Meet the Elva, McLaren’s lightest-ever road car according to the British sports car maker, which is also the brand’s first open-cockpit road car and the first Ultimate Series roadster. The Elva is built upon a bespoke carbon-fibre chassis and body, says McLaren, doing without a roof, windscreen and windows while protection from the elements is courtesy of some clever airflow management.

The Elva name comes from the McLaren-Elva M1A which competed in the Canadian Sports Car Grand Prix – forerunner to the Can-Am Challenge Cup – in 1964, which was constructed from a tubular steel spaceframe and reinforced with magnesium-alloy sheeting, resulting in a racer that weighed just 551 kg. The new Elva’s title of lightest-ever McLaren road car likely means it is lighter than even the 1,138 kg F1, though the new car’s final weight figure has yet to be certified, says McLaren.

The lightweight approach also carries over to the new Elva, which is powered by a version of the 4.0 litre biturbo V8 engine which is also found in the Senna and the track-only Senna GTR. The Elva certainly wears less of the downforce-producing aero aids on its body compared to the Senna, though it features the Active Air Management System (AAMS), a world-first according to McLaren.

This system channels air through the Elva’s front end to exit at the top of its clamshell at high velocity and directed upwards over the cockpit in order to create a relatively calm ‘bubble’ for the cabin. A carbon-fibre deflector positioned at the bonnet outlet raises and lowers vertically, and rises 150 mm into the airstream to create a low-pressure zone. To aid packaging for the AAMS, radiators are located ahead of the front wheels.

Alternatively, the Elva can be specified with a fixed windscreen, though McLaren says the Elva is homologated for all major markets. Handy, as the 815 PS and 800 Nm of torque from the biturbo V8 propels through the 0-100 km/h and the 0-200 km/h benchmarks in ‘under three seconds’ and 6.7 seconds respectively, the Elva quicker through this second measure than the road-going Senna.

As per McLaren form, the flat-plane crank, dry-sumped engine’s outputs are channels to the rear wheels via a seven-speed seamless-shift gearbox, or dual-clutch, in McLaren’s terms. Suspension layout takes after the Super Series and Ultimate Series cars with fully active, hydraulically linked suspension albeit with bespoke software, springs and damper valving for the Elva.

Braking is taken care of by sintered carbon-ceramic disc brakes measuring 390 mm at all four corners, which take longer to manufacture compared to conventional carbon-ceramic units, though the sintered discs are much stronger and have improve thermal conductivity, allowing a smaller disc to perform to similar performance while reducing unsprung mass and cooling requirements. Steering features electro-hydraulic assistance for the ‘purest feedback’, which is expected of an open-cockpit car, says McLaren.

Another McLaren first, according to the automaker, is the integration of controls for the Active Dynamics functions into the instrument cluster, placed on either side of the binnacle. The mode switches are located close to the gearshift paddles and therefore do not need to driver to remove their hands from the steering wheels, says McLaren. Three levels of stability control are on offer, in addition to Variable Drift Control (VDC).

The central, eight-inch touchscreen monitor serves as a hub for all of the vehicle’s functions, while the infotainment has been updated to allow the running of multiple applications at the same time. Functions include sat-nav, track telemetry, rearview camera and climate control.

In terms of storage, the Elva offers space beneath the rear tonneau cover, which is a single piece of carbon-fibre and manually operated. Interior trim features enhanced full aniline leather which has been developed to suit usage in an open-cockpit car, and there is also a new material termed Ultrafabric that is a breathable synthetic which is durable and resistant to moisture, as well as helping to ‘grip’ occupants in place.

The price for this windscreen-free experience? The McLaren Elva starts from £1,425,000 (RM7,610,226) before options and local taxes, and production of this Ulimate Series roadster is limited to a run of 399 units.