Review: McLaren 720S

Review: McLaren 720S
Review: McLaren 720S

People who know me might say I’m overly fond of bad language, too quick to resort to swearing.

They’re probably right but now and then something happens that warrants a really good sweary or two. Stubbing your toe on the furniture, for instance. Or seeing Piers Morgan on the telly. Or flooring the throttle in a McLaren 720S for the first time.

That last one in particular is more of an involuntary response than conscious act. The way the 720S accelerates is, almost literally, breathtaking. With a prod of the throttle the rest of the world appears to compress around the car as you warp forward in a blur. It’s manic and momentous and I don’t mind admitting that I uttered a not-so-hushed curse or two as the rasping, whooshing motor behind my head propelled the car and me forward relentlessly.

McLaren 720S Performance

Price: 274,900
Engine: 4.0-litre, V8, twin-turbo, petrol
Power: 710bhp
Torque: 568lb/ft
Transmission: Seven-speed SSG auto
Top speed: 212mph
0-60mph: 2.8 seconds
Economy: 26.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 249g/km

The stats are astonishing – 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds, 124mph (200km/h) in 7.8 – but bare numbers on a page can’t do justice to the visceral thrill offered by a healthy prod of this car’s go pedal.

The space-warping pace is part of it but so too is the noise from the engine. The 4.0-litre V8 has a hard, metallic howl rather than the deep rumble of most V8s and it’s accompanied by the whine and whoosh of two lightweight turbochargers that help it produce 710bhp. On top of that the view all around is as dramatic as the speed and noise – you’re wrapped in a cocoon of carbon fibre, titanium and Alcantara with the nose diving away from you and the wide, dihedral doors jutting out to the side, placing you deep in the car.

All in all, it’s a pretty special car. But then it needs to be. This is the second generation of McLaren’s Super Series – the first McLaren to replace an outgoing model – so it needs to take all the hard work done with the 650S and achieve even more.

To do that McLaren have developed a new carbon fibre tub – Monocage II – that lies at the core of the 720S. This new tub makes the car incredibly strong yet lighter than the 650S and if you opt for our car’s visible body structure pack you can admire exposed chunks of it in the cabin. The pursuit of lightness also sees the widespread use of aluminium alloys and other high-tech materials all over the car. McLaren have even worked with Bridge of Weir to find a way to make the optional leather upholstery lighter.

The engine’s new too, based on the 3.8 featured in other cars but heavily reworked to be lighter and more responsive and with new turbos and intercoolers to up the power and performance.

Outside, the bodywork carries through the bug-like styling of the McLaren family, there’s a familiarity about the sleek flowing lines and the unfeasibly low and wide stance but the 720S is clearly the daddy of the family. The trademark dihedral doors look phenomenal and bring a smile to the lips of even the most cynical observer.

McLaren’s aim with the 720S was to produce a car with the broadest ability of any in their range. They wanted it to be almost as easy to use daily on the road as a 540 but almost as potent as a 675LT on the track.

Such a balance is going to be hard, if not impossible to find so it’s to the engineers’ credit that it comes as close as it does.

On the road you’re always aware of this car’s potential to bite you on the behind if you’re not careful. It’s sharp, lively and firm and an injudicious use of the throttle will land you in a world of pain. But the throttle isn’t the hair trigger of a pure racer, it’s modulated to make driving in traffic manageable, allowing you, with a bit of care, to feed in just as many of those 710 horses as you need.

The handling is even more successfully balanced. It’s so responsive and so direct that you feel a mere thought is enough to get the car pointing where you want. That’s perfect when you’re trying to pinpoint an apex at Spa but just as useful when you’re trying to make stress-free progress in heavy traffic.

The sublime steering weight, speed and feedback make piloting the 720S intuitive in a way that few cars are. This driver/car pairing combines with impeccable body control and astonishing mechanical and aerodynamic wizardry to offer a fluid, smooth but exhilarating driving experience. Show it a bit of twisty road and the 720’s inherent poise becomes apparent as you flow through corners, stuck to the road like glue.

At the heart of such a cohesive driving experience is the active dynamics control, which allows you to chose individual settings for drivetrain and suspension. On rough, bumpy B roads this allows you to blend comfort suspension with sports engine and gearbox, meaning you can enjoy the car’s power without being bounced across the broken carriageway. Alternatively, on a circuit you can turn everything to ‘track’ and let loose.

And you will want to take this on a circuit. As exciting as it is on the road you can almost feel the car straining to be taken to a track where its prodigious talents can be fully explored. Helpfully, the latest version of McLaren’s driver interface includes a telemetry logger so you can track and record your lap performance.

Starting at £208,600, the 720S is an exclusive product available to only a lucky few. What’s more, if you order one today you’ll be waiting until next summer for it. But good things come to those who wait and those with patience will be rewarded with a spectacular, precision-built machine that envelops and engages the driver in a thrilling, visceral experience.

 

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