Back in July, McLaren confirmed it was preparing to introduce an open-cockpit speedster to rival Ferrari's Monza SP2. Now here's the follow-through. Built to deliver peak driving pleasure on both road and track, feast your eyes on the gorgeous, roofless, windshield-less 2020 McLaren Elva.
The latest entry in the supercar firm's top-shelf Ultimate Series, the Elva is special for several reasons: It's the lightest road car McLaren's ever made, it's the first open-cockpit car McLaren's ever made, and its name harkens back to the Bruce McLaren-designed McLaren-Elva race cars of the 1960s. Oh, and it just might be the most beautiful slab of carbon to ever roll out of Woking.
To dispense with the obvious, the Elva has no roof, no windshield, no windows, and no sound system. Still, McLaren says it's federally homologated (that's a ten-dollar word for road-legal) in the U.S. and pretty much everywhere else McLarens are sold. But some states still require fixed windshields, so the automaker is offering that as an option, pictured at the very bottom of this story. But it's really one of those Fine, we'll offer it scenarios. Spending $1.68 million on a supercar that looks like "just" another spider entirely defeats the point.
As we mentioned up top, the McLaren Elva is Woking's answer to the dramatic Ferrari Monza SP1 and SP2 with one key difference: the Elva retains McLaren's magic mid-engine setup, while the Monza SP is front-engined. Different strokes for different blokes.
While the Elva name hails from a different era, its technology certainly does not. Par for the ultra-fast McLaren course, it features a bespoke carbon fiber monocoque chassis and body housing an 804-horsepower, twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8. It'll scoot from zero to 62 mph in under three seconds and hit 124 mph in a mere 6.7—a tenth of a second quicker than the fixed-roof, no-holds-barred Senna—before sintered carbon-ceramic brakes bring the Elva's speedometer back down to sanity again.
Its active rear spoiler works in conjunction with the rear diffuser to keep the Elva planted while the automaker's signature hydraulic steering is retained for better feel through the fingertips. It features dual-exit 720S-style exhausts and two top-mounted pipes reminiscent of the 600LT. Notably, the Elva's advanced carbon construction allows the front clamshell panel to measure just 1.2 millimeters thick. Without a windscreen or side glass, the beautiful carbon bodywork flows into the cabin to become part of the cockpit, feeling a bit like an MX-5 Miata with 1,000 times the budget.
Speaking of the interior, the Elva's carbon fiber seats hold its occupants firmly in place thanks to something called Ultrafabric, a quad-layered, synthetic, breathable and moisture-resistant (read: bladder accident-resistant) material that may or may not be an evolution of McLaren's Super Fabric tech it used as the GT's cargo liner.
It's sure to be a raucous time behind the wheel, with peerless visibility and those eight cylinders exploding behind your head, but the experience in the cabin won't be quite as extreme as its appearance suggests. For the Elva, McLaren developed something called the Active Airflow Management System (AAMS); it sucks air through the Elva's nose, funnels it up through the big vented piece seen on the nose, and sends it arcing over the cabin using a small, moveable carbon deflector to create a "relative bubble of calm," as the release puts it. Relative is probably the key word there, but it will be interesting to see how well this works. Further protecting its occupants from harm is a deployable rollover protection system that pops out of the two rear buttresses.
The latest Ultimate Series Macca is also equipped with linked-hydraulic active suspension that, despite the Elva's supremely sporting appearance, can still be put into Comfort mode—far from a misnomer in a McLaren, given how demonstrably excellent its adaptive damping systems have been thus far.
Even though racing goggles and helmets won't practically be necessary, something tells us most Elva owners will opt to drive donning a pair of their snazziest Gucci shades anyway; limited to just 399 examples, McLaren's newest baby will start at $1.68 million.