Quantum Leap – The McLaren 720S

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There are few modern cars out there that really get me excited these days, but there is something about the current line of sports cars and supercars coming out of the Woking factory that is getting me all hot under the collar. On the same day, I got drive all 3 of the cars on offer in the McLaren Sports Series, I also got to drive the latest entry into their Super Series – the McLaren 720S

The thing with McLaren is that unlike all the other major supercar manufacturers like Lamborghini and Ferrari who have been slowly perfecting their cars over the years, the Woking-built sports cars have only been around a few years in this capacity and they are already creating some serious turbulence in the exotics world. The original MP4-12C was not only terribly named (in my opinion), but it also lacked the passion and beauty of the 458 and Gallardo, but on paper, it was simply excellent. The facelifted 650S was an improvement, adopting the front end of the P1 hypercar, but it still had that fax machine-looking rear end. Now we have the 720S, and just look at it!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I do love a silly door…

Where most manufacturers have had to slowly evolve and alter their designs to get that look right, McLaren have done it in just 3 fazes. There is no denying that this really is stunning from every angle. It also has something to please everyone – outrageous styling to please the Knightsbridge cruisers and loads of nerdy aero features to keep the purists happy. This, and boat-loads of power! 710bhp to be precise, and all squeezed from a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre mid-mounted V8.

As one would expect from the boffins over at the McLaren Technology Centre, the attention to detail on this car is mind-blowing. Every mm of the external design was drawn to maximise aero and downforce. There are air vents hidden within the headlights that channel air to two small radiators in front of the front wheels, the doors have special channels that force air directly to the engine and the whole body of the car was designed on a great white shark. This new design has led to 50% more downforce over the 650S and due to the carbon-fibre construction, it has a dry weight of just 1,283-kgs.

Inside it’s much of the same – due to the car’s Carbon Fibre Monocage II, you sit nice and low, inside the high-strength tub where you are then surrounded by carbon fibre accents and lots of Alcantara suede. The interior is as beautifully designed as the exterior with everything created and positioned for optimum ease and accuracy whilst driving. It really is a fabulous place to sit, and also very comfortable.

*Image courtesy of McLaren UK

Obviously, it’s one thing to look good but like with any supercar, the 720S can only really be measured on how it performs, and boy does it perform. It starts with the now-common practice of push-button start when the highly tuned V8 roars into life and then it is closely followed by selecting your driving mode – Comfort, Sport or Track. Each mode alters the set up of the car, and not just by tightening up the dampers and increasing throttle response… If you want to go “Full Fat”, Track Mode is the only option and as you select it, the whole dash binnacle automatically folds away removing any distractions between you and a truly thrilling drive. Instead of fancy dials and animations, all you get is a single strip display showing your rev and your speed. Simple, clean and effective. (You can fold the dials away at any time using a manual override, but it’s only in Track mode where it does it automatically.

One thing that has always been a huge selling point for me with McLarens is just how easy they are to drive and this was still very much the case with the 720S, for a car so powerful, so low and so highly strung, it’s no harder to drive than a standard 911, or it’s little brother, the 570S. It’s so easy in fact, that you can easily forget that this is a 710hp missile that can hit 62mph from standing in just 2.7 seconds and it will keep accelerating all the way to 212mph… It almost feels reckless of McLaren to build such a fast car that feels so useable and idiot-proof. McLarens almost stubborn approach to the use of hydraulic steering racks has paid dividends to them with this car, as it has probably the best steering feel in any performance and supercar on the market today. Like the rest of the car, it is so well dialled in and the feedback is spot on. It’s so direct and despite the huge amount of tech that has gone into this car, it feels so analogue and precise. It really is a masterpiece.

As I said before, I was testing this particular car on the public roads on and around the Goodwood Estate, so best behaviour was the top priority of the day. That said, I still had the opportunity to open the taps on some nice bendy back roads and at first, the car felt terrifying, it just shoots off at a pace, unlike any other car I’ve driven in the past. Fortunately, the simple and driver-friendly nature of the car made familiarisation quick and painless and it wasn’t long before I flicked the car out of Comfort and into Sport. Everything tightens up and there is a bit of an unwelcome stiffness to the suspension due to the carbon monocoque setup but it wasn’t enough to detract from the overall performance feel of the car. As with doing anything in a faster capacity, everything has to be increased from your reaction times to the way you read the road ahead and in a lot of “fast” cars, this can be tricky and often the cause of ruin for many an inexperienced driver, but the 720S doesn’t give you that shit-yourself feeling you can get from cars like the Nissan GTR and others. It just feels like normal driving, but faster, if that makes sense…?

Big carbon ceramic stoppers help keep all that 710hp under control

This is largely helped by the reassuringly responsive carbon ceramic brakes that can stop on a dime and the active aero keeping you absolutely glued to the tarmac. This car really can make even the most average of drivers feel like pros as long as they get into it fully appreciating the sheer amount of power and speed available to you. And this is where my only real criticism comes in, the abundance of power and speed is just too accessible. I know you’re all wondering what could possibly be wrong with all that grunt and acceleration? I’m all for groundbreaking facts and figures and sub-3 second 0-62 is incredible, but not practical for every day on our public roads.

I’m sure a lot of you will think I’ve been smoking something or that I’ve lost the plot when it comes to what a supercar should be, and don’t get me wrong, I completely adore the 720S, I think it’s an amazing piece of machinery and engineering and utterly stunning to look at. However, in my honest opinion, the 570S is the perfect balance of usability and performance for me and the 720S is just a bit too much. Having said that, I am still super excited to see where this will take McLaren and other manufacturers as they continue to push the envelope with what is achievable. Hopefully, an electric-petrol hybrid supercar will be next on the cards for the Super Series at McLaren Automotive.

Is there a better backdrop than the iconic Goodwood House? I don’t think so…

What do you think though, do you think I’m mad saying the 720S is too fast? Or what do you think is next for supercars? Drop us a comment with your thoughts and ideas below.

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