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First drive: McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.

First drive: McLaren 720S
McLaren's 'quietly spectacular' new 720S supercar.

 



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McLaren 720S

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

The McLaren 720S is a segment-defining supercar with spectacular pace and poise, but it needs to shout a bit more loudly about it.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: McLaren 720S
Price: 208,600
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbocharged petrol
Body style: two-seat supercar
CO2 emissions: 249g/km (1,700 VED first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 26.4mpg
Top speed: 212mph
0-62mph: 2.9 seconds
Power: 720hp at 7,500rpm
Torque: 770Nm at 5,500rpm

What's this?

A new McLaren. They seem to be coming thick and fast these days, with the 'entry level' Sports Series range filling up nicely. But above those, the Super Series line-up has been pretty quiet of late. That changed at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, though, where McLaren revealed the 720S. The new supercar flagship replaces the 650S and its 675LT spin-off, although the 720S is positioned somewhere in between those two cars.

Both models impressed deeply, so the 720S's task isn't easy, but McLaren has been on a roll of late, with each new model building successfully on its predecessor. Looking at the numbers McLaren quotes for the new 720S, it's difficult not to see that being the case here, too.

That 720 gives a clue to the car's output in hp (710bhp if you're old school), and it comes from a new V8 engine which grows in capacity over its 3.8 predecessor to 4.0-litres. McLaren dubs it the M840T, the T underlining its turbocharged status. It's a development of the old unit, but with over 41 per cent of it replaced, McLaren has been busy finessing it.

That 720hp doesn't have a lot of mass to shift, either, with McLaren quoting an ultimate dry weight of 1,283kg. Fill it up with fluids and put a 90 per cent fill in the fuel tank, and that increases to 1,419kg. That's still not a lot of weight, especially with the 720hp backed with 770Nm of torque, which is produced at 5,500rpm.

With its roots in Formula One, it shouldn't be a surprise to see McLaren's pace of development, but it's still extraordinary. The company could have been excused in using the 650S's structure, but the 720S features the new Monocage II carbon fibre chassis, while all the drive and electronic systems having been re-thought, redeveloped and essentially replaced for their new application in the 720S. McLaren's new supercar is a technical masterpiece, then, with performance that's nearer the P1 than its predecessor in reality, which is little short of incredible.

It looks spectacular, too. It's very McLaren, with hints of all the company's greatest hits in its form, which is clearly derived as much from aerodynamic necessity as it is the stylist's flair. The tail is reminiscent of the P1, the flanks have elements of F1, and there's even some Sports Series nods, too.

Those headlights, or more correctly the 'eye socket' apertures that surround them are divisive, but in the two days we spent with the car their impact lessened, their technicality something that's pretty core to McLaren's way of doing things differently. There's no shortage of drama, from the F1-like opening doors, with their roof cut-outs, to the massive intakes that run the length of the flanks, it's a visual and material treat.

While opening the doors and clambering over the sill is dramatic, it's not so unfamiliar for many supercar customers. What is though is the cabin. Design-wise, it's clearly an evolution of the 650S, and it's not the switchgear, instruments or materials which surprise, but rather the visibility.

A low scuttle for the windscreen is very much a McLaren signature, and visibility out front is improved further by the thin A-pillars, thanks to the Monocage II's carbon fibre build. Impressive as that is, it's the view out the back that really surprises, the rear is almost pillarless, with glass encompassing most of the rear to give an IMAX-like view out the back. It's genuinely incredible, but it's a bit of a shame that it's not better viewed in a wider, smarter, frameless rear-view mirror - a detail you'll find on many mainstream cars these days.

Elsewhere in the cabin McLaren has improved the operation of the switchgear, working on the feel and finish of its controls. There's all manner of new connectivity and telemetry options, too, if you're intent on taking your 720S to the track and learning how you could go that little bit quicker.

How does it drive?

Getting your head around the fact that the 720S is a car that, in all but top speed, is quicker than the F1 takes some getting used to, particularly as it's so easy to drive. That visibility helps enormously. Sitting in the 720S isn't as daunting as some mid-engined (or even front-mid-engined) rivals, thanks to the incredible view out.

