The Speedtail posts the same 2.9 second 0-62mph time as a 720S costing almost £2 million less. Surprised? Don’t be: both cars are traction limited all the way there. This also explains why its 0-100mph time is a fraction more than 5 seconds flat, rather than considerably less. By 124mph (200km/h) it’s getting into its stride with a time of 6.6 seconds (remember when that was a fairly dramatic 0-60mph time?) but the most ridiculous number of all is 0-186mph (300km/h) in 13 seconds dead. Not even the 1,500PS Bugatti Chiron can match that. So yes, from the moment traction is no longer an issue to the moment the electronics cut in at 250mph, the Speedtail appears likely to be quicker than a Chiron.
So much for bald figures. Most of the time when you’re driving the Speedtail, it feels merely immensely rapid, quick for sure but in an understandable and almost conventional way. And that’s because McLaren’s traction control is so good, you are entirely unaware of its operation, apart from the fact the car seems to have little more get up and go than other McLarens. But then you take it somewhere safe and drive it at a speed where traction doesn’t matter and you’ll find there is an entire other place, a parallel universe of performance where you seem not so much to accelerate toward the horizon as it being ripped towards you. Whether it is a shout, a scream, a howl of laughter or just a dumbfounded gasp, when you feel for the first time what the Speedtail can really do, you will make noises.
And yet it is that same powertrain that first suggests this may be a GT more in name than reality. Like every other McLaren to which it has been fitted over this last ten years, the V8 is a raw and urgent powerplant, quite brilliant for pure sports, super and track cars, but for a long legged, languid GT? Not so much.
The second clue lies in the car’s handling. I’ve never driven a GT that attacks the open road like this. Indeed I’d say that however impressive the Speedtail may be in a straight line, its performance actually plays a supporting role to its chassis. Why? Because for perhaps the first time since the F1, McLaren has been able to set up a car for the road alone. Which means not only is its ride superb, but its damping is simply exquisite. It doesn’t feel tied down on its springs, nor is there the slightest suggest of float or wallow. It does enough to maintain its ride height almost come what may, yet is superbly compliant and tolerant of small bumps. Dynamically this is an exquisitely judged car.