McLaren 765LT Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

McLaren 765LT

Published: 28 Sep 2020


What is it like to drive?

Intense. Want a one-word summary? That’ll do it. But so was the 675LT. The difference is that the 765LT is more aggressive and demanding. The 675LT fitted itself to you, the 765LT challenges you.

It is fearsomely, intimidatingly fast. The way it fires itself across the second half of the rev range, coloured LEDs lighting up as you home in on a limiter you wish would cut in now to give you some respite from the relentless shove, is deeply affecting. Keeping your foot hard down is a challenge. There’s nothing superfluous about the noise, no sense of energy going to waste, no real sensation of the engine having to overcome weight, just this direct connection to the back axle as you accelerate, so you feel the forces, the tenseness in the drivetrain and compressed rear suspension, the immediacy of the gearchanges. It’s not a show-off, it’s just bloody implacable.

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It feels faster than the Senna (and is faster to 186mph and barely any slower to the markers below that), mostly because in that car the huge downforce is there as a traction and dynamic support. Here, the ride is wilder. We drove it at Anglesey, where if the track was anything other than bone dry and you were in any gear under fifth, sudden, violent wheelspin was a possibility. Certainly kept you on your toes. But you also had to keep it on the boil as well. Despite McLaren’s claims to have reduced lag and improved response, the 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 doesn’t have the same low rev response as a Ferrari F8. There’s lag and inertia below 3,500rpm, after which it wakes up very suddenly.

In the dry you had to be circumspect coming out of medium speed corners in third or fourth. Keep the revs high for response, but ease the throttle on gently – easier said than done when the engine wants to hit so hard. The traction control has to work flat out. It manages very well, allowing a few degrees of slip and operating smoothly most of the time.

There’s no doubting the power of the brakes (our car had the Senna’s exotic uprated discs), their astonishing bite or incredible resistance to fade. If you were asking everything of them, they had your back. But go gently with them and the pedal felt inert and more snatchy to use, and even when braking hard the stopping force sometimes felt uneven.

This is a corollary of the suspension rather than the brakes. So stiff is the 765LT if you ramp it all the way up that it chatters and patters on what you thought was a perfectly smooth racetrack. Factor heavy braking into this, loading up the front suspension, and you get kickback and jinking. At Anglesey, it was best to soften the damper settings to try and smooth things out.

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Doing that calmed down the steering a little. There’s no doubting the clarity of the signals you get back from the wheels – I can’t think of any other car of this type that has better steering feel and feedback – but rather than writhing gently to let you know what’s going on, sometimes the feedback was hectic. Go max attack and it could be a physical wrestle. Tight corners were its weakness. It’s not that it understeers too badly, it’s that it doesn’t transfer from braking to accelerating smoothly enough. It was a bit scrappy, you had to bully it into the corner, and then manage it on the way out.

Through medium and fast stuff it was significantly better, more planted and capable, lateral grip never in doubt, a feeling that the tyre, aero and suspension were working toether. It turned in, exhibited vice-like grip and came firing out the other side.

But overall it felt like a car designed for a bigger stage. At Anglesey it tried to tear the track to pieces, but ended up feeling caged and responded by getting snappy. I suspect at a GP circuit it’ll be more together, but even there I’m not sure it’ll have the same beautiful flow that the 675LT had wherever it was driven. It’s full-on, deeply exciting in its own way, but takes some managing. It’s a car you have to keep on top of, have to be confident with, but it doesn’t make that easy. The lines of communication are clear and short, but the signals coming back are occasionally confused. We kept adjusting settings looking for a sweet spot that was hard to find. The 765LT is not one for the faint-hearted.

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