Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan / LEGO / McLaren
Published: April 6, 2021
Give some LEGO pieces to a child and chances are they will build a car, or some sort of contraption with four wheels. I was one of them. You can argue that LEGO and cars go together better than peanut butter and jelly, and LEGO’s Technic division has taken that idea to the next level with meticulously designed replica vehicles with functioning pistons, gearboxes, and steering racks. This isn’t just a child’s game anymore.
This is the first part of a series where our team at CAR take a deep dive into LEGO Technic sets, and explore vehicle models at different price points, build them, and review their features, intricacies, and how similar we think they are to their real life counterparts having driven some of them. While LEGO Technic offers anything from airplanes and Monster Jam trucks to hovercrafts, we’re mainly focusing on the automotive side of things.
And we start with the makers from Woking. McLaren have been on a resurgence not only in motorsport but also with road cars. We’ve test driven the 570S, GT, and even the 720S before, and have nothing but good things to say about their tactile hydraulic steering, adeptly balanced suspensions, and dramatic sheetmetal. While we haven’t personally driven the top dog of the family tree, the McLaren Senna GTR, we’re going to live vicariously through LEGO and see what they have in store for their track-focused supercar hyped up with a legendary name.
This isn’t just any McLaren Senna. This is the GTR version loaded up with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that produces 814 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s rear-wheel drive only, and launches from 0-100 km/h in a speedy 2.8 seconds. Other upgrades include a wider track, a new bodykit, stickier tires, and an active rear wing that provides a drag reduction system (DRS) just like in Formula 1 cars. The Senna GTR isn’t road legal, meaning it’s only confined to track use but that doesn’t mean you can’t drive one - LEGO has your answer.
Priced at an entry-level point of $69.99 CAD, the LEGO Technic McLaren Senna GTR is a bargain compared to the two million dollar price tag of the real life version. As such, you won’t find it as advanced or as feature-rich as LEGO’s other Technic sets like the Lamborghini Sian or Bugatti Chiron. It’s not as large either, measuring in at a length of 32 cm compared to the 56 cm Chiron, but there is still lots to discover and enjoy.
Draped in a striking shade of blue with replica decals and sponsors, the Senna GTR looks like the real deal. There’s a small gear situated on the roof that allows you to control the front wheels, the 4.0-litre V8 engine mounted in the middle showcases moving pistons, and the dihedral doors swing upwards, just like every actual McLaren.
But enough about the details. Let’s get started! We will run you through our build below, with descriptions, crisp photography, final impressions, and how accurately LEGO has portrayed one of Woking’s most hardcore supercars. Enjoy.
Set: McLaren Senna GTR
Price: $69.99 CAD
Specs: 830 pieces
Length: 32 cm
Width: 12 cm
Height: 9 cm
Build Time: 5 hours
Instruction Book Pages: 148
00:00: Looks like the build is separated into three segments, each with their allotted bags and parts. We don’t eat the dessert before the appetizer, so we will start with bag 1. As per the instruction manual, we will be piecing together the V8 engine, front and rear axles, and rear differential.
00:05: LEGO makes it incredibly easy to find the parts you need with 1:1 scale images so there’s never any mix up between similar looking pieces. Simply pick up the piece and match the length and width to the page’s image.
00:10: Assembling the engine block.
00:30: The V8 is alive! Very exciting to see the pistons bouncing up and down with the flat-plane crankshaft. The general shape of the V8 is quite authentic, and does its best to follow the shape and design of the actual McLaren engine. The real piston and cylinder heads aren’t really yellow and brown but LEGO paints them so they stand out when the entire build is complete. Once the wheels are hooked up in the final product, the pistons will follow the movement of the car and fire just like they would in a real car. Of course, the firing order isn’t the same as the real Senna, but such are the limitations of LEGO.
00:40: Next, we’re assembling the floor bed, axles, and chassis. We’ve attached the driver and passenger seats to the frame, and then the front suspension arms so the front wheels have some place to live.
00:45: Okay. Page 70. We’re starting to get those rough LEGO hands - do people wear gloves when building these?
01:00: One hour in and we finally get the satisfying feeling of connecting two major pieces together - front chassis with the engine. We’re beginning to realize just how huge this LEGO model is. Can only imagine what the larger Chiron and Sian would look like in comparison.
01:20: The Senna GTR is really coming together. The number of LEGO pieces have drastically dwindled down. Home stretch!
01:21: Right, there are five more bags worth of stuff. Time for a coffee break.
01:30: Here’s the rear suspension and engine cover. Looks fantastic. Can’t believe with all the intricacies in this design and build, that it only costs $70 bucks.
