2021 McLaren Elva Review: Roofless Wonder

Model Overview

The McLaren Elva is pointless. It's an 804-horsepower car without a windscreen, roof, or trunk. Yet, for all of this impracticality, McLaren will charge each of the 149 customers the sum of $1,690,000 for the privilege of owning one.

It makes no sense at all, which makes it a superb supercar. Supercars were never meant to be friendly and accessible enough for daily use. It takes away too much of the charm. For proof, look no further than the McLaren MP4-12C. The first modern Big Mac is ridiculously easy to live with, yet it will decimate a Ferrari 458 Italia around a track. But which one would you have? Yup, us too. The Ferrari is just better.

Why is that? Surely the best supercar is the one that's the fastest? We don't think so. There has been a lot of discussion about what the peak sports car is and when we reached it. We can't think of a single modern car, but rather a slew of vehicles that existed between 2005 to 2012-the Porsche 911 997.2 GT3 4.0, for example. Not fast by today's standards, but what we wouldn't give to have one of those standing in the garage.

Manufacturers just kept on making cars faster, simply to beat each other to 60 mph, and around the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Pantomime took a back seat, and that's where we think things went wrong.

2021 McLaren Elva Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Elva?

The McLaren Elva is a once-off model, part of the Ultimate series of supercars. This Senna-based, roofless, windowless wonder will be built by McLaren's Special Operations Division (MSO). Only 149 will be made globally after initial production numbers were slashed, and US models can be equipped with a proper windscreen as required by law.

Pros and Cons

  • Quicker than the Senna
  • Comfortable suspension setup
  • Gorgeous body
  • Magnificent interior
  • The Active Air Management system works
  • It's expensive
  • Unexpected rain is going to suck
The Ford Maverick Is The Small Truck Subaru Should Have Built
The Ford Maverick Is The Small Truck Subaru Should Have Built
Luxury Sedan Comparison: Genesis G90 Vs. Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Luxury Sedan Comparison: Genesis G90 Vs. Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Elva Exterior

The Elva isn't a car; it's an automotive work of art. You could spend a day just staring at it, taking in all of the small details. To begin with, the entire Elva exterior seems to be made of just three large pieces of carbon fiber. And then you notice all of the aggressive angles, vents, and intakes. Because this is McLaren, every design feature is functional. That massive gaping vent on the hood has nothing to do with the engine located behind the rear seats. It's the windscreen. A panel rises, creating a low-pressure zone, which creates a "bubble of calm" over the cabin.

Finally, we love the way the exterior and interior blend seamlessly together. The edge of the door doesn't stop to accommodate an electric window that separates the outside from the inside. Instead, it spills over into the cabin, creating even more pleasant design features to look at. Speaking of doors, they're dihedral items that dramatically open forward and upward. Certain states in the USA require a fixed windscreen. So McLaren went back to the drawing board and developed a fixed windscreen, especially for the US market.

Forward Vision McLaren
Rearward Vision McLaren
Sideward Vision McLaren

Dimensions

The new McLaren Elva shares its 105.1-inch wheelbase with the Senna, and that's about it in terms of shared dimensions between the two. It has a smaller overall footprint at 181.5 inches long, 76.5 inches wide, and 42.8 inches tall. McLaren has not released a curb weight for the Elva yet. This is quite odd, considering the British manufacturer is usually nerdy enough to supply wet and dry figures for its cars. We do know that it weighs less than the Senna, which weighs 2,897 pounds with all its fluids and a full tank.

Exterior Colors

McLaren mentions infinite possibilities in the press release. That's because this car is personalized exclusively by McLaren Special Operations, also known as MSO. When it comes to this level of exclusivity, customers aren't limited by a color palette. After the order is made and the deposit is paid, McLaren's MSO department will coordinate closely with the customer to build a car to their exact specification. So, if you want your Elva to match the gemstones on your pimp goblet, McLaren will happily comply. The Elva has been pictured in two-tone exterior finishes like white/bronze and black/white with red stripes.

