GRR

The Goodwood Test: McLaren 720S

22nd October 2017
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.

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Heritage

While the McLaren badge has been in existence ever since Bruce McLaren decided to turn his hand from race to road cars, the company responsible for the mighty 720S – McLaren Automotive – has only been selling cars since 2011, when the Woking nucleus split, producing this road side of the company (responsible for 80 per cent of group turnover) and McLaren Technology Group, which produces them there racing cars of the Formula 1 type.

The 720S is the first replacement model that McLaren Automotive has produced. It knocks out the entire contents of the Super Series to date which comprised the 650S Coupe and Spider and 675LT. For now, there is only the 720S occupying this bracket within McLaren’s range (there’s the Sports Series below it, with the 570S derivatives, and the Ultimate Series above it, with the forthcoming BP23 hypercar which replaces the P1).

But while all this sounds like model without much heritage, the 720S, and indeed any McLaren, is still fundamentally a car with Bruce at its heart: built around the driver, with clever, innovative engineering at its core.

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Design

As usual, styling is at the fairly bonkers end of the supercar spectrum. Outside, the back has the familiar McLaren swooping rear window and sexy curvaceous tail lights, diffusers, gaps and meshes all working the air frantically away from the car, plus a set of aggressive tail pipes up round the car’s ears. But it’s the front where the changes are most apparent: instead of those familiar flicking headlamps, there’s an LED bar stretching across empty eye sockets where the headlamp should be. As well as a dramatic design, this is all part of one clever aero package to cool the engine, while hollow channels and ducts feed air along the side of the car, along the tops of the doors, and out the back. 

Those dihedral doors are cut far into the roof, leaving only a skinny structural spine; the resulting glass around the roof, at the rear and in the deep signature windscreen, create excellent all-round visibility for the driver.

Inside, there are echoes of the external McLaren swoops and curves, with different leather sections floating over the top of each other. The best addition to the 720S is the rotating driver display, which folds into a thin screen with a digital readout for speed, gear, revs a la F1. Push a button and it folds up to reveal a full display with the usual infographics.

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Performance

That 720S moniker denotes horsepower (PS): 720, or 710bhp. On the road, it’s crazy fast. My fellow driver on our test route round Goodwood took the car to indecent speeds, only for it to drop down a cog of its own accord to give us even more boost. Those turbos puff and whine and shoot you down the tarmac and into tomorrow before you can count the points on your licence. There’s no way of exploring the possibilities of the power on a public road in the UK.

You can play around with Comfort, Sport and Track settings for both the powertrain and chassis, which is a really smart division of choice: you might want more oomph from the engine, but comfy suspension, for example, on an open but undulating country road.

The brakes are fantastic and the carbon-fibre monocoque gives the driver everything you’d expect from the men in Woking: a supple chassis, pin-sharp through the corners, rigid but light. In terms of performance, there really isn’t a box this car doesn’t tick.

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Passion

McLaren Automotive HQ in Woking is a very strange, futuristic building; purposefully sterile, full of bright lights and white walls, mind-boggling technology and clever men in white coats. All of which informs the cars, for sure, but then you throw into the mix the history of McLaren, the raw passion of men like Bruce McLaren and Ron Dennis, and you have a unique mixture on your hands for a very British brand. McLarens seem to manage to provide both intellectual driving experiences and full-throated bloody roars of excitement. You can imagine the perfect customer being a top neurosurgeon: precise, careful, startlingly clever, but seeking constant adrenalin rushes. He or she would probably have the salary for one of these, too.

Price: from £218,020 

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  • 720S

  • The Goodwood Test

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