First question: is the McLaren GT a genuine GT?
In at the deep end it is, then. Just as well the answer is easy. No, no it isn’t. But nor does McLaren pretend it is. It claims instead that this is a McLaren take on the GT, rather than a dead on rival for the Bentley Continental GT.
But they claim a golf bag fits in the back.
And there’s a picture hereabouts that proves it. Guitar cases and skis apparently fit under the long rear tailgate, too. And don’t forget there’s a handy load bay in the nose as well. 570 litres in total, which is estate-rivalling.
The question is whether that space is usable. Look at the shape of it: long, shallow and narrow. Think about lifting things into it, minding the hot exhausts. I know the boot channel is recessed in the centre, and the tailgate glass domes outwards, but skis and clubs are going to be a very tight squeeze. And only one bag/pair, which might not be ideal if two of you are travelling. More likely it’ll be a suit bag pressed into the rear, with a flight case up front. Easier (and cooler) to put a suction rack on the outside for all your ski and bike carrying needs. The space, despite McLaren’s best efforts to reroute engine pipework, isn’t adaptable or flexible. Nor is there much to prevent sporting equipment cannoning through the cabin if you brake hard.
Shouldn’t a grand tourer have four seats as well?
Again: McLaren’s take. But yes, the Bentley does, the Aston DB11 does, the Maserati GranTurismo does, the Ferrari Portofino does and the Porsche 911 does. And even though the Aston’s, Ferrari’s and Porsche’s aren’t actually human compatible, they’re useful places for awkward bags. Cabin stowage in the McLaren is hardly plentiful either. The impression you get is of a car slightly more practical than a 570GT, but not a lot more.
Slightly more luxurious, but not a lot more, too. There’s a lot of leather, the fit and finish goes from strength to strength and the ambience is a hint more upmarket. But it’s not plush. Access is good via the upward-rising, outward-twisting door, but you have to drop a long way down, and you don’t sink into the seat with a sigh. The touch points are still firm, designed for communication, not absorption.
Does that follow through into the driving experience?
Yes. On a sinuous A-road it’s mesmerising, flowing without effort, superbly placeable, swifter, more tactile and confidence-inspiring than any of the rivals mentioned above. Keep the engine lightly boosting and you not only get plentiful acceleration, but ultra-slick gearchanges. The low scuttle means you have a great view forward (it’s reasonable rearward unless you have anything back there), the car responds precisely to inputs, the ride is calm and capable, it doesn’t lean at all. Yep, its road manners through sweepers are a delight. So much so that it’s easy to get carried away.
And this is a GT that’ll back you all the way if you do. Superb steering, massive pace from the twin turbo 4.0-litre V8, the 612bhp and 465lb ft outputs good for a 3.2sec 0-100kph time, 9.0secs to 200kph and a 327kph top end. Open it up and it feels very much like a supercar.
Does it share components with the 720S?
It’s more aligned with the Sports Series range, the 540s and 570s, than the Super Series. But elements are borrowed from the more expensive cars: the hydraulic dampers and suspension software are common for instance. The layout is common to all McLarens: central carbon tub with aluminium sub frames at either end, the engine in the middle and drive to the rear wheels alone. It’s longer overall and the tub also has a carbon upper section to support the tailgate – which can optionally open and close electrically.
Is it much heavier than other models?
It’s 1,530kg, so about 100kg weightier than a 570S or 720S. But you don’t need me to tell you that’s still very light for a GT. The Bentley is near enough three-quarters of a tonne heavier, most of the others around 2-300kg up. Now, in a GT weight isn’t always a bad thing. It can settle the car, make it less distracted, soften the responses, add momentum.
This is where McLaren’s GT suffers. I’m not disputing that it rides very well indeed for the most part, but there’s too much noise generated by tyres, wind and road, too many vibrations and not a rich enough tune from the engine to justify its intrusion. You find yourself thinking about the brakes more than you should because the carbon ceramics in our test car don’t bite hard enough in gentle use. You notice whirring from the ventilation fans. And on rough British roads the feedback can be wearing. I don’t want constant clonks reminding me of the deficiencies of our road maintenance programme.
Put simply, compared with other GTs it’s busy and hectic. I don’t deny it has good ground clearance (once you notice the curiously high nose you don’t stop seeing it), or that the propulsion system is progressive and easily managed around town. And having a car that responds as you want, when you want removes worry and allows part of your brain to relax.
Adding more weight wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing. McLaren could have lowered noise levels, reduced vibration and harshness, given the suspension more travel and yield, softened the driving experience, added cushioning to the firm seats. And does a GT really need to be this fast? Really?
Doing that – even leaving aside the modest gain in practicality this represents over the 570 and 720 – would have distanced this model from others in the range, given it a greater chance of finding a new clientele. As it stands, it’s not noticeably quieter or smoother than a 570GT, and from memory I don’t think it rides any more gently than a 720S – that, don’t forget, is still a mesmerising supercar because of its incredible breadth of capability. And practicality.
But this is considerably cheaper…
Than a 720, absolutely. At £163,000, the GT undercuts its more prestigious sibling by £45,000. Meanwhile the 570GT undercuts the GT by less than £5,000. Which to have? Up to you. The point for McLaren is that both do very similar jobs. I can’t see many people now buying a 570GT when this is more powerful, bigger, more comfortable and still delivers a supercar hit. Just watch the options though. Standard kit is not especially generous – the fitted stereo has only four speakers, seats are manually adjustable, are there’s no lane keep or radar cruise to take the sting out of long drives. That’s not optional at this stage either.
Extra kit costs: the Amaranth red paint is £4,000, the Practicality Pack adds vehicle lift, rear camera, front and rear parking sensors and folding mirrors for £3,750, the £4,900 Premium Pack features full LED headlights, a 12 speaker stereo and fully electric tailgate. Give carbon in all its many and varied forms a wide berth and you should be able to get the GT you want for £185,000. Our fully-carboned test car’s final tally was £57,360 of options.
Let’s end near where we came in: does it convince as McLaren’s GT?
Not fully. The limitations of the mid-engined layout do the car’s versatility few favours and the driving experience is not distanced enough from the rest of the range to convince buyers this is a different type of McLaren. It’s handsome and well proportioned, in isolation another very good McLaren, but the overall impression is that McLaren knows there’s a market for this type of car among its audience, but the 570GT wasn’t quite pulling them in. Let’s hope this one does.