Intro

I’ve been wanting to test McLaren cars for quite some time, however there aren’t may press vehicles available. Luckily for me, couple of weeks back I got an e-mail from McLaren Milano  (the one and only dealer of the English manufacturer in Italy at this time) where they invited me to their showroom to check out the new 720S and 570S Spider and then take them out for a drive; an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I arrived at the dealership around 9 am in order to be the first to check in and be able to spend as much time as possible with the cars. Federica (Communication Consultant South Europe) warmly welcomed me, we briefly talked about the cars on display and then, without wasting any more time, she introduced me to the mighty 720S.

Interior

The interior of the 720S is a huge step up from the 650S, both in terms of design and quality. The center console is completely revised, it still hosts the big IRIS infotainment screen but now it’s slightly tilted towards the driver. Handling and Powertrain knobs have been moved up to a more reachable position,  gearbox’s switches now look like those found in a plane and the engine stop/start button seems like it’s been borrowed from a rocketship.

The 720S is probably the supercar with the best visibility, there are a lot of panels made of glass, allowing more natural light to come into the cabin and getting rid of blind spots completely. Front boot is large, one of the biggest among supercars but if that isn’t enough, the large parcel shelf behind the seats will come in handy for a combined capacity of 360 liters It’s a supercar without traditional supercar compromises.

McLaren’s steering wheels are always clean and minimal and the one found in the 720S makes no exception, it’s upholstered in leather with Palladium inserts (I’d spec mine in carbon though) and slightly flattened at the bottom. The rocker paddle shifters feel solid and being able to operate them with just one hand is a clever solution.

The biggest change over the 650S is the new fully-digital dashboard, the screen is very bright so it’s perfectly visible even in a bright sunny day. It gives all the crucial informations and the graphic’s design is really cool with the big rev counter taking center stage. The magic trick happens when you switch to race mode: the screen it folds down revealing just a thin portion where only speed, gear and rpm are displayed, the kind of info you want to know when you’re really focused on the driving; besides looking incredibly cool it also leaves more room for front visibility.

Overall fit and finish is spot on, everything is wrapped in leather and all the controls feel premium. If I had one on order I would definetely opt for the full carbon and alcantara pack to give the interior that racecar look.

Exterior

Saying that the 720S’ design is groundbreaking is an understatement. When it first came out lots of people – including me – were skeptical about McLaren’s new styling course. However, time has proven us wrong. The car’s aesthetic is so advanced we simply weren’t ready and since then the 720S has grown on me a lot; the clever front lights which double as aerodynamic and cooling key elements are now my favourite detail of the car; the Double Skin bodywork is awesome too: it allows for a smooth and clean side profile while retaining sophisticated aero solutions underneath.

The rear wing is bigger that the one on the 675LT, it now extends for the entire width of the rear-end and still operates as an air-brake. The back of the car has many openings to keep engine and gearbox temperatures as low as possible.

The infamous dihedral doors take inspiration from the legendary F1 since they now incorporate part of the roof panels making ingress and egress much easier; on top of that they look extremely cool, it’s an event very time you open them!

Specs

The heart of the 720S is the new 4.0 liter twin-turbo V8 that is lighter and sits lower than its predecessor to improve the center of gravity.

This new engine is good for 720 horsepower and 770 N/m of torque. Moreover, peak torque comes way up in the rev range, between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm, whereas peak power hits a fraction of a second later at 7,000 rpm. The engine also has lighter pistons and conrods and a stiffer, lightened crank, plus twin-scroll turbochargers with faster-spooling turbines, capable of spinning at 145,000rpm, and electronically controlled wastegates. In total, 41% of the engine’s components are new.

The suspension is a further evolution of McLaren’s hydraulic setup, only now there is much more communication between the variable dampers and the car’s brain via accelerometers and many other fancy gizmos aka Proactive Chassis Control 2 Thanks to the completely new Monocage 2 the 720S is a feather light, clocking in at just 1283kg, significantly less than its closest competitors and 18kg lighter than the 650S.

The carbon fibre structure is the key to the car’s game-changing performance, being both ultra lightweight and extremely rigid. Lightness and strength are not the only benefits that Monocage 2 brings. With a wider entrance, lower sill and slimmer pillars, the new Super Series improves access into the cockpit. The steering wheel is still and hydraulic unit to deliver the most direct feedback to the driver.

Driving Impressions

By the moment you step inside the 720 and pull the massive – yet very light – door,  you immediately feel you’re sitting in something rather special. The seat is comfortable and supportive at the same time (customers cal also opt for full bucket seats), all the controls are laid out perfectly and beautifully designed, the 360° visibility is great thanks to the many glass surfaces which make the interior feel even more airy.

Foot firmly on the brake pedal, a gentle push at the red engine start button and the V8 comes to life permeating the cabin with its deep growl and a slight vibration. First gear engaged via the right paddle with a satisfying click and I’m off.

Due to my limited time with the car and the amazing hot sunny day, I drove exclusively with the Handling knob set to sport and the Powetrain one set to track. Why not the handling set to track too you ask? Well, in track the traction control gets more permissive and I really didn’t want to bin a 700+ horsepower car that was completely new to me.

The ride is firm but not harsh, thanks to McLaren’s extremely sophisticated hydraulic anti-roll system the car stays flat even on fast corners while providing a good amount of comfort. It’s monumentally fast and the steering seems to play some sort of neural connection between you and the car, you think where you want to place the 720 and she’s already there.

