Spring 2017 McLaren blew us away with the launch of the McLaren 720S Coupe. Almost two years later the company from Woking released the Spider version of their benchmark supercar and we had a chance to drive it in Arizona.
The McLaren line-up has expanded almost exponentially since the launch of the MP4-12C back in 2011. Nearly all models share three key ingredients: a turbocharged V8 engine, dihedral doors and a carbon fibre monocage. It is the latter that provides the basis for creating an ultra light high performance convertible like this. Thanks to the rigid and light monocage McLaren can remove the roof without having to add a lot of additional weight to make a convertible as stiff as the coupe.
The result of this engineering philosophy is a convertible that weighs only 49 kg more than its hardtop counterpart while maintaining the same performance at 720hp and 770Nm. With a dry weight of just 1,332 kg it is significantly lighter than other high-performance convertibles. The Audi R8 Spyder and Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster per example are nearly 300 kg heavier at 1,612 kg and 1,625 kg respectively. The result of this rigid weight saving strategy? Breathtaking performance: 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, 0-200 km/h 7.9 seconds, 0-300 km/h 21.4 seconds, top speed 341 km/h. Virtually identical to the figures of the coupe.
There is a lot more to tell about the McLaren 720S Spider than ‘just’ breathtaking performance and ridiculous low weight. The development of the Spider started back in 2013 at the same time as the Coupe. For the Spider McLaren created a new foldable roof with a one-piece roof panel which can open and close in 11 seconds up to 50 km/h. This is a lot faster than the two part panel in the 650S Spider and 570S Spider. A new door mechanism was created and the audio system recalibrated to adjust for wind noises with the roof down.
The design of the McLaren 720S Spider is more ‘targa’ than full size convertible. Meaning that the buttresses on either side remain when the roof is down. To create better visibility the buttresses are made from glass which allows you to see through them and in addition their shape adds a bit of downforce too.
When the roof is up there is about 58 liter of storage space under the rear tonneau in addition to the 150 liter front trunk space. One of my favorite features of all McLaren convertibles is the electric rear window / wind deflector. It let’s in all the beautiful V8 sounds when you drive with the roof up. As an optional extra McLaren offers a glazed roof version with a electrochromic glass which can switch from dark to light to let the sun in or block it out at the tip of a button.
Inside the McLaren 720S Spider is very similar to the Coupe. It comes with a new version of the infotainment system which packs a bit more functions and is a bit easier to use. It is still not as good as those from Volkswagen Group, Daimler or BMW who can spend billions on R&D but it is certainly better than the system in the 650S and 570S.
McLaren aimed to create the most complete convertible supercar with best-in-class performance and great usability, visibility and emotion. To put their claims to the test we hit Arizona State Route 87 from the desert in Scottsdale to the moutains around Payson. The road is one of the most scenic in the US and it twists its way up the mountains til we reach Payson. The 720S Spider is as insanely fast as the coupe but the added drama of squeezing the V8 with the roof down takes the driving experience to another level.
The three different driving modes Comfort, Sport and Track trim the suspension, gearbox and throttle responds to your liking. The bandwidth between comfort and track is huge especially when it comes to ride quality. Sound wise I have the feeling the car could be a little louder and the 720S is certainly more sophisticated than a Ferrari or Lamborghini in audible terms.
In terms of driving dynamics there is very little to complain about. The steering is razor sharp and body roll simply does not exist. The 720S Spider’s sheer capabilities are not limited by technical constraints but by its driver. There are few locations and even race tracks around the world where the full potential of this exceptional machine can be exploited in the hands of an ordinary customer.