I think I was a little naïve stepping into the McLaren 720S. After driving the 540C, 570GT and 570S Spider, I was convinced that something close to engineering perfection had been achieved. One of the best chassis I’ve ever driven… razor sharp steering… a slingshot of an engine… all wrapped up in a Supercar silhouette.
I was often asked about the 720S, but I always assumed you simply wouldn’t notice much of a difference. It’s as if my brain had resigned to the fact that I’d reached a performance threshold and anything above that was just status and a few extra horsepower. But as I found when driving the McLaren 720S, I was wrong. Dead wrong.
At first glance, you notice there is something a little more sinister about this exterior. Initially, you can’t quite put your finger on what it is exactly, but once you start to explore the 720S it becomes quite apparent. The car is unequivocally performance-focused. Compared to the 570S, the 720S is a tad wider, a fraction longer and a whisker lower. There is an overall sleekness to the silhouette that is unmatched in other bodies. Even in isolation, some of these design elements should have their own page on the McLaren website. Those svelte pillars… those beautifully hinged dihedral doors… it’s worth taking a moment to stop and smell the carbon roses. Every intake, every splitter is exquisitely sculpted, meticulously manufactured and purposeful to the Nth degree.
When you slip down into the cockpit, some nervous excitement begins coursing through your body. The center console angles toward you like a control center. Alcantara leather and carbon fibre dominate the track-focused cabin in a way that’s distinctly McLaren. The switchgear is beautifully machined from aluminum and even though on first glimpse it may seem minimal, every control is driver-focused and purposeful. Slim pillars and a uniquely shaped cabin means the glass canopy fills the cockpit with natural light whilst providing more visibility than most family cars. But for many, including myself, the supercar smirk surfaces when you open those doors. The twin-hinged dihedral wings open forwards and up, inducing a chorus of ‘ ooohs ‘ and ‘ ahhs ‘ from anyone in a 1km radius. Even sitting still, there is enough validation for you to pull out your wallet, but then you hit the engine start button, and it’s a done deal.
McLaren said that when the were designing the 720S, they took their inspiration from the Great White Shark, “a beautifully sleek yet brutally efficient hunting machine”. With 720PS (530 kW) on tap, you can see the connection. The 720S is, quite simply, the fastest car I’ve driven. When you go sub 3 seconds 0 – 100 km/h (2.8 to be exact), you need an extra gear in your brain to process that visual field. The 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 is a monster. When flicking paddles manually, you’ll find yourself short-shifting that 7-speed gearbox in a feeble attempt of wrangling the 770Nm of torque into submission. Top Gear’s Chris Harris compared the 720S on track to the infamous P1 (check out the video here) and found the 720s was only half a second shy of the hypercar. Of course, you’re more than welcome to put the powertrain in comfort and go pick-up some groceries, but the power and braking becomes so addictive, you’ll find yourself selecting sport and gripping paddles. If given the chance, the 720S is capable of 341 km/h and will brake from 200 km/h back to 0 in 122 metres.
When it comes to outright chassis performance, the 720S has no predators. Adapting technology from the McLaren P1 hypercar, the MonoCage II one-piece carbon fibre tub is the pièce de résistance. Uncompromised strength, rigidity and weight saving result in one of the best performing chassis ever created. With so much power bolted to that frame, Mclaren used the findings of a five-year Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge to develop an electronic aid known as ‘Proactive Chassis Control II’. Data from an array of sensors enables the 720S to better translate the data from road surfaces to ensure effective power delivery. It even goes as far to allow you to alter the angle of drift you’d like (although I’d recommend a skid pan before moving that dial). Even when you start to push a little and you sense the rear getting light, you always feel like you’re in control. Similar to counter steering a Superbike with soft arms, that Alcantara feels like putty in your hands. I’d almost go as far to say it was playful, but I know what great whites can do. The adaptive dampers are hard to fault in a track-inspired double wishbone set-up, and given the numbers that 4.0 V8 is producing, the Pirelli P Zero rubber does an exceptional job keeping you glued to the tarmac.
I often wonder what the founders of car companies would think of their current models. Bruce Mclaren was a man that did it all, he raced, engineered and built himself a legacy that much older companies aspire to achieve. With the Mclaren 720S, I see a supercar he’d be proud of. Track focused, ground-breaking engineering, beautiful materials and an absolute ball to drive. For an independent car manufacturer to produce a car of this magnitude is truly praiseworthy. Yes, that 720S badge carries status, but unlike some, it has been built on the foundations of possibly one of the best supercars ever made. Clearly, The Supremes never drove a Mclaren 720S. You absolutely can hurry love.