The mechanical grip is insane and it’s astonishing how the car is able to pout all that power to ground, the specifically developed Pirelli P-Zero tires surely help. When you need more, the massive wing at the back comes into play, rising up for maximum downforce, acting as DRS drag reduction setting for optimal straight-line performance or switching to almost vertical position under heavy breaking basically acting as a parachute.

The brakes, oh my god the brakes are amazing; it’s like deploying an anchor from the back of the car. The pedal doesn’t have much travel and requires a substantial amount of pressure from your foot, it feels like a potentiometer: the braking force applied depends on how hard you press not how deeply the pedal travels.

Let’s talk about the engine. This V8 has been reengineered for a capacity of 3994cc, thanks to a 3.6mm lengthening of its stroke. A cast aluminium air intake system, visible through the mesh engine cover, feeds extra air to the more potent engine that now uses two injectors per cylinder. But rather than simply pumping in more fuel, the improved injection system gives more accurate metering, which helps to cut CO2 emissions. The eight-cylinder wakes up above 2000rpm and the low-inertia twin-scroll turbos spool up so quickly the engine gets to the 8200rpm redline in a heartbeat. Power delivery is outstanding, it’s a constant pull that pushes you into the seat and rearrange your guts. As turbo motors go, the 720S is the new benchmark.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox mounted end-on to the engine drives the rear wheels. It delivers smooth gearchanges at low speeds and faster (45% faster than even the 675 LT provides) sharper shifts at higher speeds; one of the best boxes I’ve ever tried.

720S’s limits are somewhere between the stratosphere and Mars, safe to say I only exploited maybe 20% of the car’s full potential.

Those who claim McLaren’s are dull and character-less either daily drive a V10 F1 or have never driven a car from the British company.

A bit of history

When I got back to McLaren Milano it was lunchtime and the staff had a lovely buffet set up. Everything was delicious and freshly made; eating finger food while overlooking McLaren’s, I definetely had worse days!

After the hunger was satisfied Federica and I sat down to have a deeper look into McLaren Automotive’ history and a peek at the future. The brand was established in 2010, just 8 years ago, and it’s mind-blowing to think what the’ve achieved in such a short span of time. In 2011 they introduced their first model, the 12C, followed by the Spider variant in 2012. One year later and the groundbreaking P1 makes its debut, an astonishing piece of engineering that came out of Woking’s production line after just 3 years since the company was founded, crazy to think of. In 2014 the 12C gets replaced by the 650S and 650S spider, a nice step up from the original model. The mental P1 GTR arrives in 2015 alongside the new Sport Series family which includes the 570S and 570GT . One year later and it’s time for the track-focused 675LT to steal the show, especially in Carbon Series guise. Last year the Super Series was updated with the launch of the ballistic 720S, and the 570S Spider went to extend the Sport Series range. Couple of months ago the Ultimate Series was born with the introduction of the polarising Senna and the announcement of the Hyper GT called BP23 coming next year. The most recent addition to the McLaren line-up is the new 600LT, a track-ready version of the already very capable 570S.

Lately, the company announced the new Track 25 business plan: they foresee employee growth up to 2500 people by 2020, they aim to have100 retailers in 33 markets and – with a sprinkle of British pride – to have 57% of the total value to be made in UK. By 2024 all the cars will be 100% petrol/electric hybrid forecasting an estimated sales volume of 6000 units, with a total of 18 new models to be launched by the end of 2025. McLaren will expand its track activities too, introducing new models of GT3-GT4 and GTR cars, extending the Driver Development Program globally and organising more Pure McLaren GT Series races. An SUV isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

570S Spider

McLaren call the 570 a sportscar not a supercar, I had a hard time believing that statement since the performance the car is capable of are mind bending, even for supercar standards. Loosing the roof hasn’t trade offs since the structural rigidity is the same but the overall driving experience reaches new heights.

570S’ design is pure and clean while providing a substantial amount of downforce. What really impressed me is the lack of wind buffeting even at high – very high – speed. As per McLaren’s philosophy the car is built around a carbon fiber tub, the Monocell 2: it weighs only 75kg while having an insane rigidity hence offering the highest safety standard for its occupants, it doesn’t need reinforcement as in this spider variant and the lower sill facilitates ingress/egress.

The centrally-mounted engine is the acclaimed 3.8L twin-turbo V8 good for 570hp at 7500rpm and 600 N/m of torque, enough for a top speed close to 330km/h and for burning the 0-100km/h acceleration in just 3,2 seconds. The sound is typical of a flat-plane crank motor, it’s enjoyable and amplified by the sport exhaust an the roof absence. The steering wheel is precise, the ride – even with the handling knob in sport – was firm but far from being uncomfortable, the engine revs so freely you’d believe it’s a naturally aspirated unit and the gearbox is bang on. Power is nothing without control and the 570 offers plenty of it, even under hard accelerations the car just squats and sticks to the ground deploying all its 570 horses without a hint of strain.

My time with the 570 was brief to say the least however, as I got to know with her biggest sister, the car is mind-blowing. The noise, the incredibly quick shifts and the speed it is capable of are intoxicating; all of this while having all the creature comforts you’d expect from a modern car. A complete package wrapped in a jaw-dropping exotic bodywork, what more could you ask for?!

End of an amazing day

I had fun with two of the most desirable cars on the market right now, but before saying goodbye there was still time to play with the extremely realistic 3D configurator where I had fun building a Senna and 600LT with the help of a McLaren specialist.

I’d like to thank McLaren Milano, Federica and the whole team for the awesome day and extremely rare opportunity to get behind the wheel of these exotics; I do hope to have the chance to spend more time with a Woking’s creation in the near future!