McLaren Speedtail - the inside story

CDN McLaren 004 Speedtail early sketch 2

Like an F1 car but with a different mission, the Speedtail sets a new benchmark for speedy comfort, as Rob Melville and his design team explain

The word ‘unique’ is thrown around a lot in automotive circles, but it’s rare for a design team to tackle something as unusual as a three-seat production car with a central driving position. The list of such vehicles is exceedingly brief, but has now gained a new entry with the arrival of the McLaren Speedtail. “The look and feel of a car needs to meet its mission, and in this case the mission was to create the world’s first three-seater hyper grand tourer,” says McLaren Automotive design director Rob Melville. “That means you can travel at speed, across continents, in supreme luxury, with luggage for three.” The words “at speed” are of course pivotal. Melville notes that a core benchmark for the car was to hit 300km/h (186mph) in 12.8 seconds, with top speed capped at 250mph (403km/h). “To do that, you need a unique powertrain,” he observes, adding that the parallel hybrid system developed to deliver those numbers dictates a big chunk of the vehicle’s packaging. Despite its extreme parameters, the schedule of the Speedtail project remained reassuringly familiar. “For most carmakers, from when the design team start sketching, it normally takes about four years until the car hits the road,” Melville says. “We’re not dissimilar in that regard.”

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