McLaren Opens Latest Showroom In Beirut

BY Warren Singh Bartlett / Sep 17 2017 / 16:38 PM

Behold the aesthetic beauty of the British supercar within a Norman Foster designed building

McLaren Opens Latest Showroom In Beirut
A view of the McLaren showroom in Downtown Beirut

The street outside 3Beirut is jammed. Some cars have stopped, drawn by the klieg lights, others have slowed to a crawl to gawk at the crowd, a mix of the glamorous and the gentlemanly. Like me, they are here for the opening of McLaren’s Beirut showroom hosted by the supercar’s Lebanese partners, RYMCO.

Looking at the towers, I reflect that it’s fitting the showroom should be located in this trio of slender ziggurats designed by Sir Norman Foster. Not because, like the supercars themselves, Foster’s buildings are aesthetic essays in technology and ergonomics but more tangentially, because he also designed McLaren’s 22nd Century, state-of-tomorrow’s-art research and production centre in deepest, greenest Surrey.

A view of the McLaren Beirut showroom opening event

As he presides over the opening of the vaulting, triple-height showroom, an understated grey and black affair designed to make the candy-coloured vehicles pop, I remind myself to ask Fayez Rasamny, RYMCO’s chairman, if the Foster connection is kismet or coincidence.

Of course, I forget. Rasamny is followed by McLaren CEO, Mike Flewitt and as he finishes, a marrow-melting rumble fills the showroom. Ignored until now, the car-shaped object hidden under a cover behind us, comes to life. The rumble becomes a roar and as the headlights come on, the cover slips off and tonight’s star-attraction, the sleek, waspish yellow and black beauty that is the new 570s, makes its global debut. When the crowd of selfie-snappers and Insta-posers finally thins, I nip in for a look.

The new McLaren 570s parked outside McLaren's Beirut showroom

It’s a seductive mix of the flowing and the angular. Even with engine at rest, the 570s radiates power. The interior, still occupied by a blonde woman taking selfie after selfie, is equally sleek and its flowing lines, organic shapes and slung-back seating must surely heighten the experience of speed when the car is in full throttle. At a cracking 340 kilometres an hour, the 570s is the tarmac equivalent of a Shinkansen.

Despite its decades-long association with motor racing, McLaren is a relatively young company, only entering the market six years ago but already, it sells in excess of 3,600 cars a year. Though barely a blip in the global car market, this now places them alongside the likes of Lamborghini. So, I ask Flewitt, what is it about the McLaren?

“We’re different because our cars are centred on the driver and built from there,” he explains, as we sit for a quick chat. “We do not start with a beautiful shape and work in, we start with the driver’s experience and work out.”

The new McLaren 570s

Take the new 570s. It sports a soft, sleek front profile, designed to make the air hug the car body and flow around. Streamlines take the air into the vents to cool the engine and channel it along and over the car, to provide extra downforce. At the rear, the car’s lines sharpen and become more angular, to release the airflow and reduce drag.

“It might look like we’ve done it to look pretty, but it’s all design-based. We believe the driver should be at the centre of the action, not the centre of attention,” adds Flewitt, an engineer by training. “Of course, we strive to find a shape that’s beautiful but we wouldn’t compromise the principle of the car for its looks. We do not build superficial cars. Drivers should enjoy the driving experience.”

From L to R: Johnny Toubbeh, Fayez Rasamny, Mike Flewitt, Jihad Saikali and Michael Roeck

The Middle East clearly approves. Home to more than its share of millionaires, the region already accounts for 12-15 percent of McLaren’s annual sales - hence the expansion into Beirut.

But isn’t owning a car of this calibre overkill? At heart, these machines are made to race, a vocation as akin to driving, even recklessly, as painting-by-numbers is to painting the Sistine Chapel. Anyone can unleash the beasts beneath these hoods but surely only a few have the training to handle them properly?

“Buying a supercar is not a logical or a practical decision, it’s emotional,” Flewitt says, as our chat comes to an end. “Our cars are true luxury items. Not because of opulent materials but because you really have to be able to afford to buy one in the first place.”

A view of the McLaren Beirut showroom opening event

McLaren showroom is located on 3Beirut Omar Daouk Street in Downtown Beirut.