McLaren is known for dreaming up extraordinary machines, and the Elva is the latest addition to its Ultimate series of vehicles. Unlike some supercars from the Woking brand, the Elva isn't intended for racetrack performance. Instead, by eliminating the windshield, it provides an intense open-air experience that celebrates the visceral side of driving. Composed primarily of carbon fiber and packing over 800 hp, the Elva pushes supercar boundaries. The name Elva pays homage to a McLaren customer race car from the 1960s.
Other than lightweight superbikes or open-cockpit aircraft, nothing quite prepares you to drive the McLaren Elva. Without a windshield, this supercar aims to make its driver one with the surrounding elements. Indeed, the force of the air hitting you as speed increases adds a layer of involvement few other vehicles—automobiles or otherwise—can replicate.
The Elva's design blurs the line between what's inside and outside the car. Painted bodywork extends into the cabin, creating an impression that the car is almost one you ride more than drive. Yet drive you do, and the Elva's vegan leather seats, new infotainment system, and, surprisingly, heating and air conditioning function quite well.
Let's not forget that the Elva is still a McLaren. Using specially-tuned versions of the company's carbon-fiber chassis and twin-turbo V-8, the Elva's performance is mighty by any measure. But unlike the Senna or 765LT, it's fun well below the limit. This windshield-less wonder costs a fortune, but delivers a sublime supercar experience. The next closest thing might require zipping up leathers and grabbing some handlebars.
With a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 making 804 hp and 590 lb-ft midship in its carbon-fiber monocoque, the McLaren Elva is as fast as it looks. Acceleration to 60 mph should take under 3.0 seconds, and the quarter mile likely in about 10 seconds at above 140 mph. Top speed is claimed to be above 200 mph—just imagine the force of the air hitting you at the Elva's maximum pace.
The most striking design detail about the Elva is its windshield—or its lack thereof. An open cockpit is the Elva's raison d'etre; McLaren has lots of windshield-equipped cars to choose from. To keep the driving experience somewhat reasonable, McLaren developed AAMS, or Active Air Management System. AAMS channels air through a vent ahead of the cabin. At about 25 mph, a deflector rises to channel air up and over occupants' heads. Does AAMS actually work? Sort of, but we strongly suggest wearing a helmet and gloves whenever you drive the Elva—air can only do so much to deflect pebbles and debris on the road.
As awesome as the Elva's windshield-less design is, leave it to Big Brother to pinch the fun. Some municipalities mandate that all vehicles have a windshield. Lame! For those areas, McLaren developed a true fixed windshield for the Elva, but we think that sort of defeats the purpose—at that point, why not just get a 720S Spider and save roughly $1.4 million?
It seems that when McLaren designed the Elva, practicality went out the window. Except, the Elva doesn't have any windows. Anyway, you won't be surprised to learn that the Elva isn't great for carrying things. Between the seats is a tiny compartment sized for a phone. Under the rear cowl, there's a space just big enough to hold a helmet. And that's it. Suffice it to say, you'll need to pack very light on any Elva road trips.
The latest generation of McLaren's infotainment interface makes its debut in the Elva. Housed in an 8.0-inch central screen, it's controlled by touch or a dial. Functionality includes media, navigation, and racetrack telemetry. There's also a digital gauge display, which can show the view from a bumper-mounted camera—crucial to avoid scraping the carbon-fiber splitter. On either side of the gauge cluster are drive mode controllers, repositioned from the center console to be more in the driver's reach. The Elva is stripped out, but still quite high-tech.
Pricing for the Elva starts at $1,695,000. For that amount, you could have a McLaren GT, 765LT, 720S Spider, Artura hybrid, and hundreds of thousands of dollars left over. It's expensive before options—those which the brand's MSO bespoke division would be happy to sell you. That is, if you can even snag an allocation for one of the 149 examples slated for production.