01:40: Part 1 is complete! Phew, that was a doozy. Definitely the more laborious section of the build, but we shall soon reap the fruits of our labour. Extra parts always have me nervous, though. Ever notice a few nails and screws lying around after finishing some IKEA furniture? Now I’m paranoid. Did I miss something?
01:45: Looks like all our ducks are in a row. No steps missed. LEGO appears to have thrown in some extra (on purpose?) pieces in case something breaks, goes missing under the couch, or gobbled up by domesticated animals.
2:00: Two hours in, and we’re onto Part 2. Looks like we’re fixing up the entire rear end of the GTR here: spoiler, diffuser, and three-quarter body panels. This Senna is beginning to look like the real car.
2:05: Steering wheel! Rounded, and unfortunately not the same shape as the GT3-style wheel in the real Senna GTR.
2:09: This rear spoiler is exquisite. Swan-neck mount. Senna decal on the top of the wing. GTR on the bottom. Not a functional active wing unfortunately here in LEGO form.
2:13: Rear end is aggressive, sharp, and contains a ton of aero elements. Neat way of making the taillights too with the small red bars. Some custom DIY additions could make it light up, should you want to go down that route.
2:20: And the diffuser is on! Not as large and imposing as the real life counterpart, but does the job.
2:22: The complete steering rack. In it goes. Cabin taking true form. Sadly this wheel doesn’t move the actual wheels - we’ll see how that works in the third section of the build.
2:40: Should take a break soon. But I can see how LEGO building is addictive. How often can you say you ‘built’ a McLaren?
2:50: Both rear quarter panels with the Richard Mille decals are on. They’re a Swiss watchmaking company that loves to fund and sponsor motorsport teams. They even collaborated with McLaren Racing and released a limited edition watch costing over half a million dollars.
3:15: No issues so far. A clean, simple, and somewhat straightforward journey. The instructions are so detailed, colour-coordinated, and crispy clear that you never miss a step.
3:30: Part 3! The final pieces are coming together. We’ve still got the front suspension and wheels to build. Actually quite complicated from the looks of things. Front setup uses a lot of intricate parts, as it has to take into account the functional steering.
3:45: Realizing just how much aero this car has with the body panels. Hood scoop just like the real car. Feeds air into the engine for more power.
3:50: Front bumper about to go on. All assembled.
4:00: Zap! Electric warning sticker (right above the Union Jack). They put these on real cars too, especially high-performance hybrids and EVs since they can easily electrocute you when they’re on. Love that little touch.
4:15: These dihedral doors are exactly what the LEGO doctor ordered. Swings out and upwards just like in actual McLarens, not straight up like in Lamborghinis. We’ve test driven the 570S and 720S before, and the way this LEGO one works is the exact same. Spicy!
4:20: Attaching the roof rails, giving the Senna GTR a sleek silhouette.
4:30: Every car needs mirrors right? Not real ones here unfortunately, though I’m sure a small piece of glass could be glued on.
4:45: Yes! Now that’s attention to detail. Rear tires are much wider than the fronts. Different rubber too. While they don’t say Pirelli like on the real GTR (they don’t have the licensing for that), they do have ZR 43.2 x 14 labelled on the front, and 43.2 x 22 on the rear.
4:55: Enjoying that subtle gear on top of the roof that controls the front wheels. Smooth action and no hiccups from the movement. Silky buttery motions, just like hydraulic steering rack that McLarens are known for.
This looks and feels more like a $150 piece of LEGO than a $70 one. There is an incredible amount of detail that’s comparable to the real Senna GTR. It’s not just a visually stretched out replica like some of LEGO’s other products, and follows the design quite faithfully. The front end is inherently a little messy with the deeply dished features and negative space, and harder to distinguish its headlights and front grill, but the cues are there if you look closely.
The rear end is where the money is at. The substantial diffuser and wing instantly draws your attention. A shame that it’s not functional, though. But when the rear left wheel moves, the engine pistons will start bobbing up and down, and while much of it is covered by the roof and hood scoop, the yellow colour makes it easy to differentiate from the black and grey internal parts. It was also a wise decision for LEGO to choose the Senna GTR instead of a more complicated hybrid like the P1 GTR or Speedtail. The intricacy of showcasing electric motors and batteries might have pushed it into another price bracket.
LEGO Technic has successfully paid homage to one of Woking’s most serious and expensive supercars. That massive rear wing is our favourite piece, and balances out the somewhat messier front end. It’s been a while since we’ve built and played around with LEGO, and we found delight, excitement, and nostalgia in Senna GTR, from the party trick dihedral doors and functional front wheels, to the moving pistons, resembling the motions of a V8 engine.
McLaren only built 75 examples of the $2 million dollar (CAD) Senna GTR, but this genuinely impressive LEGO set ensures you don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy one.