As a mild-mannered Englishman, the idea of owning a supercar brings with it a degree of inner turmoil. If I were at a dinner party where a new acquaintance asked what car I drove, and my response was a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, I know what their first thoughts about me would be. And they’d be entirely justified. Imagine spending £250,000 on a car and then having to be apologetic about it.
That is not a problem with McLaren. Own a McLaren and you’re making a different statement altogether. This is the thinking man’s supercar – and the new 720S Spider is the marque’s star pupil.
There is not one panel or pedal, button or lever that has been overlooked – I’ve rarely been in a car so intelligently and thoughtfully crafted. Take the new retractable hard top, for example. First, there’s the sheer speed (both of retraction and motion): 11 seconds in either direction at up to 31 mph.
Then there’s the material: within its carbon fibre frame is a glass roof panel ensuring you retain an airy feel in the cabin even if it’s too cold to have the roof down. Should the sun be too bright, simply press a button and the glass darkens to an inky blue. It’s even supported by glazed flying buttresses – not only do these look cool but also aid all-round visibility and guide air over the tonneau cover.
All this said, you will want the roof down whenever possible – anything to get you closer to the throaty exhaust note from the Ricardo-built V8. Indeed, rather than placing the exhausts in the standard position where the bulk of the car shields you from their sound, McLaren lifts them higher bringing them that much closer to you. The engine note is less ‘screaming mad man’ and more ‘swaggering tenor’. When you’re hammering up the gears, hitting the red line, there is something operatic about the whole experience – like ‘Nessun Dorma’ on nitrous.
There is something operatic about the whole experience – like ‘Nessun Dorma’ on nitrous
The acceleration from the 720S is nothing short of epic. That 4.0-litre powerplant is boosted by a pair of turbochargers enabling the car to hit 60mph in 2.9 seconds. At least, according to McLaren. In fact, an independent motoring website, dragtimes.com, tested the car and managed zero-60mph in 2.38 seconds. That’s faster than a Bugatti Chiron. What’s even more staggering is the 0-100mph time they managed to clock – 4.9 seconds – toppling any Italian or German rival in the same price bracket. This is hypercar performance in a supercar shell.
Of course, shell isn’t quite the right word – more carbon fibre Monocage II-S tub, to be exact. This is the core of the McLaren – and it’s one of the reasons the marque is able to build such capable spiders: very little needs to be done to transform coupé to convertible. The Macca is just as adept in both guises. The only weight additions come from the roof mechanism and the new rollover protection system – bonded to the chassis, the latter is unlike previous iterations as it’s made from carbon fibre rather than steel.
Carbon fibre is McLaren’s signature and its superpower. Sure, every Tom, Dick and Aston uses the material these days, but few with such flamboyance as the Woking manufacturer. McLaren was, after all, the first ever manufacturer to use the material in Formula 1. It means the Spider weighs in at just 1332kg – a good 100kg lighter than any of its direct competitors.
But whereas some lighter-than-feather cars can feel a bit twitchy – where the only place you’d be brave enough to push them hard is somewhere with a long run-off – the McLaren feels incredibly grounded. It encourages you to push your limits without ever feeling like you’re getting close to those of the car.
Part of this comes down to the Macca’s aero solutions. There’s the full-width active aerofoil rear wing which doubles up as an air brake. Then there’s the Variable Drift Control which helps correct your line without being too interventionist. Handy, if you’re going to take it to the track and unleash its full potential.
Even on London’s busy streets, the McLaren is a wonderful place to be. Although, you will have to get used to members of the public asking – as happened to me on three separate occasions – if you’d like to swap cars with them. They’ll be lucky…
For more information, see mclaren.com