First launched in 2015, Mclaren’s 540C is the affordable, road-friendly option in the British company’s stable. Much of the 540C is shared with the 570S, including its high-tech chassis, V8 engine, and 7-speed gearbox. And all of that comes with a £20,000 savings over the 570. So, what’s the catch? Well, it turns out there are only a few small compromises one has to make in trading down to the 540C.
For starters, the mid-mounted 3.8 litre V8 with two turbochargers has been shorn of 30 bhp, producing a mere 533 horsepower. Aiding those horsepower is the car’s amazingly light weight, thanks to its carbon fibre MonoCell chassis, which weighs less than 80kg. That amazingly lightweight chassis helps the 540C achieve a low, low 1,438-kg kerb weight. Performance is not what you would normally expect from a bargain-basement model, with 124 mph arriving in just 10.5 seconds and a top speed of 199 mph. Instead of carbon-fibre brakes, however, the 540C makes do with the more plebeian cast iron variety, meaning it will likely not hold up to track use as well as the 570S.

Another difference between the 570S and 540C lies in the suspension tuning; the 540C’s adaptive dampers are tuned to a softer setting, meaning the 540 is better suited for road driving than most other McLarens. That’s not to say that the 540C isn’t perfectly at home on the track, though. Far from it, with McLaren touting the car’s track prowess in most literature they produce. As far as styling goes, there is little differentiating the two models; a new front splitter, a dearth of exterior badges on the 540C, and a slightly less luxurious cabin.

In sum, opting for the 540C instead of the 570S means missing out on 30 bhp, carbon brakes, a track-tuned suspension, and a couple interior niceties. If you are fine with making those concessions, I think you will find that this everyday McLaren offers an appealing blend of practicality and performance. With prices starting at £126,000, the most affordable McLaren is still a McLaren, after all. While the 540C was designed mainly to appeal to Asian markets, the proposition still seems to have plenty of appeal worldwide (except in the U.S., where the 540C isn’t offered).

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