lb).
Combined with the 540C's aluminum body panels, the lightweight MonoCell contributes to a dry weight of just 1,311 kg (2,890 lb), which McLaren claims is almost 150 kg (331 lb) lighter than its nearest competitor. Lightness aside, the 540C's chassis has been designed to allow easy ingress and egress from the cabin as McLaren chases greater everyday usability.
Containing all of that turbocharged power in the corners is the job of the 540C's newly developed suspension system, which combines front and rear anti-rollbars with double wishbones and fully independent adaptive dampers. The tuning of these dampers has been revised to provide a more comfortable experience than the setup in the 570S, although owners can make the car feel stiffer by putting it into Sport or Track mode.
Working with the adaptive damper system is McLaren's brake steer system, which allows drivers to get the power down earlier out of corners by braking the inside rear wheel.
Inside, McLaren has focused on providing owners with good exterior visibility and plenty of space – both of which add to the 540C's everyday drivability. The brand's IRIS touchscreen is the centerpiece of the floating center console, and allows owners to control everything from navigation to the air conditioning.
Styling-wise, the 540C looks very similar to its more expensive 570S stablemate, albeit with a few subtle aero tweaks. Unique aero blades sit below the bonnet, and have been tweaked to channel air through the lower bodywork and then over the bonnet.
So, how much will the entry level McLaren 540C Coupé cost you? At least £126,000 (approx. US$187,675), and the order books are already open.
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