Elva Performance

The Elva uses the same 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that powers the Senna and Senna GTR. In the Elva, it produces 804 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. The power output is slightly higher than the Senna's, but torque is precisely the same. All of these angry horses are sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

This magnificent powertrain, which can trace its roots back to the MP4-12C, is nearing the end of its life. Given the recent non-hybrid McLaren introductions, we get the feeling this is the most it can get out of this engine without resorting to hybrid assistance. Not to mention the all-new 3.0 V6 hybrid engine that will make its debut shortly. Still, 804 hp and 590 lb-ft is a lot, especially when powering a car that weighs around 700 lbs less than a BMW M2 CS.

The insane power to weight ratio is reflected in the acceleration figures. According to independent tests, it will do 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds. Getting to 124 mph takes 6.7 seconds and the Elva should be able to complete the quarter-mile in below ten seconds. Vin Diesel would be proud, but he'd need to apply some sunscreen to his noggin before driving this car.

Front Angle View McLaren
Rear Angle View McLaren
Emblem McLaren

Engine and Transmission

McLaren's twin-turbo V8 is a decade old, but you wouldn't be able to tell given the performance figures it provides. A total of 804 hp and 590 lb-ft is impressive, whichever way you look at it. It started life as a 3.8-liter in the MP4-12C but was updated and bored-out to 4.0 liters for the 720. McLaren's smaller supercars like the 600LT, 570S, and 620R still use the 3.8-liter version.

This version retains the flat-plane crankshaft as it has on all other McLaren models, but includes lightweight camshafts, rods, and pistons. It fits in with the overall lightweight theme and increases the performance.

The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission comes with a Launch Mode. Like the Senna, the gearbox can also be tamed via selectable driving modes, one of which is comfort. This might seem odd at first, but it makes more sense given the more pliant suspension setup.

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Elva might share a powertrain with the Senna, but it doesn't have the same aggressive suspension setup. Heck, it's not even as angry as the 765LT. The model it has most in common with is the 720S Spider.

As standard, the Elva comes with adaptive dynamics. The modes are Comfort, Sport, and Track. There are also three settings for the electronic stability control. It goes from fully on, which doesn't allow any sideways fun, to completely off with inevitable spectacular death as a result. There is a mode that will enable you to let it go sideways for a second or two, but the electronic nannies are always on hand to get it back in line. Purists frown at the idea, but we're not big fans of poking 804 angry horses with a stick. Track-focused tires are a no-cost extra, which hints at what this car is all about.

Earlier, we mentioned that pantomime is a lost art. It takes just a quick McLaren Elva driving review to demonstrate that this car brings it back in a big way. It's not so much the exhaust noise, which you can't hear over 40 mph, but the concept of being fully exposed to the elements. And that, combined with the sheer speed, is magical. There's no need to drive the Elva on the limit. It starts thrilling from the moment you set off. Using 50 percent of the latent performance is more than enough to get you giggling on a test drive, should you ever be lucky enough to have the opportunity to get behind the wheel.

If McLaren included the full hardcore Senna suspension, this car would have been nothing more than a sensory overload. An angry, hardcore roofless machine that takes no prisoners. The Elva is more lenient, however. It can be brutal; make no mistake. But unlike the other models in McLaren's Ultimate range, the Elva doesn't need to be pushed to the limit to have fun.

Elva Gas Mileage

McLaren doesn't provide fuel consumption specs for the Elva and neither does the EPA list an mpg rating, but it hardly matters. Anyone spending upwards of $1.7 million on a car will not be dissuaded by high fuel consumption.

New Elva Interior

The Elva might just have the best interior McLaren has ever done. Unfortunately, while we like McLaren interiors, for the most part, they are pretty bland. You get the sense that the designers were so obsessed with the exterior that they forgot to plot something equally pleasing for the inside.

When it comes to the Elva, there isn't a separation between the exterior and interior. They co-exist as a singular entity, with the exterior design flowing directly to the inside. One can't help but be stunned when seated behind the steering wheel. Since the Elva's interior will be exposed to the elements, McLaren moved most of the major controls to the adjustable instrument cluster. This is minimalism at its finest, but there are a few drawbacks. Like having no usable cupholders, for example.

