McLaren Senna 1st Drive

Collecting a McLaren Senna is unlike any other car handover I have experienced.  All in, it is an hour’s worth of instruction on the brilliance of how McLaren has repackaged a race car into a 3,030 pound road car.  Everything in the Senna has a purpose or it wouldn’t be there.  Every ounce or gram of weight has a reason for being included.  There is nothing superfluous on a Senna.  Even the mounts for the tow hook are hidden behind the vertical fin covers on the front splitter.  While the Senna shares the same dashboard and control layout logic with all the other 21stcentury McLarens, about a third of the controls sit in new locations, starting with the door releases, window controls, and starter button which are mounted above the rear view mirror.  While the 720S handover was a quick 5-minute discussion on what was different vs. the 650S and then we were on our way, the Senna handover felt very much like the first time I was briefed on driving a proper race car.  

Once Senna school was done, the mandatory 1stpictures taken, into the driver’s seat I not so delicately dropped for the 1stofficial drive.  The seats in the Senna are easily the most comfortable carbon fiber racing buckets I have ever sat in.  Given the thin pads, high tight seat sides, and hard carbon fiber shell, the level of comfort quite defies logic.  Mrs. SSO was also most pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the seats were.  Right foot firmly on the brake pedal then a quick stab of the starter button brought the twin turbo V8 to life.  The engine settled immediately into a deep rumble.  Next step, check and adjust the side mirrors, turn off the hated auto start/stop, activate manual mode, and adjust the temperature control.  Once all the controls were set, a tug of the tall right-hand carbon fiber paddle and off we started to roll.  As this was the Senna and my first time on the road together, the traction and gearbox settings both remained in comfort.  

My initial impressions after the first mile were just how easy and intuitive the Senna is to drive despite its huge intimidation factor.  It took me a month to get as comfortable in Ferrari F50 and the Jaguar XJR-15.  I don’t think I ever got there in the Koenigsegg CCR.  Forward and side visibility in the Senna is excellent and the Senna is quite easy to place on the road.  Rear view visibility is limited but, in this car, not that relevant. The combination of gorilla glass in both the roof panels and the lower doors adds a huge amount of light to the cabin giving it a feeling of spaciousness despite the tight confines.  We have both normal road seat belts as well as the six-point track harnesses mounted and the later tuck away conveniently behind the seats when not needed. Luggage space is extremely limited and two micro duffle bags might fit on the shelf behind the seats. Apparently long road trips were not part of the design brief.  

On the road the Senna is mind-bendingly quick. Plant your right foot and it instantly takes off.  Turbo lag is nearly imperceivable.  It’s a wondrous sound hearing the turbos spin up behind your head.  The gearbox, even in comfort mode, is quick and the cogs change all most instantly when you pull the paddles.  Do so when pushing a bit and you get a nice bang out the back with every tug.   We are still bedding in the brakes so just how good they are is still a bit of a mystery but right now they are more than fine for public road use.  The minimal sound deadening means that you get to hear much of what’s happening behind you which just serves to reinforce the intended purpose of the machine you are piloting.  In the Senna you feel glued to the road at all times which just builds your confidence to push it harder.  Steering, as per all the McLaren’s, is nicely weighted and provide excellent feedback.

We are really please with the way the spec turned out. Kyanos Blue suits the car and the limited use of orange on the brake caliper, door struts, and front splitter works well. I particularly like the orange pin holes on the seats and the orgy of carbon fiber everywhere in the passenger cabin.  For the first time, we had the Senna completely cover with paint protection film. Mrs. SSO is a big fan so far and called the Kyanos Blue Senna stunning so we are off to a good start.  In terms of next steps, it’s getting more seat time and getting to know the car. After that perhaps a short road trip and off to a track.

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December 2019

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