McLaren Sabre Review: Senna's Not Special Enough

Model Overview

The McLaren Sabre is what happens when you make so much money that a limited production car like the McLaren Senna is just too monotonous. To be fair, the Sabre is a limited production model reserved for 15 lucky people who had a hand in the development process. The McLaren Sabre has a rumoured cost of $3.5 million per car, and McLaren's Special Operations (MSO) was only too happy to supply said cars to these extremely affluent automotive enthusiasts. The Sabre is a USA-only model, explicitly designed with US restrictions in mind. This isn't just a design study, either. It is officially the fastest two-seater McLaren ever produced, putting the 824-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 to good use.

2020 McLaren Sabre Changes: ๐Ÿš™Whatโ€™s the difference vs 2020 Sabre?

The Sabre is a single-year model, and only 15 have been built and delivered. It's based on the Senna but comes with its unique styling and a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 dialled up to 11.

Pros and Cons

  • Ridiculous yet exciting design
  • McLaren's fastest two-seater
  • Limited production run
  • It's a Senna on steroids
  • All sold out
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McLaren Sabre Coupe Exterior

The Sabre looks like something you would have sketched as a pre-pubescent nine-year-old. It has a sharp, angular front, a massive fixed rear wing, an equally large rear diffuser, and a Le Mans-like fin that stretches from the top of the hood to the rear wing. The McLaren Sabre coupe looks this way because it's the brainchild of 15 affluent customers and a team of designers in Woking that could do whatever they wanted with the 2-door coupe as long as it complied with US regulations. Getting to design your very own supercar is the ultimate car-based thrill. So why not give it silly wings and make it so low that it can't clear a dead sparrow in the road? If we had the money, we'd do the same.

2020 McLaren Sabre Front Angle View McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Rear Angle View McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Rear View McLaren

Dimensions

We're not sure whether it's due to secrecy, but there's limited information available about the coupe. We do know that it is based on the Senna, so there are some figures. Since changing a wheelbase is an arduous task, the Sabre likely rides on the same 105-inch one as the Senna. All McLaren's use the same carbon fiber tub, and from the images we can see it's also the case with the Sabre. The Senna weighs 2,886 pounds, which is likely lighter than the Sabre. The latter has several additional panels and a more comfort-biased interior, all of which add weight.

Exterior Colors

Though we can't state it as fact, the 15 cars will likely each have a unique exterior. The one model McLaren used for press photography is quite striking, thanks to a blend of red, white, black and exposed carbon fiber. The main body is finished in white with a carbon fiber roof. The flared wheel arches, rear wing, and front spoiler are finished in a mix of red and black. It's a good look, toeing the line between stunning and stupidly over-the-top perfectly.

Sabre Performance

The Sabre is the most potent non-hybrid twin-turbo V8 from the British automaker to date. It also uses the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 found in the Senna, but power is up from 789 horsepower to 824 hp in the new McLaren Sabre. Both models have 590 lb-ft of torque, which leads us to believe that there's not much else you can do with this engine without adding some sort of hybrid assistance.

There's no claimed 0-60 mph time, but it will likely be close to the Senna's three seconds since this shares an engine and rear-wheel-drive architecture. The top speed is rated at 218 mph, making it ten mph faster than the car it's based on. It also means it's currently the fastest two-seater McLaren ever produced. But McLaren is never more than two weeks away from launching one of its future models, so we'll see for how long the record stands.

2020 McLaren Sabre Forward View McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Exhaust McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Wheel McLaren

Engine and Transmission

McLaren's twin-turbo V8 and 7-speed dual-clutch date back to the 12C. Over the years, McLaren fettled with this beast of an engine and the gearbox that goes with it. The size was increased from 3.8 to 4.0 liters, and gear change times kept on dropping.

This engine is on its last legs, however. We reckon the 824 horses in the Sabre are the most it is capable of producing. Further proof can be found in the new Artura, which is equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 and an electric motor. The difference between 789 hp and 824 hp is not big enough to feel. It's like the difference between being stomped on by a 13,206 lbs elephant or a 13,272 lbs elephant. The result is pretty much the same. Reading through the development phase, it's clear the owners were far more concerned with the handling characteristics.

Handling and Driving Impressions

To refine the ride and handling of the Sabre, the 15 lucky customers were invited to a private race track for a day. Each owner drove the development car for a few laps and then had a live video chat with the engineering team in Woking, England. Think of it as the same sort of relationship between an F1 driver and his engineering team.

