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The Designer of the McLaren P1 Doesn’t Love the Solus GT



Image for article titled The Designer of the McLaren P1 Doesn't Love the Solus GT

Image: McLaren

McLaren surprised everyone a few months ago when it revealed a road-going version of its Ultimate Vision Gran Turismo concept, named the Solus GT. It’s certainly the most extreme road car McLaren has ever built, which isn’t surprising if you’re familiar with its predecessor from GT Sport or GT7; it also costs $4 million, and only 25 will be made. But does it look good? Frank Stephenson, the man who designed the McLaren P1, has a few notes.

Stephenson’s been spilling the secrets of car design on YouTube for a good while now. His videos are always entertaining even if I, an armchair critic whose car design career started and ended with doodling Ridge Racer machines during high school English, sometimes disagree with his professional opinion. In the case of the Solus GT, Stephenson’s basic sentiment boils down to a discontinuity between very advanced, futuristic, forward-looking aspects of the car’s design, and other elements that feel undercooked and antiquated by comparison.

Credit: Frank Stephenson via YouTube

Take, for example, the struts that prop up the front fenders, or the windshield wiper that sits vertically in its off position, bisecting the window as it does in an endurance prototype. From some angles, the Solus GT is evocative of a spaceship, but when you notice some of those aforementioned details — along with the ruler-straight LED taillight strips and rather generic GT racing wheels — the whole machine begins to feel incomplete, like it’s hamstrung by the present.

Frank Stephenson likes the diffuser and how it shrouds the inner side of the rear tires a lot, though, and so do I.

Frank Stephenson likes the diffuser and how it shrouds the inner side of the rear tires a lot, though, and so do I.
Image: McLaren

Stephenson also takes issue with the Solus’ greenhouse, which seems narrow relative to the footprint of the body — something that irked me the first time I saw the car as well. The key to remember here is that the original McLaren Vision GT imagined a design whereupon the driver was laying down on their stomach, not sitting upright. As a result, the top of the canopy could be flattened a bit — to the point where it was lower than the rear wing — and more compact around the driver’s body.

Let’s compare the two to show you what I mean. First is the McLaren Ultimate Vision GT:

Image for article titled The Designer of the McLaren P1 Doesn't Love the Solus GT

Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

And here’s the Solus:

Image for article titled The Designer of the McLaren P1 Doesn't Love the Solus GT

Image: McLaren

Personally, I reckon the Ultimate VGT needs that obviously unrealistic driver orientation to work from a design standpoint. The shift to a more conventional cabin has been done without enough care to make everything mesh properly. The solution McLaren’s gone with strikes as tall and disproportionate against the rest of the mass, Stephenson argues. I’d add “dowdy” and “bulbous” to describe the result too, but those words are mine, not those of the guy who made the P1.

You can probably tell I’m not a huge fan of the Solus GT, and in fact I much prefer the P1. McLaren’s very streaky with its designs — half the time it gives us perfection like the Speedtail, and the other half a dud, like the Senna. But what do you think? Where does the Solus stand within the pantheon of hypercars? Watch Frank’s video and tell us what you think in the comments.

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