Why The McLaren Senna Doesn’t Make Sense

I don’t think love at first sight is a phrase that you hear very often when it comes to the McLaren Senna.

Its unseemly form is backed by explanations a plenty as to why it looks like this – its lines, angles and shapes are the results of countless hours of testing in wind tunnels and massage sessions backed by reams of computational fluid dynamics data, more so than the romantic flow of a designer’s pen.


It looks the way it does so that it can perform like it does. Fine, we thought – it’s simply function over form – as you were.


But as I stood in front of the first ever Senna GTR prototype at the 77th Goodwood Members’ Meeting, I remember trying to make sense of what I’m looking at, but couldn’t help but feel like it’s all a bit convoluted.

There’s a bizarre flow-chart in mind my that doesn’t really go anywhere.


The (now ‘vanilla’) McLaren Senna is a road car, a very expensive and exclusive road car. That much is a fact. But it’s a road car with so much obvious emphasis put on its performance that it shows, at skin-level. Its very ability to function as a road car is also compromised. Certainly, you could never reach anywhere near its full potential on the road such is its blistering performance, and by all accounts actually using one on the road is nowhere near as pleasurable an experience as you’d imagine.

Aha, but the Senna is really a track car you say – that much is blindingly clear. McLaren didn’t design the Senna the way that they did for it to do 0-30mph pulls on Sloane Street surrounded by car spotters. They designed it to perform above all else. Yet as a track car, the Senna is also compromised by its need to remain road-legal.

Yes it’s wild, but not as wild as it could be because it’s still bound by the rules and regulations that make it a road car.


Cue the Senna GTR. The GTR is just about as wild as a Senna can be. With its huge front aero additions, wider fenders, cuts, swoops and slashes through the bodywork and extended and widened rear wing and diffuser, increase in power and downforce (and not to mention slick tyres), the Senna GTR looks like a car designed solely by computers with no human input. It’s data in the form of a car. And it’s undoubtedly a machine that could never see the road.


It’s not being built for homologation purposes – there’s no rulebook defining it and no specific race series that it can call home. It’s a toy for those who have both the means and the connections to own one (all 75 were sold for £1.1million plus tax each before they even went on sale).


Part of me wonders how Senna owners who bought the car solely for track use are feeling about the GTR right now…


But underneath all of this, two or three layers deep, is still a compromise. When I look at the Senna GTR I don’t see the ultimate McLaren track car, I see a very, very capable track car, but one built upon the confines of a road car that in its very nature is somewhat compromised, both on its ability on the road and on the track.

It’s hardly an immaculate conception, is it?


The very fact that the GTR now exists makes the Senna a contradiction on wheels, to me at least.


Perhaps all of this stems from the initial hurdle of how the Senna looks. McLaren have made, and still make, some of the most beautiful cars on the planet in my opinion.

The Senna, however, is one that I can’t see ever growing on me.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters



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There isn't too many new cars that i like the look of, including the senna. But the P1 just does it for me, such a sexy car!!


I was gonna say, lately many cars in general look like ass


The P1 is the finest thing to come out of Woking since the F1 in my opinion. It's properly gorgeous.


Man legit! Hit the nail right on the head!


Good points. I am in agreement.


surely you cant call the car compromised with that level of engineering and performance? restrained maybe with certain rules in regards a road road but not compromised.


The basic architecture is compromised. It’s a road car tub and there simply isn’t room for extreme aero like you see in LMPs or Aston Valkyrie


I see what you're saying, but I stand by my wording. The GTR literally points out every area in which the Senna's track performance is compromised.


Senna owners and buyers all knew the GTR was coming. No one hid that. It was well known for a while in those circles. The wording McLaren use for the road car, is just that it's a road car with all the things they had to compromise to get it global road legalized. The GTR is a out and out track car. You are not going to be pootling down to the local track to use it. It needs a decent amount of people to do the pre and post checks. It's given up the fancy suspension for GT3 suspension from the new 720S GT3 race car. There is a small overlap between the owners who bought the road car and those that got the GTR who will use both cars as intended.


who will use both cars as intended

... Then again, what was the intended role for the Senna if not being a solely track car nor a comfort car for the road. Both of which are already there in form of the race cars and now the GTR for the track and the rest for the road.

