As well as extra power, Abt’s latest tuned Audi wears a new set of wheels with a carbonfibre aero lip
In the beginning there was F1, followed 15 years later by the P1 and soon after came the 675LT, a mighty line-up of no holds barred performance cars from McLaren. Now there is Senna. Or rather: the Senna. The most extreme McLaren road car to date, Senna has been designed to be the quickest track car possible. And the name is no meaningless cash-in, either. Ayrton’s nephew Bruno Senna has been instrumental in the car’s development and McLaren Automotive has worked closely with the Senna Foundation in order to be able to use the name. A financial contribution will be made to the Senna Foundation for the sale of all the cars.
What will each owner who takes delivery of a Senna be getting, exactly? A 789bhp, 590lb ft, 11198kg (dry) mid-engined road car that looks like it has driven straight out of an LMP pit lane, that’s what. It may have a passing resemblance to the current cars that are produced in McLaren’s Woking factory, but when you start to pick up the details it’s clear the Senna is something very special.
Aerodynamics are why the Senna looks the way it does, designed to produce genuine performance enhancing downforce for the track via active-aerodynamics like no other seen on a road car.
An ankle height splitter combined with over-sized intakes dominate the front end, and within each outer opening are the active flaps and winglets to direct the air either under and through the body for aero purposes, or into the radiators and oil coolers for the powertrain. The latter’s warm air is forced out of the opening in the front bonnet area and over the roof of the car, neatly missing the engine’s roof mounted air intake that captures the cooling air flowing that’s required. Turbulent and disruptive air built up within the front wheel arch is accelerated out through the opening in the back of the front wheel arches
Along the flanks of the Senna two further intakes suck air through to the engine bay and out through a set of staggered louvers on top of the engine cover, or under the car and through the single piece double diffuser positioned at the rear of the car. And then there is the twin-plane rear wing, that’s fixed to the bodywork by two pylons that attach themselves to the top of the wing rather than in the more tradition position under it. This allows for an uninterrupted 6,500 square centimetre surface area.
Playing an integral role in the Senna’s active aerodynamics, the rear wing is hydraulically controlled and constantly moves to suit the driving situation. In its most upright position it sits 1.2-metres above the ground, can angle through nearly 90-degress when working as an airbrake, and is also part of a drag reduction system (DRS).
Built around MonoCell III, McLaren’s lightest and stiffness carbon-fibre tub, the Senna’s bodywork is also made exclusively from carbon fibre in a bid for ultimate lightness. How light, exactly? The front wings weigh just 600grams compared to the 2kg that the same item on a 720S weighs.
Behind the bulkhead of MonoCell II is the latest iteration of McLaren’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, albeit one that has had every possible component lightened. The results are a formidable 789bhp and 590lb ft of torque – up 79bhp and 47lb ft respectively over a 720S – and a power to weight ratio of 669bhp. The company’s seven-speed double clutch gearbox is retained, but modified accordingly to suit the engine’s increased performance.
Retaining the double-wishbone set-up with hydraulic dampers and anti-roll bars, the Senna also features the latest evolution of the variable stiffness and ride height technology first introduce on the P1. The engineers have further developed the Race active chassis control II system (RCC II), primarily to work with the increase in aerodynamic loads that will be forced through the chassis. The active dynamic system now also features a Race mode accompanying the Comfort, Sport and Track options we’ve become accustomed to. In Race the dampers switch to their stiffest setting as well as the ride height dropping 50mm.
Behind the nine-spoke, centre-lock alloy wheels (which are equipped with McLaren specific Pirelli Trofeo Rs) is a set of the latest carbon-ceramic brakes, with discs that reach their peak operating performance at a temperature 150-degrees lower than McLaren’s normal ceramics. They are also lighter, but do take seven months to manufacturer instead of one…
Functional is how best to describe the interior. Carbon and Alcantara are the materials of choice. There is also number of neat touches to mark Senna out as something special. The door ‘handle’ for example is a switch positioned in the roof along with the engine stop/start button, controls for the air-con fan and the switch to enable Race mode. In fact there’s nothing fixed to the doors aside from the visible gas strut, painted blue on this car to match the contrasting colour used to pick out its active aerodynamic components. The gear selector panel is also fixed to the driver’s seat and moves fore and aft with it. The flip instrument display is from the 720S. Being a car designed for the track, the Senna has no luggage storage except room for two crash helmets and races suits to be stored behind the seats in the rear bulkhead. And the front number is fixed to a removable bracket to optimise airflow when driving on track.
The Senna is dripping in detail, all of it functional, all of it necessary to be the most extreme and fastest road going McLaren the company has built. In the carbon fibre it looks brutal. To sit in it feels every inch the perfect driver’s car. The lucky 500 who have been notified by McLaren that their order has been accepted (they are, unfortunately all sold) will be owners of one the most extreme road cars of 2018 and for many years to come.
At last – Evo’s review of the Alpine A110 – And it sounds like a cracker!
A very strong return for the Alpine brand. Lighter, faster and in many ways better to drive than an entry-level 718 Cayman.
+ Absence of weight provides exceptional agility; quick; sounds great for a four-cylinder – Luggage space is limited; brand lacks ultimate credibility (for the time being)
The A110 is the first all-new Alpine in two decades, and it marks a welcome return for one of France’s most iconic sports car brands. The car itself is a rear-wheel-drive mid-engined two-seater made largely from aluminium to ensure its kerb weight is kept to a bare minimum. With fluids it weighs just 1103kg, which makes it significantly lighter than a Porsche 718 Cayman or Audi TT RS. When it goes on sale in the UK next year the A110 will cost a whisker under £50,000.
