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2021 McLaren Elva First Drive: $1.7 Million, No Windshield Included—Makes Perfect Sense

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source: https://www.motortrend.com/news/2021-mclaren-elva-first-drive-review/

Let's get right to it: The 2021 McLaren Elva is really, truly, absolutely wonderful. I'm trying to recall a time I felt this smitten after driving a car. Porsche Speedster? Yeah, that's the most recent one, the Speedster being as close to perfection as it gets. The new 2021 McLaren Elva tickles the same spot and goes a bit deeper. It might not be closer to perfection, but it sails down a different, more elemental branch of driving. It's more eccentric, with more whimsy, more of a wag, and more mischief, and again, it's just plain wonderful. Yes, the Elva stickers for $1.7 million (before options), and there's neither a windshield, a roof, or windows. Did I mention the carbon-fiber plaything makes 804 hp and is—with the exception of the F1—the lightest production McLaren ever built?

2021 McLaren Elva: The Air Out There

More quick points about the Elva, though if you like, just read Angus MacKenzie's first ride story and skip ahead.

Since there's no windscreen, there is McLaren's AAMS (Active Air Management System), a pop-up vent system that sucks air through the lower fascia then bends it 130 degrees through a series of vanes before releasing it over your head. The idea is to create an air curtain that acts as a virtual windscreen. More on the efficacy of AAMS in a bit, though it's worth pointing out now that the vent can't be placed in the erect position while the car is parked. In fact, it won't even deploy at all unless you press a button to the right of the steering wheel. If you're not moving, it still doesn't budge. Get to about 25 mph, and a hunk of gray carbon rises up from where the frunk would normally be. That's right, there's no cargo storage compartment. Well, there's a spot behind the seats to store a helmet—one helmet—and that's it. Should you need a suitcase, you must pay someone to follow you in another car. I mentioned the $1.7 million part, yeah?

2021 McLaren Elva Design Details

The Elva's exterior looks great. Not every single angle is a "wow," but certain points of view sure are; the front three-quarter and hard side views leap to mind. Designing a car without A-pillars must be quite the odd, if not herculean, task, yet McLaren pulled it off with aplomb.

The body features minimal cut lines, meaning the Elva is made up of just a few large carbon-fiber pieces. It's a rather voluptuously shaped automobile—the curves are incredible—as different-looking from the gorgeous 720S it shares a carbon tub with as it is from the Senna, which is also a platform-mate. Speaking of which, Rob Melville, McLaren's director of design, is responsible for all three of those cars. Hey, two out of three lookers ain't bad!

I had read up on how the McLaren Elva's exterior flows into its interior, and after driving the car I can tell you it's not marketing baloney. The effect is very cool, maybe even beyond cool. The same exquisite paintwork on the exterior is right in front of you; reach out your hand and you can touch it. The effect is near magic, and it's unique in the car world.

I think what I enjoy so much about the Elva is that it represents the way I'd design cars:

"Totally, we lose the windshield. But then let's have a giant pop-up thing that flows air up and over the cabin. A virtual windshield! And instead of taillights, how about we stick a beehive on the back bumper, and then the brake pedal works a little baseball bat that whacks the hive and sends out a swarm of bees! No, murder hornets—perfect! What about rockets—we need rockets!"

Does the AAMS actually work as advertised, creating a bubble of calm between 30 and 70 mph? No, of course not. Don't be silly. I mean, it does something; AAMS does seem able to deflect some air away from your hands (pro tip: both gloves and a helmet are essential), but that's basically the extent of it. Don't believe me? I was wearing a trucker's cap, about to leave McLaren Beverly Hills in the car, when a man who shall remain nameless came running up to whisper, "Listen, you can tighten your hat, but it's just gonna fly off." He was hella right. This fact doesn't bother me in the slightest, as it's the adolescent insanity behind the Elva's AAMS that counts.

