Six years ago McLaren surprised the world with MP4-12C supercar. The first 100% McLaren road car since the iconic McLaren F1 aimed to take the supercar world by storm. But that wasn’t all, McLaren had a plan to take on mighty brands like Ferrari and Porsche and battle for supercar supremacy.
By 2017 the brand line-up has grown to three different model ranges defined as the Sport Series (570 S), Super Series (720S) and the Ultimate Series (P1). The 12C has been replaced by the 650S – which was basically generation 1.5 of the Super Series and it got praised around the world.
At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year McLaren unveiled their second generation supercar; the 720S. Developed from scratch it uses 90% new parts and promises a car that is lighter, faster and more engaging to drive than it’s predecessor and competitors alike. We had a chance to drive the car at Italy’s Autodromo Vallelunga near Rome to see which tricks it has up its sleeve.
Engine & Performance
The McLaren 720S’s newly developed 4.0 liter twin-turbo V8 (M840T) produces 720hp and 770Nm of torque at 5,500 rpm. This allows the 720S to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds. 0-200 km/h is done in 7.8 seconds and 0-300 km/h is done in 21.4 seconds. The top speed is 341 km/h.
The 720S is consistently faster than it’s 650S predecessor but one number truly stands out and that is the reduced 0-300 km/h sprint. The 720S gains 4 seconds compared to the 650S and it can complete a 0-300-0 km/h run in under 30 seconds.
Chassis & Suspension
At the base of the 720S sits a new version of the carbon fibre tub called the Monocage II. The incredible strength of the carbon fibre monocage allowed for some interesting improvements over the old one – most notably the side sill has been lowered so it’s easier to get in and out of the car and the roof pillars are much smaller than before. The latter allowed the McLaren engineers to create a dome like glass cockpit that provides incredible 360 degree views.
Suspension wise the 720S comes with new uprights and double wishbones along with the updated Proactive Chassis Control which includes hydraulically interlinked dampers at each corner to reduce body roll. One of the aims for the 720S was to increase the bandwith between comfort on one side and hardcore track performance on the other. 12 additional sensors and new software that adapts the characteristics through the three different modes, Comfort, Sport and Track, is key to providing smooth cruising in Comfort to outstanding race performance in Track mode.
Just before the Geneva Motor Show I had the opportunity to attend an exclusive preview of the 720 S and at first the new design was quite the shocker. I refered to the headlights as ‘the alien eyes’ as they stared at me. But having recovered from the first shock there are quite a few clever and also stunning design elements to the 720S that set it apart from anything else on the market today.
The front is clearly inspired by the McLaren P1 TM with the new ‘eye sockets’ presenting a first in the automotive industry. The lights and aero ducts are integrated into one single element featuring day time running lights and McLaren’s static adaptive LD headlights along with a air inlet that funnels air to the radiators.
The side view of the 720S is defined by an aerodynamic design. Remarkable is lack of a visible radiator intake on either side, instead the 720S has an extra wide and double skin door that hides the air intake from sight. The doors open butterfly style with both a hing at the bottom as on the roof. The doors now include part of the roof which makes that the car is 14cm narrower either side when the doors are open adding to the improved practicality of the 720S.
The rear features a full width rear wing that doubles as active aero component as well as an airbrake. The engine is partly exposed and can be illuminated by an LED light as part of the Ambient Light package. The centrally mounted rear exhaust is finished in stainless steel or black for the sports exhaust.
Overall the 720S’s design provides a mix between the 570S and P1. Having spent some time with the car the design is growing on me and I have recovered quite well from the initial shock in Geneva. McLaren is not a conservative company and in that regard a design like this fits to the brand and the 720S as a breakthrough performance car quite well.
Getting in to the 720S for the first time it is great to see how far McLaren has come since the 12C. Everything feels more solid, the finishing is nicer and the ergonomics have been improved. All the switch gear looks and feels great.
Behind the steering wheel is a new dynamic display that folds in and out depending on the mode you are in. In Comfort and Sport it shows a whole range of info on either side of the screen with a centrally positioned rev counter and speedometer. Switch to Track mode and the screen folds down showing a new smaller display that only shows the vitals – revs, gear and speed. You can manually change it with the press of a button on the left side of the steering wheel too.
The interior design remains very minimalistic and clean. All the infotainment can be controlled via the tablet like touch screen in the center console. A small pad with short cut buttons and a volume knob underneath it are the only infotainment related buttons. On the left of it you can find the key drive controls that allow you to change the chassis or engine from comfort to sport and track. Underneath it you find the start / stop button and the key gear controls.
The seating position is good, taller people traditionally struggle in mid-engined cars but in the 720S I sit quite well with my 1,90m. Our test car had some exterior color stitching around the leather dashboard though which reflects on the windscreen in the sun so keep those stitches dark when possible.