Jordan pointed out what I was thinking since the release of the Senna:

What is it there for?


Cynically speaking, the answer to your question is: It's there to make McLaren lots of money.


the mclaren senna needs a story, needs to run, needs victory, several cars have become icones because of their achievements, it remains to know if the car will be like who asks for your name


Senna looks OK(without that HIDEOUS rear wing).

Still, F1 is much more beautiful, and the F1GT(Long tail road version) is the BEST looking Mclaren ever made IMO.


It's literally a WING, nothing on the car is more function over form than it, nothing is more dependent on aerodynamics than it.
The Swan neck mount increases the downforce generating low pressure zone on the underside of the wing, the winglets reduces wingtip vortices, the two-element wing allow for higher angle of attack without flow separation.
These features have all been commonplace for racecars in the last decade, this year every F1 car, DTM race car, as well as half of the Blancpain GT series grid have it, I can't understand why you are so shocked by the Senna.


cars for the ultra rich, feel more like toys, they dont really feel like cars. i also cant afford one.

maybe someday, when asteroid mining saves the economy and we all have so much money we can do anything.


When I look at the Senna GTR I don’t see the ultimate McLaren track car, I see a very, very capable track car, but one built upon the confines of a road car that in its very nature is somewhat compromised, both on its ability on the road and on the track.

I think you may need to clarify that statement a bit more, maybe get a more technical in depth as to the things that the GTR carries over from the road car. From what i understand the suspension is different, and so is the areo, so the main carry over is the chassis. Are you implying that chassis design was compromised for the road car? I mean you are using some fuzzy wording to make a logical point without looking at the details, the point being that any piece of machinery that has ever been engineered is always a compromise of many different variables. You are not wrong in saying that the street going version was compromised for road duties, but what are those compromises and how do they affect track performance. For example, if one compromise is adding airbags which increases weight then compromising the other way for the GTR (removing weight and a safety feature) for sure makes it more track oriented with that compromise affecting very few other subsystems within the car.


The thing is when McLaren is going to design a series like this, and way way before they show it to the public, they invite prospective owners to see the design process and gauge interest. So it would be correct to assume that, as with other McLaren models, they were previewed the street version of the Senna and the GTR model. Thus giving these prospective owners a chance to pick which one would suit their lifestyle. That being said I highly doubt any new Senna owner is livid that the Senna GTR was revealed at the 77MM. They already knew this was coming. As far as the design aesthetic, yes, it's an absolutely function over form car. As you are well aware, McLaren has a vast aerodynamic and CFD development department that when when they aren't making their MCL34 faster they can devote time to their Ultimate Series track models, not to mention their bespoke MSO department. They can use all their aero knowledge to game the CFD analysis to the best spec to be the ultimate track day model that they have made to date; eclipsing all previous track cars they have produced. Perhaps this could have been fleshed out more before you posted the article to bring some factual reasoning behind the decisions of this model.


It is an opinion piece after all - McLaren’s expertise was never under question. The Senna is undoubtedly incredibly advanced, it’s just so blindingly ugly at the same time. It’s a car that will probably be remembered for years to come for its technology, but won’t be admired for its looks like the pinnacles and poster cars of previous generations.


The Senna is too ´Track´for the road ,and therefore too ´Road´ for the track, as it was still built with road use in mind
Even if you can delete the first and second ´road ´ with the GTR above, there will still be one ´road´left

So for the ultimate track (only) car you could think they could do even be better, when developing would start from scratch


The Senna is great but the F1 will be among the greatest cars of all time


It ain't for everyone, but I love it and think Senna would, too.


Maybe he would, but I guess now I’m secretly hoping McLaren come up with something so solely track-focused and incredible that they lament calling this thing ‘Senna’.


I can't help but think ultimately Senna's will depreciate, while P1's and F1's will only ever appreciate.


Nice pictures.


The Ferrari P80/C and Performance Solutions Mosquito are much better looking if only they would build road going versions. Also the Senna is compromised because of it's 70mm tire width stagger. Should have been a 275/35r19 on 10's or 265/35r19 on 9.5's up front with 325/30r20 on 12's on the back.


