2018 McLaren 540 C Coupe Review

McLaren 540 C Coupe Road Test Review

McLaren 540C Coupé front 3434

McLaren 540 C Coupe is the entry level model from McLaren, developed a few short years ago, but feels like it has a long heritage from the McLaren history.

Bruce McLaren, born in 1937, was a F1 driver, then racing team owner, car designer and visionary. Unfortunately he died in 1970, but his vision ultimately led to the release of the legendary McLaren F1 in 1992.

With a chequered history the recent versions of McLaren sports cars are produced by McLaren Automotive which was re-launched as a standalone manufacturer in 2010.

McLaren 540C Coupé door up


The McLaren 540C Coupé is styled for a purpose, however one that is different to other super sports cars. That is to be easier to live with on a daily basis.

Unlike many others, the 540C Coupé is beautiful from any angle. It has a low, rounded shape with design features that are not only stylish, but purposeful as well. It is simple yet elegant.

There is no door handle as such, more a button under the side scoop, and the rear wings funnel air flow to the engine.

The vehicle, to my mind, looks best from the side and rear. It is simply elegant.

The overall look is enhanced by the 5 double spoke alloys running Pirelli P ZERO 225/35/R19 and 285/35/R20 tyres.

McLaren 540C Coupé LHD Interior


An elegant entry and exit is reserved for those that are 170cm tall and weigh about 85kg. Other than that, especially for someone my size, it’s an exercise in acrobatics in a way my body just shouldn’t bend.

Once you are inside it is surprisingly roomy and I didn’t feel confined too much. There is actually plenty of head room and shoulder room, more inside than a Mazda MX-5 or a Toyota 86. The pedals are close together though.

The thick leather steering wheel is pleasantly free of adornments, fulfilling a singular purpose. The dash similar in function, framed perfectly by the steering wheel.

Overall visibility is excellent unlike some similar cars where all you can see is straight in front of you and nothing else. The nose does slip away and you have no idea where it is but judgement comes quickly to the forefront. Rear view mirrors both internally and externally do a commendable job and you can actually see over your shoulder.

The centre console with the transmission buttons works well enough but the centre stack is clumsy and it lets down an overall great package. I never did get to hook up my phone and finding a radio station wasn’t high on the priority list.

The seats were amazingly comfortable and the air conditioner was great. One problem was that you actually can’t see the switches for the electronic adjustment for the seats, so you are flying blind while trying to find the driving position.

The overall ambiance internally though was sporty, comfortable and functional.

McLaren 540C Coupé engine

Drive and Engine

Powered by a mid-engine configured 3.8L V8 producing 397kW/540 Nm.  The 540C Coupé  will run from 0-100kmh in 3.5 seconds and top out at 320 kmh. Importantly it will also run from 100 – 0 kmh in 3.1 seconds in 34 metres. Outstanding!

Driving the rear wheels through a 7- speed Seamless Shift dual clutch Gearbox (SSG), the shifts are truly seamless.  As you would expect the transmission also extracts the best from the engine.

With carbon fibre construction and a MonoCell II chassis with a dry weight of only 1,350kg the McLaren is definitely a lightweight but with awesome power to weight ratio. Suspension is double wishbone with Adaptive Dampers, along with an open differential with Brake Steer.

Fuel consumption is something to chat about. The official figures are urban 16.6/100km, extra urban 8.1/100km and combined 11.1/100km.  CO2 Emissions are 258 g/km. This will change dramatically depending on how enthusiastic you are with your right foot.

Exhilarating yet sane. Here is a super sports car that you can genuinely drive around like a normal V8.

The ride in normal setting is compliant over bumps and you don’t need a kidney belt like you do with others. Of course switch to sport or track and the ride changes, but you have the choice. Same with the transmission, leave it in ‘N’ and the world is smooth, easy and fun.

However you have the choice to go from normal to insane and if you switch the traction control off, downright dangerous. Power is delivered in a smooth and linear fashion, there is not an ounce of being temperamental.

Feedback through the steering wheel is superb as is the direct response to input.

Driving the McLaren 540C Coupé was FUN!


As you would expect, the McLaren 540C Coupé hasn’t been crash tested, but there are still a number of safety features, which is a good thing when you can travel at 320kmh.

There are airbags, traction control (please leave it on), active torque transfer, ABD and ESC. Unfortunately that’s about it.

Good Bits:

  • Stunning design style
  • Amazingly practical
  • Engine note

Not so Good Bits:

  • Not designed for taller drivers
  • The centre stack system
  • Giving it back

McLaren 540C Coupé rear


Well what can I say? I loved the McLaren 540C Coupé, where most super sports cars I can take or leave, mostly leave.

Here is a sports car that you can actually drive around town on a daily basis, yet head for the open road or race track and experience levels of exhilaration that only a few ever do.

This is a super sports car designed as an entry level to the marque and for those that want to enjoy their car on a more practical level. For that purpose it is beautifully designed and executed.

Also look at:

Facts and Figures: McLaren 540C Coupé

  • Engine: 3.8L V8 petrol producing 397kW/540Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic RWD
  • Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
  • Safety: TBA
  • Origin: England
  • Price: from $325,000

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