The 2017 McLaren 720S Is The Perfect Supercar
With 710 horsepower, an achingly sexy design and mind-bending performance, this ballistic missile is the whole package
Driving in Rome is a stressful proposition. The roads are narrow and undulating, the street signs can be confusing to read when bunched together, some intersections bear no traffic control devices at all; just a full free-for-all where everyone seems to understand the pecking order save you. Lastly, your peripheral vision must be acute, lest you plow over one of the many inevitable scooters that will sneak up in your blind spots, a hairbreadth from your vehicle. Navigating the stradas of Rome in a rental Renault or Fiat Panda will leave you white-knuckled. Doing it in McLaren’s brand new 720S supercar? Well, that will make your back slick with sweat.
The fear comes from two facts. One: McLaren’s new monster costs $323,130 and that is many monies more than I possess. Two: There are 710 horses just waiting to hit full gallop at the slightest depression of the throttle. McLaren hasn’t made a car. No, they’ve actually made a ballistic missile. And I have to keep it from destroying Italy.
The McLaren 720S is one of the second generation of Super Series cars from the British manufacturer. That’s an apt category classification, because it’s class siblings are indeed super. The 720S slots in between the track scalpel that is the 675LT and the slightly-subdued-but-still-bonkers grand tourer 650S. But McLaren didn’t raid its existing parts bins around the Woking, England factory to cobble the 720S together. The 720’s body and chassis are comprised of 91 percent brand new parts. By redesigning it from the ground up, engineers were able to lop off some extra 40 pounds from the 650S, giving the car a lithe curb weight of 2,829 pounds.
While it may be a featherweight on the scales, it’s an undisputed heavyweight when it comes to the powertrain. A 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 M840T engine sits behind the driver’s head. That is one prodigious powerplant, cranking out 710 horsepower (720 PS, if you’re inclined to go metric and thus realize the impetus for the supercar’s nomenclature) and 580 lb-ft of torque. (For comparison, the 650S was good for 641 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of yank.)
That M840T engine, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch Seamless Shift gearbox, will get you hauling. The sprint to 60 mph from a dead stop takes 2.8 seconds. Keep the accelerator matted and you’ll hit 100 mph in 7.8 seconds. If you’re on a runway or the Le Mans’ Mulsanne straight, and you’ve got the cojones to stay on the power, you’ll eventually achieve the 720S’ top speed: a reported 212 mph. It’s so fast that when you’re accelerating in track mode, it outruns its digital speedometer, the numbers skipping by 5 or 10 mph just to catch up.
Unsubtle in the thrust department, it’s no shrinking violet when it comes to the exhaust, either. The exhaust system is completely new, a progression from earlier sports exhaust systems McLaren’s developed, honed and refined for extra loudness. You’ll hear it growl and snort low in the RPMs all the way through to redline. On the narrowest streets of Rome, where the stone facades towering high above seem to cave in on top of you, the aural delights that bounce off those ancient bricks from this exhaust will induce a smirk that only widens every time you hit the gas.
Out of Rome and winding through the Italian suburbs, there are plenty of chances to let the McLaren rip. It eats up the rolling countryside, streaking past slack-jawed farmers perched atop tractors and drawing thumbs up from sleepy gas station attendants. For good reason: this is unequivocally the sexiest McLaren to date. (Apologies to the P1.) The 720S has no bad angles. Beautiful flowing lines guide your eager eyes through and over every inch of the car, right down its wide rear haunches.
As much as it’s a car to be seen in, it’s also a car you can see out of, a supremely rare feat when it comes to supercars. Credit the dihedral doors with their glass roof panels and ingenious glass-glazed C-pillars for 360-degree views. There’s never been a mid-engined supercar with this much visibility. It’s sublime to back up in a car that costs more than most houses and not worry about clipping a curb because you can’t see squat with the rearview camera.
It’s the little things like visibility that reinforce just how well McLaren achieved their goal with the 720S. They set out make a road car as comfortable and practical for long hauls as their 570GT but with the staggering performance of the 675LT. Wins in the comfort and practicality departments are obvious.
With regard to precision performance, look slightly deeper. That beautiful form is full of function. Gone are the door ducts, replaced by hollowed-out “eye-sockets” in the headlights that help funnel air through the car to low-temperature turbocharge radiators in the rear, affording 15 percent more cooling efficiency. The full width airfoil in the rear snaps to attention under heavy braking, acting as an airbrake, and swiveling up to 30 degrees to help provide more stopping power. When driving, it reverts to a spoiler, which helps give the 720S 30 percent more downforce.
To demonstrate just how glued to the asphalt the 720 is, McLaren brought us to Italy’s famed Vallelunga track, a properly quick circuit, and let us thrash their wares. The first thing you notice is how quick this sucker is. It’s twice as aerodynamic as the 620S and that means enhanced cornering speed. Zipping through Curva Grande, one of the fastest portions of the track, the car felt poised and balanced. You can tuck into corners at much higher speeds than I initially felt comfortable with, but after some assurance from both the race coach in the passenger seat and not a hint of instability from the car, further down went the throttle, higher the speedo climbed, and deep dives into the brakes came far later.
After a few laps, the instructors encouraged us to sample Variable Drift Control. This is a function in the car’s performance menu and it’s a scientific approach to oversteer. This is not a drift button, like you’d see on a Ford Focus RS. One tap does not make you Ken Block. Instead it allows drivers to manipulate the amount of traction control in minute degrees of slippage to help them approach the limits of control.
Start slowly, going in with a wheel full of steering lock and give the throttle a stab, and the backend will wiggle out, but it’s up to you as the driver to know how to maintain that drift and live in that oversteer. The car doesn’t work magic. Billowing tire smoke from a slideways McLaren will only result from you having proper control. Still, it’s a neat perk and one that lucky 720S owners will likely dive into, should they ever track these beasts.
Base price on the 720S is $288,000, but even if you’ve got that chunk of change laying around, you’re still out of luck. All 1,400 cars slated for production the first year have been sold. There’s still a bit of time, but McLaren will likely cap the production run around 4,000 or 5,000. You get a helluva supercar for that money, though you’ll want to allocate an additional $45,000 for some key options like Elite Azores Orange Paint ($4,960) and a nose-lift kit ($2,638) and the Carbon Fiber Racing Seats ($6,525). Plenty will still come standard, mind you, like the Folding Driver display, which tucks your digital screen down into the dashboard and only displays your speed, RPMs and gear selection on the narrow edge, for better visibility on track. (Do you need this? No. Is it awesome? Absolutely.)
An oft-touted goal of manufacturers is to build a supreme street car that can also dominate a track. That’s a monumental challenge since those are two very disparate facets of vehicles. It’s rare when a vehicle comes along that rises to that threshold, but McLaren’s done it with the 720S. Whether you’re (carefully) inching along the cobblestone streets of Rome, or flying around the Vallelunga circuit, the 720S will over-deliver on your expectations.
Source: By Sean Evans; http://www.menshealth.com