Driver Area McLaren
Steering Wheel Details McLaren
Front Seats McLaren

Seating and Interior Space

Getting in and out is surprisingly easy, thanks to shorter seat bases. This leaves more space for a graceful entry, as does the lack of a roof to stoop beneath. Unfortunately, there isn't a door handle, so you have to grab the door by the vent and slam it down. Legroom is plentiful, and obviously, headroom isn't a problem. Due to the mid-engine layout of the car, the nose dips steeply to avail you impressive forward visibility, and because the Elva is so tiny, placing it on the road is never a difficult thing to do.

Interior Colors and Materials

As this is an MSO product, you can have whatever you want. Whatever color you choose for the exterior will spill into the inside. The layout and controls are stunning. Most surprising of all is the steering wheel, which is just that. You can only use it for steering, as it doesn't feature a single button. The drive mode selection has been moved up to the instrument cluster, and the starter, drive, neutral, and reverse buttons are neatly arranged in a row between the seats. The eight-inch infotainment system is still present but is mounted on a carbon fiber arm and angled toward the driver. Because of the unique exposed nature of the interior, McLaren uses four layers of protection and moisture-resistant materials.

Elva Trunk and Cargo Space

The Elva doesn't have a trunk, but there is storage space beneath the rear tonneau. This single piece of carbon fiber has soft-close latches and has enough room for helmets. McLaren includes a helmet and a pair of weather-resistant sunglasses for free.

There's no interior storage space, apart from a single cupholder under the center armrest which is too small for any drink we know of. If you want to drink a refreshing beverage while driving the Elva, you'll have to resort to the old squeeze between the thighs trick. Best keep away from coffee.

Interior Overview McLaren
Driver Seat McLaren
Top View McLaren

Elva Infotainment and Features

Features

Typically when a manufacturer goes ultra-lightweight, they remove all the creature comforts. However, the Elva still has air conditioning and a heater, both of which work beautifully. More than anything, the interior of the Elva is as much a feat of engineering as it is a piece of art. We love the way functional items like the vents are incorporated into the design elements. The entire steering unit, including the digital instrument cluster and newly-developed Active Dynamics switch, is adjustable.

As we mentioned earlier, the interior and exterior are meant to be one unit. While there are some features, the interior should be viewed as a piece of art and should be enjoyed that way as well. We love the simple steering wheel without buttons, and the way the hood curves over and forms part of the dashboard.

Infotainment

You access the Mac's main features like navigation and track telemetry via the eight-inch touchscreen interface. Since the touchscreen is the main interface, McLaren upgraded it to run multiple applications at once. The different apps are stacked vertically for quick access, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road for too long.

A sound system is not standard, but customers can add a bespoke setup at no extra charge. McLaren uses marine-grade speakers and installs them directly behind the headrests for obvious reasons. We wouldn't bother, seeing as it would have to compete with the wind noise and the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 soundtrack, delivered via four exhaust outlets with titanium finishers.

Elva Problems and Reliability

No recalls have been issued for the Elva. McLaren has an immaculate record when it comes to model recalls. The highest number of recalls issued dates back to the original 2012 MP4-12C Spider, which was recalled three times.

McLaren is often criticized for its insane attention to detail, leading to cars that feel too clinical. The upside is a selection of remarkably trouble-free vehicles. That is exceptional for such a low-volume manufacturer. McLaren's limited warranty and powertrain warranty runs for three years regardless of mileage covered in that period.

Elva Safety

Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has rated the Elva, and it's unlikely they ever will, given the limited production.

Key Safety Features

McLaren covers the basics like two airbags, ABS, three-stage traction control, and a rearview camera. There are no driver assistance systems, most likely because a car like this requires your full attention at all times. It's not an errand car.

If you feel too exposed (or embarrassed), you can always make use of the helmet McLaren provides as standard. A deployable roll-over protection system also forms part of the package.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 McLaren Elva a good car?

Yes. The Elva is the antidote to our main problem with the most recent batch of supercars. We'll use the recent 765LT as a prime example. Simply put, it is an epic car. It's stupidly rapid and has crushing downforce. The driving experience is superb if you have space to exploit it properly. If you use everything the 765LT has to offer on public roads, you will go to jail. It's not a question of if but rather when.