Each car was set up for the individual driver, which means no two Sabres will likely respond the same. A billionaire with some actual talent will likely prefer a hardcore, unforgiving setup. A billionaire with less talent would prefer a car that understeers close to the limit. We also expect a similar setup to the McLaren 620R, which comes as standard with an adjustable suspension. Since this is a track tool, you'd want a suspension with at least a two-way adjustment for the dampers.

Sabre Gas Mileage

According to the EPA, the Sabre consumes fuel at a rate of 15/22/18 mpg city/highway/combined. These figures are irrelevant, however. If you have $3.5 million for a limited production car, the gas price probably doesn't keep you up at night. More importantly, if you have this much money you likely have a working gas pump in the warehouse where your cars are stored. No annoying visits to the pumps required.

Sabre Interior

The Sabre has the same stripped-out interior as the Senna. A portrait-style touchscreen dominates the center console, but it's there for telemetry purposes more than entertainment. Unlike the Senna, the two-door Sabre comes with more traditional seats. The lightly padded carbon fiber buckets are replaced with carbon fiber buckets with more bolstering. The racing harnesses are also removed, and instead, it has a more traditional safety belt.

2020 McLaren Sabre Interior Overview McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Seat Details McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Seat McLaren

Seating and Interior Space

As is the case with most McLarens, it's not easy to get in. But once you're in there, it's snug but spacious. The unit used for press photography obviously has a rather thin owner. As a result, the buckets are incredibly narrow with thick bolstering. Being a strict two-seater, there's ample space for the average adult, but things will be snug when you're on the taller side.

Interior Colors and Materials

Once again, no two models will likely be the same. The interior will probably match the exterior color scheme. We reckon owners will keep the naked carbon fiber trim. Not only does it look good, but adding any additional weight negates the purpose of the car.

Sabre Trunk and Cargo Space

Like the Senna, the Sabre has space for helmets, and that's it. A car like this caters to the same sort of person who already has a Bugatti Chiron. And as Bugatti openly states, its average customer already has more than 100 cars and at least two planes. Amusingly, one owner with a particular love of coffee even got McLaren to design their Sabre with a bespoke cupholder that perfectly accommodates the coffee cup size most often ordered by the customer.

2020 McLaren Sabre Open Door McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Forward Vision McLaren
2020 McLaren Sabre Sideward Vision McLaren

Sabre Infotainment and Features

Features

Standard features include two seats, seatbelts, a steering wheel, and a large touchscreen display that exists to provide whatever functions the owner decides to include, like heated seats. The telemetry is a track tool with no unnecessary shock and awe features. However, the car is good enough to shock and awe you all by itself. The Sabre also comes with the same fold-down driver display as the 720S. You can either have a full digital cluster or fold it down revealing a tiny screen that only gives you the basic information.

Infotainment

Like the 620R, there's no need for an infotainment system. If you need to be entertained while driving, ask an interesting person to come along. If you're a billionaire, you likely have a long list of exciting commentators, politicians, actors, or influencers to choose from. We'd take Morgan Freeman if only to narrate a lap of Laguna Seca.

You can have it with infotainment if you want, however. As mentioned above, the Sabre has a touchscreen interface, borrowed from the 720S and Senna. It can be ordered with a Bowers & Wilkens sound system, but you'll have to rely on either the radio or old school Bluetooth or an aux cable to provide tunes via the infotainment system, as there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available.

Sabre Problems and Reliability

There have been no recalls for the Sabre, and it's doubtful we'll ever hear about them. McLaren most likely has all 15 customers on speed dial. The J.D. Power Ownership Survey doesn't have a score for the Sabre, but since the owners were partly responsible for the development, we're willing to bet they're pretty happy with the final product. Other McLarens are offered with a three-year/unlimited-miles warranty but it's unclear if the same applies to the bespoke Sabre.

Sabre Safety

Only 15 Sabres were made, and we're willing to bet nobody volunteered to have their pride and joy smashed into an immovable object. Therefore, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has a thorough review of the McLaren Sabre and as a result, the car lacks any crashworthiness rating.

Key Safety Features

The critical safety feature regarding this car is McLaren's carbon tub, the bucket seats, and a racing helmet. McLaren's tub is well-known for being extremely strong, and the buckets will keep you in place if the worst happens. The same goes for the helmet, which will keep your head in one piece. It's worth mentioning that the limits of the Sabre will most likely be explored on a track, which has runoff and tire walls to soak up a crash. On a positive note, you do get front and side airbags.