"Why the McLaren Senna Doesn't Make Sense"...

It's really quite simple Jordan, it doesn't make sense, because it doesn't have to. Seventy-five cars, each sold for £1.1 million before ever built. It's not a car to make sense to you or me, or just about anyone. It's a car that is merely meant to evoke envy and stroke ego. It has no broader purpose in life, because it needs none. Much like the RUF CTR3 Trevor photographed a few weeks ago, the Senna is just a toy to demonstrate ostentatious wealth and lack of good sense.

And like the CTR3 I can life without a Senna or even seeing one (not that I could afford either, if I wanted them).


So you applying this logic to the P1 and the P1 GTR... as well as the LaFerrari and the FXXK? Because all of them are in the same category


Of course not, the P1 is one of the best-looking cars McLaren has ever made.


"How dare you, sir. How dare you!"

Okay, I agree with you completely. But, Macca is a business. They cater to the customer. The customer is obscenely rich and buys exclusive things, in order to be exclusive.

Most of these 'track toys' are driven by those who have no idea how to drive or even approach the limit.

Yeah, that sucks, but that is the way it is. Sometimes, I feel sorry for the rich. They have too much money and they don't know how to spend it. Sucks to be rich? Ummm, probably not.


That was tough to read

I feel that as a person just with a camera its in your nature to want to take pictures of visually appealing things (supercars, supermodels etc) The fact of the matter is that yes the Mclaren Senna is not a good looker in the same vain as most peoples partners are not supermodels. But to say that this car is not good because of that is just short sighted.

The Mclaren Senna has just gone and re-invented what the supercar word means, most supercars look great have bucket loads of power and are expensive but also have very glaring downfalls when they are 1) driven on the road and 2) driven on a track. The Mclaren Senna is able to be driven on the road as is most supercars are, but once it hits the track its real talents shine through. The technology and areo used in the road going version makes it an absolute weapon on the track both at low and high speeds. Its a car that commands the attention and respect on track even from some of the worlds best (ex) F1 drivers.

The GTR version is a absolute track beast. Adding a more specific suspension and aero package, making it not only a 'track only' car but refining the amazing abilities of the 'road version' when it is released onto the track.

I feel that this (one persons opinion) doesn't actually do this amazing piece of mechanical wonder (built by the rich history and technological advancements from the Mclaren stables) justice. A company who we admire for building some of the most amazing Formula one cars of all time and the same company that built the way before its time Mclaren F1 road car.

Sometimes beauty is more than skin deep.


I agree that my opinions are largely drawn on how the car looks. After all, I am *just* a person with a camera. The Senna is a hot mess of shapes, angles and lines - it’s a terribly ugly car that has to be packaged with an explanation as to why it’s so ugly.
That doesn’t mean it’s not fantastically advanced in terms of its aerodynamic performance. Like most people here, I’ve not driven one, and probably never will, but the people buying the Senna on large aren’t buying it because it’s the pinnacle of driving performance. I’m generalising here, but some are buying it because it’s a £750,000+ badge that says ‘look at how well I *must* be able to drive - I own a Senna’.


Well I agree on one thing from all these comment replies. "It is an opinion piece" an opinion from one person who has made it very obvious that they have not bothered to even look up reviews on this car or do any research.

Your opinion on Senna and the homage this car pays to him couldn't be further from who he was (Ayrton Senna and the Honda NSX) Senna strived to be the best, fastest car, best tech, the whole reason he went from McLaren to Williams in the first place. If there was any fact checking done on this car before this "piece" was written it would be known why it carries his name.

An opinion piece is all this is, zero facts at all just a glass half empty remarks on how this car "looks" and a false opinion of how it would drive on a road/track. What happened to the speedhunting, when did it become a soapbox for opinions that carry zero supporting facts other than the opinion that it's ugly.

You took the time to take these pictures and write your opinion, at least take the time to see why some people are on the other side of the fence to you. Otherwise your no better than the haters themselves.


Thanks for your input - it is an opinion piece. I’m glad we agree.


A car at this price point is as irrelevant as it gets.