Normal mode has gone from the drive mode selector. It's now labelled Comfort, as McLaren says there's nothing 'normal' about the 720S. Leave it in Comfort, and the Proactive Chassis Control II system deals with rough tarmac, like that found around the 720S's launch venue in Rome, with real composure and remarkable civility.

It's firm, but not compromisingly so, although Sport and Track modes add some unwanted vibrations through the 720S's stiff carbon fibre structure. What is notable, over the engine's massive power, is the steering. McLaren steadfastly refuses to shift its thinking on the use of a hydraulically-assisted steering rack, and that's evidenced by one of the best steering systems on any modern supercar.

It's got fine detail, allied to some assured weight. Everyone from McLaren's chief test driver Chris Goodwin through to Mark Vinnells, Executive Director, Product Development, has admitted that the steering feel and weighting have been an area they've obsessed over to get correct.

That, combined with the visibility you've got, allows you to place the 720S with absolute confidence. Never has a supercar felt so wieldy, even on roads that might be considered more hot-hatch friendly than 720hp mid-engined supercar territory. What is evident, even on the road, is the ferocity of the performance on offer. Nothing, this side of a hypercar, accelerates with the vigour of the 720S, that's not just true when launching from standstill, but though the gears on the move. The feeling of a lack of inertia, both in the engine's response, and the perception it's not having to work hard to shift the car, is hilarious, and the 720S hurls itself forward with alacrity that's got to be experienced to be believed.

That the chassis is so transparent in its feedback and clear in its response only adds to the ability, not lessening the impact of the 720S's performance, but allowing it to be exploited. The brakes, like the steering, are noteworthy. They feel race-car like in the weighting of the pedal, and it doesn't feel like you're pushing through a servo to get to the stopping power - the response is immediate, progressive and assured. The air brake helps, and the 720S's stability under braking is resolute, to the benefit of corner entry speeds. Add a transmission that's so quick it'll shift as quickly as the synapses that asked your finger to trigger it, and the 720S is a car that's devastatingly effective at covering ground quickly.

On a track, with the space to really explore its performance, the 720S is other-worldly. That it feels as friendly as a Lotus to drive, but with rocketship pace is a huge complement, and McLaren's tuning of the various driving assist systems allow the 720S to reveal its abilities. There's a variable drift mode, which allows a degree of yaw - to your chosen angle - before it helps out, and the McLaren flatters you by helping you, yet is engaging and hugely entertaining. Its limits are more easily read than its predecessors, and it's a more playful, less daunting car at and above its limits of grip. Keep it neat and the speed the 720S will carry is ludicrous, enough to have P1 customers wondering why they spent all that money on their hybrid hypercars.

If you're sensing a but, you'd be right. There's no denying that the 720S's breadth of ability is deeply impressive, but during our introduction to it, McLaren admitted it had worked on refinement over its predecessors. It has, to the point that in Comfort mode the engine is so muted it's all but silent, there no occasional crackle or flair from the exhaust on downshifts, even with the Sports Exhaust - which brings an ISG Intake Sound Generator. That does admittedly change as you move up through the modes, but even so it's a bit too reserved, particularly in comparison with its Italian rivals.

McLaren claims a lot of its Super Series owners use them every day, which is admirable, but even if that's the case, we're sure they'd like an occasional reminder that they're driving something exotic, even if it has to be synthetically added inside - the 720S sounds far better from the outside. A separate exhaust button would be to its enormous benefit, allowing Comfort settings for road use, but some accompanying sounds to make those daily drives a little bit more memorable aurally.

Verdict

McLaren hasn't been short of people waving their chequebooks at its salespeople from the day the 720S was unveiled. If you want one now you'll be in for a wait, unless you can persuade someone to give up their early car for a small premium. If you want a supercar that can do anything, then the 720S very much fills the brief. Its range of ability, from its ridiculous performance to its ease of use is pretty much unparalleled in the world of supercars. We just wish that for all the engine's mighty performance it was a bit more charismatic of note, which isn't something that would be too tricky to sort out. If McLaren could do that, it'd be knocking on perfection.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 3 May 2017









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2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.

2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.2017 McLaren 720S. Image by McLaren.








 

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