The Alpine A110’s mid-engined chassis, its all-round double-wishbone suspension and most of its body panels are fashioned almost entirely from aluminium, hence the impressively low kerb weight. The engine is a new 1.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo unit that will eventually come in various power outputs, starting with the base version here that has 249bhp. This entry-level motor gives a power-to-weight ratio of 229bhp per ton, which just edges the 225bhp per ton of an entry-level 718 Cayman.
There are three different drive modes to choose from – Normal, Sport and Track. In each, the parameters for the engine, gearbox, steering, exhaust, ESC and electronic differential alter to suit the conditions and/or your desires. But the dampers remain unchanged throughout, Alpine wanting to maintain a degree of comfort, as well as control, no matter which mode the driver selects.
Alpine also wanted to keep the aesthetics of the A110 as clean as possible, hence the lack of a rear wing. Instead, there is a functional rear diffuser and some clever aerodynamics at both ends that help generate the required stability at high speed while reducing drag at all speeds.
An electronic (rather than mechanical) differential, complete with a torque-vectoring function, can tickle the rear brakes to minimise traction loss – effectively doing the job of a proper limited-slip diff but without the added weight and with added control under braking and during turn in.
Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time
The A110 is powered by a new 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine with a single turbocharger and direct injection. In the fullness of time this engine will produce 300bhp-plus, says Alpine, but for now it offers 249bhp at 6000rpm and 236lb ft at just 2000rpm. That’s sufficient energy to propel the lightweight A110 to 62mph in a claimed 4.5sec and to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
Emissions and economy are highly competitive, with a claimed 46.3mpg combined economy figure and 138g/km of CO2. Somewhat controversially, perhaps, the A110 is not available with a manual gearbox, Alpine instead going with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox by Getrag, complete with column-mounted aluminium shift paddles behind the wheel.
What’s it like to drive?
Pretty sensational, if we’re being honest. In simple terms, we reckon the A110 could well be a better sports coupe than the 718 Cayman, full stop. That is saying something, but we really do mean it.
How so? Well not only does the A110 weigh several hundred kilograms less than a 718, it also has a higher power-to-weight ratio and carries far less inertia around with it, so it’s quicker and more agile. It also makes a much nicer noise, is built to a surprisingly high standard and, to some eyes, looks rather lovely too.
And despite its relatively tiny dimensions, the A110 doesn’t feel small or cramped inside, either. Alpine MD Michael van de Sande is a towering six foot seven inches tall and he fits into it, just, so for anyone of remotely regular proportions there is plenty of room in which to operate. Not that the A110 feels in any way clinical on the move, anything but.
Press the starter button and there’s a distinctive, surprisingly loud burst of noise from behind as the 249bhp 1.8-litre turbo engine settles to a meaningful burble at idle. Engage first via the right-hand paddleshifter – as we’ve said, there is no manual gearbox option, instead you get a dual-clutch transmission, like it or not – and the moment the A110 starts to move it feels correct, feels right, feels great. As only the very best-sorted performance cars do.
There’s a refreshing absence of inertia to it right from the word go, not just via the light but feelsome electrically assisted power steering but through the seats as well – through everything, in fact. And when you put your foot down it goes, properly, and sounds raspy and sporting and potent in a way that a Cayman never really does.
There’s a touch of lag but that’s OK. In a curious kind of way it almost adds to the A110’s overall appeal because when the torque arrives, it does so in a rush, in an old-fashioned kind of way, and you feel like you need to hold on tight to the reins just to keep up. Subjectively this makes the A110 feel both quicker and more exciting than a Cayman.
The gearbox works fine but isn’t a highlight. It’s fast, efficient, decent. But not mind-blowing, even though the auto blips on downshifts are well executed and there are some nice crackles to be heard on overrun in Sport and Track modes.
The chassis, on the other hand, is very much the star of the show. With a classic set-up of double unequal length wishbones at each corner and a lightweight aluminium body and frame, the A110 has all the credentials to deliver ride and handling greatness. But even so, the way in which it flows across the ground, ‘breathing’ with the road like only the best cars from Lotus did all those years ago, still comes as a very pleasant shock.
The steering is light, delicate and accurate, but delivers genuine feel through the rim, in all of its modes. You place the A110 to the nearest millimetre through most bends and have total faith in the front end because the turn-in response is so crisp, without being hyper-reactive.
At the same time the tail is also beautifully controlled, and very well balanced relative to the front end. And while all of this is going on there’s a fundamental composure to the ride that provides the A110 with a unique sense of maturity on the move. As a first-time effort it is phenomenally sharp, even if the amount of luggage space is a bit disappointing and the price seems a touch high for a relatively unknown brand.
Prices, specs and rivals
Alpine has yet to confirm an exact UK price, although the limited Premiere Edition launch model is listed at 58,500 euros. There will be just 1955 of these but they are all sold out.
The UK price of the regular A110 is due to come in at a whisker under £50,000, which will make it more expensive than the less well equipped entry-level 718 Cayman (£42,897) and a touch more than the more powerful (394bhp) but also far heavier Audi TT RS (£52,100).
Check out the WorldRX style “drift stick” on the Focus… That’ll be fun!