Goodwood Test: 2021 McLaren GT Review
The GT is the second go that McLaren have had at slapping the ‘Grand Tourer’ badge on a car. The first was the 570GT, which was really just a very fast sportscar with a slightly larger boot. The GT is bigger than the 570, and has some actual luggage space. But the GT has an instant problem. Yes it has that extra luggage space, but not a lot. It’s still mid-engined, and it only has two seats. So what is the McLaren GT really for?
- High-revving hero
- Very fast beyond 6,000rpm
- Handling is relaxed when it needs to be, sharp when it needs to be
- Looks great in the flesh
We don't like
- Not a Grand Tourer
- No rear seats
- Doesn’t accommodate a massive amount of luggage in
- Sound is uninspiring
When we first saw the pictures of the GT, I’m going to admit, I was underwhelmed. The previous few cars from Robert Melville’s design team had been radical. The 570 looks cool, the 720S looks frankly bonkers and the Senna is troubling, but no doubt extreme. The GT next to them looked a bit... bland. But it was showcased in a sort of off bronze, which did it no favours, and you always need to see a car in the flesh rather that some overly ‘shopped press images. In the metal, the GT looks sharp, definitely more restrained than its siblings, but still eye-catching.
The front is striking compared to most, but in the harsh, angular world of modern supercars, very restrained, the side profile is supercar perfect and dominated by what seems like the largest side vent you’ve ever seen, and the rear... well, let’s talk about the rear. The rear of the GT feels like it’s from a different car, it’s so gaze-worthy compared to the rest of the car. This has to be one of McLaren’s bet bits of design work so far. The lights are paper thin, set back below the non-movable rear wing (a rarity in 2020) and the exhaust tips extend beyond their housing, giving a naughty aftermarket look – in a good way. It just comes together to look angular and futuristic.
Performance and Handling
Here’s surprise number one from the GT. It’s fitted with the same 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 as the 720S, but in a different state of tune. In the GT the engine (an M840TE in case you wondered) achieves 620PS (612bhp) and 630Nm (465lb ft), both impressive figures – but it doesn’t give you either until way up the range. To be precise peak power doesn’t come until 7,500rpm, and torque from 5,500rpm. To put it simply, that means you need to rev the nuts off it to extract the true performance. If you leave the McLaren GT in comfort mode and the gearbox in auto, you’re going to have a very relaxed time. The seven-speed DSG tends to shift up at around 4,000rpm no matter what you’re doing, so it’s never going to break you with a sudden unexpected burst of acceleration. The ride is also incredible – anyone who has been to the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard knows the roads around Goodwood can be difficult at times, and the GT wasn’t fazed by the worst that West Sussex can throw at it. Around town it’s relaxed and easy, with light steering and nothing to really tell you you’re in a 620PS supercar.
But when you do take control yourself, all hell breaks looks. Break through that 6,000rpm barrier and the GT just goes nuts. It’s absolutely not a slouch lower down, easily beating most things on the road, but something changes at 6,000rpm. Rather than being a relaxed cruiser the GT is suddenly an absolute weapon – the first time it happens you find yourself shocked, even if you’ve driven the 720S. I’ve not driven a modern car whose nature changes so dramatically with rev range in, well, ever. The GT revs all the way out to beyond 8,000rpm, so there is a decent whack of this modern version of overdrive to use, but you need to stay in manual to extract it. But that just makes it more engaging, you and the car are working together to do this.
The handling is not as pin sharp as the 720, but it’s been tuned for a bit more comfort, with a custom setup for the suspension and dampers. Even so it’s still not the boat you expect with its name. You can carry a lot of speed into the corner, expecting the car to grip as you turn, and pin the throttle not too far from the mid corner without being bitten by the rear end. It feels on its toes without being floaty, the steering is quick and weighty without being heavy, and the carbon brakes do exactly what carbon brakes do (although for £7,000 I don’t think you need them).
Using the two rotating dials to select the powertrain and handling settings can change the nature of the car. In terms of ride there is little difference between comfort and sport, and if anything I had more fun in comfort, but track will shake your teeth out. And the sound? Well, like all McLarens (as far as I’m concerned) it sounds fine, nothing incredible. They have included more sound deadening in the GT than its siblings, but not as much as you might expect in the average continent cruiser. That was a conscious decision say McLaren, and it allows some of the mechanical noise of the V8 mounted a few inches behind your back into the cabin, so your drive is constantly sound-tracked by that V8.
The McLaren GT’s trump card is its interior. McLaren might not have always gotten the bit inside their cars quite right, but they’ve nailed it here. Especially with this car, finished in brown leather, and when I say finished, it’s more the beginning middle and end, because it’s everywhere – all part of the optional Luxe Pack, which will set you back £9,900. It really is top notch inside the GT, from the seats, which are in the running for some of the most comfortable car seats I’ve ever sat in (and are part of that Luxe Pack), to the upright infotainment system (mounted in a way that oddly reminds me of Volvo’s mid-2000s floating dash concept), it’s all laid out much better than you might expect from what is ostensibly a supercar. Perhaps this is where the McLaren’s GT credentials come through – you could quite easily spend several hours in this wafting across the continent, without feeling too knocked about.
There’s also lots of nice touches, from the sculpted speakers, which in some cases mimic the McLaren logo, and in others just continue the flow of the dash, to the red lighting around the McLaren badge and set into the door. Even small things like the movement of the glovebox, it’s all excellent. In fact, perhaps the only downside in here is the positioning of the pedals. Despite there being only two they are very close, to the point that if you have a wider foot and hit the brake, you run the risk of grabbing the throttle. It feels perfectly set out for heel-and-toe, but there will never be a clutch pedal.
Technology and Features
It’s loaded, but that is partly due to this car’s Luxe Pack – which adds the powered seats, power adjusted steering column, ambient lighting and more – and Practicality Pack (£3,750) – the rear view camera (which is positioned right on the dash, making it useless for reversing with any lock), electric tailgate, rear parking sensor and folding mirrors. Also options are those ceramic brakes, 15-spoke alloys, the paint (that’s £4,000), sports exhaust, any carbon you see and the Bowers & Wilkins speaker system. So what is standard? Well, you get that engine, the infotainment system including Sat-Nav, Bluetooth, hill hold, keyless entry and go and an alarm.
We have to mention the name. Sorry McLaren, you chose the wrong name, it’s just not a GT. But we should focus on the car that it is, which is an everyday supercar.
The GT has two very different personalities. There’s the quiet , comfortable around town cruiser with ample space for a couple of bags (but not your golf clubs). And there’s the absolutely bonkers supercar, which pulls itself into some kind of hyperspace at 6,000rpm and which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. That dual ability sets it apart from most supercars, all of which are usable day-to-day in 2020, but none of which are quite so calm, or have quite so much space as the GT. If this is the entry point to the McLaren world for many it’s a very good start. Your only question is whether you can part with £163,000 for the base model.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8
620PS (612bhp) @ 7,500rpm
630Nm (4654lb ft) @ 5,500-6,500rpm
Seven-speed double-clutch, rear-wheel-drive
£163,000 (£220,540 as tested)
Reviewed by Ben Miles