Monumentally fast, great steering feel, high-speed balance.
It’s so good it’s almost… undramatic. Turbo’d motor sounds great, but a nat-asp engine sounds better still.
What is it?
From a standing start less than a decade ago, McLaren has ridden out some early speed bumps and gone on to blow our collective minds with the likes of the 570S, 675LT, and P1. The 720S signals another major milestone: this is the first time McLaren has completely replaced one of its core cars.
Development work started back in 2013, before the 650S had even been announced, and a big chunk of it was done virtually. The first full validation car was only built and driven 11 months ago, so its path to market has been extremely rapid.
McLaren says 91 per cent of the 720S is new, and the enlarged 4.0-litre engine features 41 per cent new content: turbos, intercoolers, cast-aluminium plenum, cylinder heads, crankshaft, pistons, and exhaust. Topline numbers include 710bhp, 568 torques, 249 CO2s, 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, 0-124mph in 7.8, and 0-186mph (300km/h, if you prefer) in 21.8. There’s also some seriously funky new software to go with the hard bits, and a handful of theatrical flourishes. The doors are double-skinned dihedral jobs that open to 80°, and the engine isn’t just visible through the rear screen, it’s also illuminated.
There’s also lots of carbon fibre. Dubbed ‘Monocage II’, the chassis structure now incorporates an upper structure and windscreen surround, so it’s even more rigid than the 650. Lighter, too: its lightest dry weight is 1283kg, 18kg less than the equivalent 650S. There’s an enhanced centre of gravity, thanks to the engine being mounted 150mm lower than before. A ‘visible monocage’ that exposes the material on the inside of the A-pillar is a £3990 option (more on all that later: things can get very costly indeed). The cowl is also lower: like the magnificent 570, the 720S gets closer to serving up the jet fighter sensation than anything else on the road, and its vision all-round is peerless. The all-glass cockpit isn’t just pretty, it means you can traverse London without mowing down a peloton of cyclists, or reverse park the thing without knackering your street cred. Or the alloys.
The aero work is off-the-scale: the panel ahead of the front wheels evacuates the turbulent high pressure air away and along the side to increase downforce, while a channel at the top of the doors ducts high velocity cooling air into the radiators in the engine bay. There are no bodywork slashes here, despite its mid-engined configuration. The 720S generates 50 per cent more downforce than the 650S managed at full tilt, has double the overall aerodynamic efficiency, and is 15 per cent more efficient in its cooling.
McLaren says it was targeting the excitement of the 675 LT and the refinement of the 570 GT, which are lofty and possibly incompatible goals. It’s also worth remembering that the 720S is pretty much P1-fast in certain increments, and has similar braking capability (from 124mph to standstill in 4.6 seconds across just 117m). Crazy stuff. But it’s also designed to be useable every day, accessible and non-threatening even to numpties, and emits a relatively cuddly 249 CO2s. On paper, it’s almost miraculous.
What's the verdict?
On power alone it vaults itself ahead of its Ferrari rival, which might bring the new 488 Speciale (or whatever it’ll be called) onto the front-burner. The 720S is magnificent, but also surprisingly nuanced for such an adrenalised proposition. It takes time to work out the full scale of its, and its creators, achievements.