They have purpose-built track cars. They're called formula 1 cars.


Is this the comment section version of getting ratioed?


This isn’t a search from social media sycophants - some form of show of hands or popularity contest my friend. It’s an opinion piece, to which everyone is welcome to present their own opinion too. Agree, disagree or whatever - it’s all good as long as it provokes something.


Mr. Butters, you took the words right out of my mouth. When I first saw the pictures of this car, I asked, "But why?" Oh, because aero, alright, but is its performance more extreme than that of the P1? No!? Well then why does it exist? McLaren builds hypercars with soul, from what I understand. The Senna seems to be the car Bugatti would make, if asked to design a McLaren competitor. A prestige car for "new money." Hence the use of such a famous name.

The fact that a celebrity YouTuber was touting ownership of one-- then posting its fire as clickbait --seemed almost normal.

I can't get my head around it either.


I wasn't a Senna fan when it was first released. Just looked ugly and the form over function thing didn't wash, because the P1 was formed in the wind tunnel too, but that thing looks lovely. However, my mind has been changed by 2 things. This article in evo mag https://www.evomagazine.com.au/mclaren-senna-road-test/ it really gives the car context and makes sense. The second was a chance to see one in real life. If you get the chance to study one up close, all the lines make sense. Now i'm a fan and would have one in my fantasy garage. Alongside a P1 of course.


The lines do make sense for someone looking solely from an aerodynamically track-focused perspective, but as a road car it's a mess. If it came out of some obscure independent sports car company and didn't have a McLaren badge on the front it would've been dismissed and forgotten in minutes.


This post is ridiculous, you can say that about any racecar to road car, and the Senna was built a future platform to compete in the WEC/IMSA class that will be replacing the P1 class. That's why Chevrolet is pushing to make the Corvette a mid-engine car, that's why Ferrari upped the 488, that's why the 911 is going mid-engine (gasp). The Senna will show its true colors once 2020 hits and the new factory race class opens in endurance racing. As an engineer function and form for me must be one, I wished it looked a little better but what do I care I will never be able to buy one.


Hopefully it does get the chance to prove itself in racing at some point. I'd be interested to see how it performs once transformed into a full-on race car, and if it changes at all from GTR spec. If it does by the way, then that raises questions about the GTR being held back too.


This blurb is from the McLaren website with regards the standard Senna, and retrieved earlier today:

"That is what has driven us to build a track car that is unashamedly without compromise. One that is legalised for road use, but not sanitised to suit it. Nothing else matters but to deliver the most intense driving experience around a circuit."

But there was enough compromise to justify a new model less than a year later? Why not just build the GTR from the off?


Don’t forget to mention the Senna LM that will certainly come after the GTR


This article is so f-ing dramatic. It looks cool STFU. Even if you don't like it, it doesn't matter; you can't afford it.


I don't think it looks 'cool' personally. In fact, reading the above would've brought you to that conclusion. Not being able to buy something doesn't remove the right to present an opinion about it, does it?


Ah, but I'm sure if someone slammed it and went full retard, you'd be posting about "how raaaaad it is broooo". A speedhunters "journalist" thinking they are entitled to an opinion about the Senna is the real contradiction here. Stick to jDm bRo.


Stop being childish 'Jon'. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. What makes you think that working for Speedhunters makes that not apply? You either agree, somewhat agree or don't agree – add your own opinion, add to the discussion or jog on, rather than trying to insult me and the others that work on this site personally.

If that's all Speedhunters is to you, then… why are you here?


Out of all the butchered beyond recognition cars that SH have featured, you picked the Senna to be the one that doesn't make sense. The Senna is the ultimate all rounder and the GTR is a track weapon. What doesn't make sense about that?