In an effort to one-up each other at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, manufacturers lost focus of the other attributes that make a supercar great. Supercars, by definition, aren't meant to be daily-driven things. We want them to be impractical, outrageous, fun, and stupidly quick. By focusing solely on the latter, the rest of these must-have attributes have been sacrificed on the altar of speed. We like the silliness and the fact that the Elva feels super even when it's not going supersonic. That's what makes the Elva great.

There are many drawbacks. Driving in a hailstorm would suck, for example. We're also not sure you can drive an Elva and not look like an idiot with too much money and no common sense. But, you know what? You can always use one of your supercars with a roof, and the latter problem is easily fixed by wearing a helmet. Yes, you'll look like a poser, but a helmet makes you completely anonymous.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 McLaren Elva?

The McLaren Elva has an MSRP of $1,690,000, excluding taxes, options, and the destination charge. For these reasons, the final price of the McLaren Elva will depend on the level of customization.

2021 McLaren Elva Models

There's only one Elva model, and it will be produced exclusively by McLaren Special Operations. The initial car was a roofless wonder without a windscreen, but McLaren designed a fixed unit for the US market since certain states require a windscreen by law. The best way to describe the Elva is to call it a brutally fast sculpture. Its exterior and interior are not treated as separate spaces but rather one homogenous unit.

For power, McLaren uses the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 used in the Senna. In the Elva, the engine produces 804 hp and can spin to 8,500 rpm. As a result, 0-60 mph takes 2.7 seconds, and it maxes out at 208 mph.

The main interior feature is the eight-inch touchscreen, which operates the air conditioning, interior heating, and track telemetry. A sound system is not included as standard but can be added at no extra cost. McLaren designed entirely new interior materials to cope with the specific needs of the interior.

Other standard niceties include a helmet and a pair of weather-resistant glasses.

Additional Packages

Apart from the no-cost sound system, there aren't any packages as such. As an MSO product, there is a massive list of things they can do to the car. Highlights include pinstriping, hand-painted decals, an exposed gloss carbon fiber body, and white gold or platinum badges.

🚗What McLaren Elva Model Should I Buy?

There's only one variant of the Elva for sale, and with a production run of just 149 units (down from the 399 originally planned), it's improbable two will ever be the same. We'd order ours with a naked carbon fiber body and purple seats because supercars should be ridiculous.

2021 McLaren Elva Comparisons

Aston Martin V12 Speedster
Ferrari Monza SP1 Ferrari

2021 McLaren Elva vs Aston Martin V12 Speedster

The Speedster is another piece of rolling art, powered by a twin-turbo V12 engine. Aston takes the roofless thing a step further by having two separate cabins, with a thin piece of carbon fiber bodywork between the driver and passenger.

Compared to the Elva, the Aston is underpowered. Its peak power output of 690 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque are no match for the Elva's 800+ hp output. The Elva weighs less as well. Still, our entire argument for the existence of these cars is that numbers aren't as significant as we may think.

Style and pantomime are equally important, and to our eyes, the Aston looks cooler. The piece of bodywork that runs between the drive and passenger obscures most of the interior, but who cares? We also prefer the V12 soundtrack. Technically, the Aston would be illegal in the states, but almost anything is possible with enough money.

See Aston Martin V12 Speedster Review

2021 McLaren Elva vs Ferrari Monza SP1

Ferrari's version of this new trend gives you the choice of just one seat for the driver. It just looks so much cooler and is a proper design homage to race cars of old.

The Ferrari is also powered by a naturally aspirated V12 as used in the 812 Superfast, one of the best naturally-aspirated engines ever made. At 8,500 rpm, it produces a staggering 799 hp. Your ears will bleed. But in a good way. Still, the Elva boasts more power, even though it's not as vocal. Up to 60 mph, they're similarly matched, but the Elva is a significant 0.8 seconds quicker to 124 mph. Choosing between these two cars is a ridiculous notion. Anyone with $1.7 million to spend on a silly toy likely has a billion in the bank. It's like deciding between the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and LaFerrari all over again. Just get all three.

One thing worth noting is that you can legally import an Elva for public road use. Ferrari refuses to design a windscreen for the Monza SP1/SP2, which means they can only be imported under strict regulations.

See Ferrari Monza SP1 Review

Gallery

Side View
Front View
Rear View
Dashboard
Frontal Aspect
25
Photos
Back
To Top