The 2021 McLaren Elva Makes Ridiculous Sense

So much power, so little weight, such a fabulous driving machine. I'll admit to completely dismissing the Elva when I first saw photos of it: "Oh look, another practically useless plaything for gazillionaires. Just what the world doesn't need at all." All my British car friends disdain it because the car doesn't work for their stormy home country. (I should point out, though, that they revere the even more open Ariel Atom as some sort of holy object.) Los Angeles, San Diego, Scottsdale, and the Middle East are the only types of places the Elva makes any sense at all. And yes, this McLaren's price tag is as obnoxious as it is absurd. Then you think for a moment and you realize there are people in these places—not too many, but surely 149 wealthy souls, the same number of Elvas McLaren will build—who can afford to spend so much money on a car they'll only ever use when the mood strikes. Flip through any watch magazine and you'll see all sorts of six- and seven-figure watches. Watches. At least the Elva can crack 200 mph.

A McLaren With a Nice Interior!

The interior is aces, the best McLaren's ever done. By best I mean design, materials, wow factor, and execution. Let's be frank: McLarens have always had a whiff of kit car about them, even with Alcantara and carbon fiber covering most surfaces. There was something generic about the scattershot placement of the secondary controls and most of the buttons, and the iPad Mini-ness of the screen. The Elva changes all of that.

First of all, I can't repeat enough how the aforementioned blur between interior and exterior is the business. The seats are covered with a new material called Ultrafabric, a synthetic, vegan "leather" that looks and feels just like cow skin but supposedly wears much better. I can tell you that even after the Elva sat in direct sunlight for a few hours during a photoshoot on an unseasonably hot January day (87 degrees, only in L.A. ), the seats didn't burn me when it was time to get back in and drive. The Ultrafabric cooled off in record time, too. The air vents are encased in thick, honed pieces of aluminum, and they are great. Perhaps most amazing of all, both the air conditioning and the heater work, and work well.

More Elva Details

The usual McLaren carbon-fiber, wheel-mounted shift paddles have been replaced by stunning aluminum pieces, finished like the hands of a Grand Seiko Snowflake. (Look it up, speaking of fancy watches.) It's an exquisite, sublime touch that displays a level of refinement I didn't know the brand had in it.

Gone is McLaren's Active Dynamics Panel that allows you to tune handling and performance characteristics. The Elva is always in Active mode, and the switches are now two chunky knobs just behind the paddles. Twist one way for Sport and Track, the other to get back to Comfort. The nav screen is radically improved, and a birdie told me it is the same screen we'll see on the upcoming Artura hybrid.

One bad thing: The floormats are horrible and might be the worst in the whole car industry. Why? Because of the car's high side sills, you enter the Elva like you would a Lotus Elise: stepping over the sill to put both feet on the floor, grab the wheel, and then lower yourself down. The 2021 McLaren Elva's mats are held in place with two weak snaps, and they slide forward as you stand on them; I was sent flying several times. I'd replace them with grip tape, just like on the floor of a Lamborghini Aventador SV.

Spoiler

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Supersonic

There's a youtube video? I remember watching it and they almost hit a low flying bird. It's just not practical or safe w/o a windscreen with the kinda speed this car is capable of.

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Hypersonic (edited)

Get a bike instead. 

 

Passerby sure laugh at the driver wearing a helmet

Edited by Hamburger
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Supersonic
1 minute ago, Hamburger said:

Get a bike instead. 

Passerby sure laugh at the driver wearing a helmet

Similar to Caterham, cannot register in Singapore.

Ppl who laugh at this car is car idiots, sadly.

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Turbocharged
1 hour ago, inlinesix said:

Similar to Caterham, cannot register in Singapore.

Ppl who laugh at this car is car idiots, sadly.

People who laugh belongs to the world of practicability n don’t understand the rational of flowers vs the price spend can be use to buy fruits to eat

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3rd Gear

In Singapore's context, driver will perspire until people think u go swimming, and more importantly cannot have chio bu as passenger as she will scold u for messing up her hairdo. Rather than having a car to be able to show off, others will be laughing instead. Perfect piece if u want to be the talking point.

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Hypersonic (edited)

I wonder who will be laughing when it rains.

:grin:

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As good as this in the wet

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Edited by Jamesc

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Supersonic
On 2/1/2021 at 2:12 PM, Koster said:

In Singapore's context, driver will perspire until people think u go swimming, and more importantly cannot have chio bu as passenger as she will scold u for messing up her hairdo. Rather than having a car to be able to show off, others will be laughing instead. Perfect piece if u want to be the talking point.

This car cannot use on Sg road just like Caterham.

Use RR Dawn topless to ferry chiobu.

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