I mean I *could* write an opinion piece about each car we've featured, but I don't think I should, and I'd be worried for the future of your keyboard/blood pressure if I did.
We're talking about the Senna because I got a look at the GTR in person alongside a vanilla Senna, and the above is my thoughts. It's no conspiracy against McLaren or the Senna, don't look too far into it – that's all it is.
Thanks for reading :)


Hahaa now this article makes more sense than the Senna. I agree with some of the points.
The new Mclarens are so radical with the design, that they look like they came from another planet, we miss those days Mclarens were designed by Frank Stephenson, which does look like cars belong to earth. :-)


I got a bit of heat for my last comment about the McLaren Senna (by people who base their opinion of cars on which YouTuber owns it...) but I will stick my neck out again

The Senna makes sense to me because it would allow me to "play racing driver" without all the hassles of an actual race car. It is more comfortable and easier to drive. Road cars hold their value and will have continued manufacturer support whereas race cars just get superseded. Most importantly it actually looks like a racing car (the 720S doesn't) which helps complete the fantasy.


The Senna makes sense to me because it would allow me to "play racing driver"

If they'd have put this on their blurb rather than 'a track car without compromise' then I'd not actually be disagreeing with the whole thing at all.


Track cars usually makes compromises as a road car where the senna doesnt. You can drive it to the track listening to the radio with the AC on and still smash 99% of the other cars showing up if you can drive it properly(and if you optioned it with AC


Except McLaren literally marketed it as, and I quote…

a track car that is unashamedly without compromise

They simply left the word "day" out of their description.
The ultimate track day car is the fastest track car you can legally drive to the track.


It’s definitely compromised. But in the right way. It’s a pity they tried to oversell it like that


I agree. I think this car is 2 things: an engineering learning exercise they can get people with too much money to pay for and... Generating cash from people with too much money. They are all doing it with various special limited number editions sold at even more exorbitant prices than the "base" car. The is a social commentary is that, but I will skip it.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Its very ability to function as a road car is also compromised. Certainly, you could never reach anywhere near its full potential on the road such is its blistering performance, and by all accounts actually using one on the road is nowhere near as pleasurable an experience as you’d imagine.

Doesn't matter, for those who are able to afford the road car probably will just store them in garage anyway, waiting to flip them for a profit in the near future.


These cars are all ugly... that's precisely the beauty of them...


La verdad me gusta el senna pero me gusta más el P1 pero el P1 GTEe gusta mas


No super car make sense, they're bought by middle aged men who have money and want to impress people, not real drivers. The only reason any of us care about them is because of the speed otherwise you would buy a Rolls Royce, but if you want real speed just get an open wheel formula car for $50,000.

Oh wait, then you have to be in shape and know what you're doing or you crash. Hmm....none of these things make sense!


The more I learn about aerodynamics, the more I'm convinced that every single line, curve and surface that make a car or an airplane look cool was put there over the express OBJECTION of the aerodynamicists.


This whole article is kinda stupid McLaren always do this... ALWAYS , its the crazy version of each series, p1 - p1gtr , f1 - f1 gtr - 650s - 675 lt - 570s - 600lt

i think you should have thought about this article before posting such nonsense, beauty is subjective just because you think this car is ugly doesn't mean the world does, probably one of the worst articles ive seen from speed-hunters for a while because its just pointless. whats the point you are making?

I think the experts at McLaren have a tad more knowledge than you about track set up and why angles are the way they are, just stick to what you know about.


True. These journalists get a little fanbase and forget they aren't engineers. or they do a couple mods and a track day and think they are senna himself.

hrishikesh. Ijantkar

I love McLaren,i like The McLaren 600LT Spider,570S Spider, 570S Coupe.But the senna is the only one that I don't like .I don't know,if it's because of over designed exterior or that huge wing.


Arrrrrr thanks for clearing all that up for me i was going to get a senna gtr but i think ill leave it now.


The Senna is the ugliest "hypercar" in existence. The ugliness was as a direct result of aerodynamic necessity. Since it needed to be that ugly to be fast (around an track) then it should be head and shoulders above all the other Hypercars that are not nearly as ugly. If it isn't absolutely the fastest, then what is the point of it being absolutely the ugliest?


I actually like the way it looks, but I can understand why many wouldn't. I am an open wheel nut (I drive Formula Ford), so when I look at it with those massive radiator openings I see an F1 car. What bothers me about this car, and all of the ones like it, is the gearbox. I know that automated gearboxes are better in every single possible way, but on a track I have sooooooo much more fun in my 1973 Lola with a 4 speed manual crash box!!!