9 things you need to know about the McLaren 720s | Top Gear
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Saturday 25th March

Nine things you need to know about the McLaren 720S

We've corralled together the best pub-ammo stats on Woking's 710bhp supercar

McLaren 720s front quarter
  • The brakes are really quite good.

    The 720S stops almost as ballistically as it goes. From 62mph (100km/h), it’ll come to a complete standstill in 29.7m and 2.8 seconds, from 124mph (200km/h) it needs just 117m and 4.6 seconds, and from 186mph (300km/h) it’ll pull up in 260m and 6.9 seconds. The McLaren P1 is only a gnat’s whatsit quicker to react.

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  • It has clever doors.

    Unlike the Ferrari 488 GTB and other mid-engined cars, the McLaren 720S doesn’t have intakes slashed into its body sides. The doors have a double skin, which channels air into the high-temperature radiators that cool the engine, and there’s a channel carved into the upper section.

    The doors are also dihedral, and open to 80° making this an unusually easy car to get in and out of. According to vehicle line director Haydn Baker: "From a purely mechanical point of view, the doors have been a huge challenge for us. We had our equivalent of a SWAT team on them for two years. We’re calling this a piece of theatre, which means we’re drawing people to it. And if we’re doing that, then it needs to work!" 

    (NB: despite having dihedral doors that arc upwards, the 720S still has proper doorbins. Stuff doesn’t fall out of them because they’re lockable.)


    The 720S features a variable drift control, that allows the driver to choose how much traction control they want and thus limit the degree of oversteer before getting beached in a gravel trap or punching a carbon fibre-flavoured hole through a hedge.

    Gone are the days of the simple on/off button: first, switch the stability control to ‘dynamic’, set the Active Dynamics Panel to ‘Sport’ or ‘Track’, then have a fiddle with the graphic on the infotainment screen. You can decide how extreme the slip angle is by tweaking a finger-tip slider that adjusts the attitude of the image on the screen. Bingo. The control software is all McLaren’s own work, suggesting that this is one IT department that won’t ask if ‘you’ve tried turning it on and off again’.

    Chief test driver Chris Goodwin reckons it works much like the system in the GT race cars, so it’s more of a ‘traction optimisation’ than control set-up. "It allows you to chase threshold you’re comfortable with," he says. You can also store your preferred settings in a Favourites folder. Along with the number for your nearest Pirelli supplier.

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  • Students did the suspension. Sort of.

    The 720S gets an upgraded version of McLaren’s Proactive Chassis Control, which combines new suspension hardware with new software to deliver compliance without compromising body control on the limit.

    The science here is incredibly advanced: a team of McLaren-sponsored PHD mathematic students at Cambridge University developed an ‘Optimal Control Theory’ that uses algorithms to measure and assess inputs from brakes, throttle, pitch and yaw, before crunching the data – along with numbers taken from accelerometers in each wheel and two pressure sensors per damper – to ensure the optimum contact patch of the four tyres.

    This happens whether the car is in Comfort, Sport or Track mode, and takes approximately two milliseconds. In effect, however, this isn’t a real-time response, it’s almost anticipatory. Or possibly telepathic.

  • The engine is 41 per cent new.

    The 720S’s 4.0-litre engine is codenamed M840T and 41 per cent of its components are new compared to the M838T unit (which continues in the Sport Series). Everything was up for grabs, and the pistons, crankshaft and connecting rods are all lighter. As are the turbines in the twin-scroll, low inertia turbos; they can spin at up to 160,000rpm, for better responsiveness and power.

  • It retains electro-hydraulic steering.

    Although Ferrari, Jaguar and Porsche have all adopted fully electric steering, McLaren says that the gains in efficiency EPAS brings are too small to justify the loss of connectivity. Chris Goodwin says the electro-hydraulic set-up in the 720S has all the feel and linearity of the 675LT, with some slight tweaks for additional comfort. As the 675LT has the best steering of any road car we’ve ever driven, this is very good news.

  • The wing has a DRS mode.

    The 720S’s rear aerofoil works in three principal ways. Push the aero button and the driver gets 70 to 80 per cent wing deployment depending on how fast they’re going, there’s a DRS function that offers 30 per cent deployment for high speed stability but less drag, and 100 per cent deployment for braking from a high speed.

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  • It has a special stereo.

    The 720S’s standard audio system was created with JVC Kenwood. It was Kenwood, remember, who developed the CD player and changer for the McLaren F1, so there's lots of kudos in staying standard.

    Get clicky on the configurator, though, and you can have a Bowers & Wilkins item. This 1280-watt beauty was designed from scratch, starting from the very first line of code. It uses carbon fibre, Kevlar and neodymium in its construction, and is the lightest audio system ever to appear in a McLaren. Which surely makes it the lightest audio system of this firepower ever to appear in anything.

  • The options list is an actual minefield.

    When it comes to crazy stats, the McLaren’s options list yields a few wallet-wilting gems. Go wild on the carbon fibre exterior upgrade – split into three different packs, and covering the likes of the front and rear air intakes, door mirrors, front splitter, and roof – and you’re looking at £17,910. A carbon fibre rear diffuser and MSO (McLaren Special Ops) aero bridge and rear deck and engine cover is another £14,690.

    Want to look at more carbon fibre inside? The visible body structure, sill panel, seat back, window switch, active dynamics panel surround, steering wheel clasp and driver display bezel adds up to £14,230. The telemetry app is £2160. The parking sensors are £1000. McLaren’s online configurator is an excellent way to kill an afternoon…

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