So what is it like to drive? I start my journey in the city of Rome. Famous for century old buildings and ancient roads. Not the ideal territory for a supercar you might think. But I guess McLaren is trying to make a point that the 720S is not just made for silky smooth race track tarmac but also knows how to handle bumps and putholes. If that was their aim – I would say mission accomplished as the road on the way to Vallelunga is littered with cracks and bumps and the 720S is holding up surprisingly well. In Comfort mode that is. Switch the suspension to Sport and you wish you had your physiotherapist on speed dial.
Cruising along on the highway the 720S is surprisingly quiet this is thanks to improved engine noise optimization and exhaust flaps. Switching the engine mode to Sport or Track dramatically changes this sound profile and unleashes all hell like in the 675LT. Sadly there is not a dedicated exhaust button to control the flaps indecently from the drive mode you are in as in Comfort it is sometimes to quiet for my liking. Perhaps this functionality can be added to the software with an update later.
So it can handle poor quality roads and cruise on highways but this is a supercar not an Audi sedan right? Right.
To test the 720S’s dynamic performance we enter Vallelunga, a former F1 race track built in the 1950s. Very much like Zandvoort it includes some old school banked corners and fast straights. Here the 720S is in its natural habitat! It is truly made on and for the race track.
Opening up the throttle after the first sighting lap demonstrates the tremendous power the new 720S packs. On the back straight it blows past 200 km/h effortlessly and reaches 241 km/h without a feeling of slowing down. Where most of the steering feedback in Comfort is filtered away by the suspension the opposite is true in sport and even more so in Track. The mechanical grip is tremendous and the sheer cornering capabilities are brain-melting.
Having driven the P1 and 675LT it might be interesting to see where the 720S fits in. The LT is rather twitchy and very hardcore. The 720S feels a lot more like the P1 – very stable and blistering fast.
It provides a lot of confidence as well allowing the driver to brake later and carry more speed through the corners lap after lap. This is particularly well illustrated in the first set of corners. A slight left hander followed by a crest, short tap on the brakes and back on the throttle for a fast and long right bend followed by a fast left. The 720S feels like it is running on rails.
McLaren has clearly listened well to feedback on the 12C and made sure the 720S is not just incredibly fast but also fun to drive. In comparison to the 12C the 720S is easy to drift and for people that may not be much of a drifter McLaren added something called Variable Drift Control – a gimmick which allows you to set the maximum drift angle and increase or reduce it with a single swipe on the screen.
The Brake Steer tech carried over from F1 applies quite aggressively when braking into a corner. It aggressively points the nose into the direction of the corner and counters any understeer.
The 720S feels incredibly fast and I wouldn’t be surprised if it can rival lap times of the more hardcore 675LT and possibly even more exotic machines. Yes, it is really that good.
What to Spec
Which options to tick on the order sheet can be quite a challenge so to help you here are some of my favorite options.
720S Performance Pack – Trim is very much up to personal taste but to make the base choice a bit easier McLaren offers three different ‘packs’; standard, luxury and performance which all include a different set of pre defined trim options. The performance pack includes some of the key carbon fibre bits, ambient lightning and the exclusive By Mclaren Performance Interior with Alcantara and Nappa leather.
Sports Exhaust – A must.
Exterior Door Upper Glazed – Adds glass to the roof to create the ultimate light cockpit feeling.
Sports Seats / Carbon Fibre Racing Seats – The choice is up to you but if you aim for the racing seats make sure to test them before ordering as the ‘regular’ size racing seats are too tight for my liking. The slightly wider racing seats are called ‘Touring’.
Sill Trim MSO Full Carbon Fibre – Looks much better than the leather or half carbon option.
Bowers & Wilkings 12-Speaker Audio System – If you are into audio make sure to tick this box.
McLaren Track Telemetry – Go for the laptime function including 3 camera system for the best track telemetry system. The great thing is you can watch your laps and analyse your telemetry on the screen in the car so no need for a laptop or external software to see where you can improve.
Luggage Retention Strap – This allows you to strap luggage to the floor behind the seats.
Vehicle Lift – Adds nose lift so it’s easier to navigate rough roads and parking garages without damaging the front splitter.
The McLaren 720S is an incredible supercar. The improvements to virtually every aspect of the car make it stand out from the crowd and McLaren has set a new benchmark. The design which shocked me at first does embrace the McLaren DNA much better than it’s predecessors did. It is cutting edge and innovative just like the engineering and performance of the 720S.
The broad difference in terms of ride between comfort and track make it excel as both an exotic daily driver as well as a ferocious track car. It is just a bit too quiet in Comfort mode despite having the sport exhaust.
It feels like McLaren Automotive is reaching a state of maturity. They no longer focus and talk about their competitors but instead are fully confident of their own strength. This makes the company and their cars even more lovable than before.
Price & Delivery
The McLaren 720S Performance is available from 218,020 GBP. The McLaren 720S is available for order through McLaren dealerships globally. At the moment McLaren has already received over 1,000 orders which means the production capacity for the next 12 months is sold out.