Verdict: ๐ŸIs the McLaren Sabre a good car?

Yes, because it is the ultimate gentleman racer's dream. Not only do you get a bespoke car, but a team of engineers set it up exactly as you want it. To be part of the development of a vehicle has to count as one of the ultimate automotive experiences. It's what every person with a modified suspension or an engine upgrade is trying to emulate. Building something better than factory standard is the number one goal. In this case, the factory uses the owner as a test driver.

So, ownership of the Sabre isn't just a car, but the entire process leading up to the car finally arriving at Beverly Hills McLaren. While most supercar owners can boast about 0-60 mph times and top speed, an owner of a Sabre can say that he served as a test driver during the development phase.

It's pricey but a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

๐Ÿš˜What's the Price of the McLaren Sabre?

McLaren Beverly Hills, which served as the middleman between McLaren's head office in Woking and the 15 customers, kept mum on the pricing, and since this isn't a series-production model, there is no official MSRP. However, if the rumors are to be believed, each McLaren Sabre has a price of somewhere in the region of $3.5 million or possibly more depending on how each customer elected to spec their car.

McLaren Sabre Models

Think of the McLaren Sabre as a showcase of what McLaren's customization department is capable of. Most high-end manufacturers offer paint to sample, or they'll go out of their way to find a special kind of bamboo for the interior trim, but that's it.

McLaren takes it a step further and builds 15 cars using the owners as test drivers. It seems cheeky, but it's the ultimate expression of building a vehicle to the customer's standards, right down to the last click of the adjustable damping. But in the case of the Sabre, it's not just the suspension. Instead, it's an entirely new body and the most potent version of the twin-turbo V8 with its output of over 800 hp.

Ultimately, it's a more exclusive version of the Senna. But instead of just using another body, McLaren tailored every car to the owner's driving style and taste.

Additional Packages

There are no additional packages, but you might want to invest in some clothing. McLaren has an online merchandise store where you can buy caps, sunglasses and even COVID-19 masks. There are also Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo sections featuring a collection of their favorite McLaren merch.

๐Ÿš—What New McLaren Sabre Model Should I Buy?

There is just one model, and all of them are already sold. One owner seemingly got bored of the concept quite quickly and sold his unit for just under $5 million.

2020 McLaren Sabre Comparisons

McLaren Senna McLaren

2020 McLaren Sabre vs Bentley Bacalar

These two cars may not match up when it comes to performance, but both cater to an ultra-exclusive niche segment. McLaren built 15 Sabres, while Bentley will build only 12 Bacalars. This new coachbuilding trend is deeply fascinating, but there must be some profit to be made if both British manufacturers are getting in on it. Ferrari recently launched its Icona division, which will also cater to this market.

The Bacalar has a W12 engine with 650 horsepower and 667 lb-ft of torque. It gets to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Unlike the Sabre, it's more usable, which is a weird thing to say about a car without a roof. Still, the Bacalar comes with tailor-made luggage and a beautifully crafted interior. These two cars are very different, yet they appeal to the same sort of crowd.

There's bound to be at least a few garages boasting both these cars, most likely owned by someone who has a title like Sultan.

See Bentley Bacalar Review

2020 McLaren Sabre vs McLaren Senna

The standard Senna is still available, but if you're interested in a Sabre, then you probably already have one. There is good news, however. A more hardcore version of the Senna is on the way, and it will not be road legal. That means McLaren is free to let its hair down completely. There are a few images of the Senna GTR available, and it features more aggressive active aero, slick tires, and technology borrowed directly from McLaren's racing department. Fully detailed specs are hard to come by, but McLaren's posted a few so far. It will have 685 hp per 1,000 kg/2,204 lbs and retain the RWD drivetrain. McLaren also says it will have 2,204 lbs of downforce. The 4.0L twin-turbo engine will produce 814 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. Only 75 will be made - compared to the 15 Sabres - at a cost of $1.65 million each. Like the Sabre, all of them are already sold out. Thankfully, if you already have a Sabre, there's a good chance you have one of these on the way.

See McLaren Senna Review

Gallery

2020 McLaren Sabre Side View
2020 McLaren Sabre Rearward Vision
2020 McLaren Sabre Front Bumper
2020 McLaren Sabre Aft View
2020 McLaren Sabre Frontal Aspect
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