I'm having an affair. I'm no longer ashamed to admit it. My wife knows. I even talk about it on social media. You could say I'm proud of it.
We met each other for the first time a week ago. It wasn't love at first sight – I'm a romantic, but not naive. But as the time we spent together wore on, the captivation grew. I fell in love with the their performance, their low centre of gravity and its curves. Curves for days.
The thing is… I'm in love with a McLaren 570S sports car.
Chide me all you want for being materialistic or vain. The wash of endorphins I get when I gently nudge the accelerator and feel the 570S purr like a panther is the perfect antidote to any cognitive awareness of societal guilt on my part. Our relationship is untouchable.
Who needs an Italian car
Designed by renowned automobile designer Frank Stephenson, the look and style of the McLaren is often mistaken at first glance for a Lamborghini. It's an easy mistake to make, from a distance. Up close, it's another story.
"You don't go home and say, 'I saw a Toyota today'," said Mr Stephenson. "But you will go home and say, 'I saw a McLaren'. I think it's the uniqueness."
"[When designing] the first thing I have to keep in mind is, how do I design a high-end supercar and make it look different?" said Mr Stephenson. "We're not in a position where we can take design cues from any other car company, so we had to begin our own design identity from scratch."
Natural curves, hostile lines
The sloping front of the 570S is an evolution of the iconic arrowhead design of the McLaren F1; the car's pointed nose leading back to a canopy now more sleek and smooth than bulbous. The side NACA ducts that feed and compress air into the twin turbochargers are now a McLaren staple, adding natural curves where others would use sharp, hostile lines.
These features have become McLaren's visual language. From the sensual curves of the aerodynamic design to the gentle rhythm of the engine throbbing at idle as you sit at a set of lights; every aspect of this car beckons the eyes and the ears to seduce the heart. You don't need this car. You want it.
The allure of the exclusive
When I hit the ignition button the car clears its throat and comes to life with a roar. The senses and reflexes of anyone within earshot will sharpen at the sound – perhaps it's an emotional, fight-or-flight reaction – forcing them to take notice. A smile will inevitably curl the sides of my lips as I watch the envy grow on face after face. It doesn't matter what this car is. They still want it.
"Nobody needs a car like this," said Mr Stephenson. "It's a car that you have to emotionally desire or have lust for. Everybody tries to design a beautiful car and make it work. But if you look at some objects in the natural world that are absolutely tops in performance, they also look great."
Right now, roughly 1700 McLaren sports cars hit the road each year. Not bad for a company that rolled its first production model off the line only seven years ago. This limited number of vehicles worldwide makes owning a McLaren an interesting phenomenon. We live in a society where exclusivity is as alluring as power, and possessing such an item makes you a subject of admiration and, occasionally, derision.
More than skin deep
The engine in the 570S is the same found in the McLaren P1 – a 3.8 litre, twin-turbocharged V8. Using a Graziano 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission – which you'll also find in Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and others – McLaren has turned the act of depressing the accelerator into a beautiful ballet.
I flick the car into Track mode (the options are Normal, Sport and Track for both Handling and Powertrain). There's a moment's hesitation as my finger hovers over the Activate button. Time slows down. The sound of the engine idling behind me seems to dim. My heart slows as I hit the button and plant my foot.
In a matter of seconds, the car has shifted up three gears and hit 100km/hour. It's breathtaking. No, literally. I'm told this engine really comes alive around 140km/hour – sadly, that's not something you can experience on many Australian roads.
Approaching a corner ahead, I let the car take care of shifting while I handle the steering. We slow to 90km/hour as I hit the inside and cut through the bend like butter. The low centre of gravity – the carbon fibre monocoque keeps the weight low and the driver almost level with the wheels – helps the car retain power instead of bleeding force to the outside of the corner.
Be what you wanna be
You can be anyone you want in this car.
You can let it slide through peak-hour traffic with nothing more than a low rumble to herald your passing; an automotive Pied Piper as beguiling as a half-remembered romance.
Or, you can switch it to manual and let the car scream like a banshee, doing 60 in first gear, windows down, as you pump Fame at full volume and shout "I'M GONNA LIVE FOREVER!" at confused bystanders.
So long as you have a spare $410,000 (ish) to spare, you can join the McLaren club. But you can't have this one. This one is all mine.