Supercars are rarely a purchase made based on spec sheets or even comparison charts.
McLaren’s “return” this decade has been more than eventful, producing a new breed of supercars that has both re-ignited the flame for diehard fans as well as welcomed a whole new generation of buyers. The 720S is the latest in the “Super Series”, and a step up from the 570S (reviewed here) we have come to adore so much. We grabbed the keys to a 2019 McLaren 720S Coupe and set off to determine whether the latest entry from Surrey, England is able to dominate the segment.
While the 570S Coupe and Spider both attract attention in an expected manner, the 720S cranks things up a notch. Its absolutely breathtaking lines, though an evolution of McLaren’s corporate design, are a notch above the 570S and set the supercar apart on its own. It looks like a toned-down (albeit only slightly) version of the P1 hypercar and even shares some traits with the new Senna flagship. The 720S only has 4.2” of ground clearance and is in our opinion the closest thing you can get to a road-going F1 car.
The manic personality of the 720S is contributed to by a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 that sits behind the passenger cabin. It’s mostly hidden out of sight, but the 710 horsepower at a wailing 7,500RPM and 568 lb-ft. of torque at 5,500RPM are a constant reminder of what lies in the engine bay. To put it into perspective, the 720S has been faster around certain racetracks than the P1, which is a noteworthy feat. Engine response is insane – the 720S takes off like a bat out of hell. The rated 0-100km/h acceleration time is 2.9 seconds, on to a top speed of 341 km/h.
This isn’t a naturally aspirated engine, and the M840T does exhibit some lag off the line. If the revs are kept up though, the 720S will carry speed effortlessly and the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is a sweetheart. When compared to the likes of the Lamborghini Aventador’s single-clutch automatic, the DCT is the clearcut winner and changes gears with immediacy. A trick McLaren calls Inertia Push makes for especially aggressive upshifts at high RPMs in “Track” mode, which uses the clutches to deliver some extra torque to the wheels.
Where the 720S doesn’t immediately impress is in the sound department. The twin-turbo V8 sounds good, but the exhaust note doesn’t quite blow you away in the same manner as the Italian rivals. This only adds to the subdued and straight-performance image, because the sound does evoke that of precision over brute force. Brake feel is also excellent, and the brakes themselves are significantly lighter than the ones on the 650S this model replaces.
A system known as Proactive Chassis Control II uses a series of hydraulic hoses and accumulators to control the dampers on the left and right sides of the car. These ensure that compression on each side will resist the other side, minimizing roll and maintaining stiffness when required. It delivers impeccable ride quality and the 720S is extraordinarily comfortable in everyday driving. When pushed, it feels as stiff as a true race car, with perfectionist levels of damping over both road imperfections and incline changes.
McLaren’s electro-hydraulically assisted power steering is some of our favourite supercar steering around. The weighting is a bit strange, as it doesn’t quite load up as the car goes further into the corner, but despite this, feedback is exceptional and the 720S slices through curves and avoids obstacles very quickly. Precision is one of the absolute fortes of this car, and your fingertips will feel the texture of the road at all times. On-center feel is also quite good, and this steering setup is a pleasant and fresh change from the over-boosted electric power steering systems out there today.
720S’ architecture is the Carbon Fibre Monocage II; technology that debuted on the P1. The one-piece carbon-fibre tub (including the roof) that comprises the passenger cabin supposedly provides rigidity seen nowhere else, and means this supercar is really built to perform on the track. This is truly emphasized when the powertrain is set to “Track” and the instrument cluster flips towards the driver to create a simplified speedometer with a digital tachometer that looks like it’s straight out of a race car. All of this comes together to produce one of the fastest rear-wheel-drive supercars ever produced, and this is no easy feat.
The 720S doesn’t stop impressing at its numbers and capabilities, though. There are a number of supercars out there that will begin to hurt your back after an hour behind the wheel. The McLaren’s seats could use some more adjustability, but the performance buckets are overall extremely comfortable and the cabin is a very easy place to spend a significant amount of time. The doors swing forward and up, and they’re almost a clamshell-style that lift the glass panels above your head, too. At over six-feet in height, I had plenty of headroom and legroom.
Our test vehicle had a few upgrades on it, including 10-spoke Super Lightweight Forged wheels, Carbon Fibre Exterior Upgrade, Carbon Black Alcantara steering wheel, orange seatbelts, and the absolutely gorgeous Amethyst Black paint that received a plethora of compliments throughout our test. The sticker before taxes and fees was just over $403,000. In comparison, a very nicely equipped 570S Spider comes in around the $300,000 mark.
Supercars are rarely a purchase made based on spec sheets or even comparison charts. This is an emotional purchase; one you make because you have the means to acquire your dream car. If you’re looking for a status symbol to cruise around the local town square making noise and attracting Snapchatters, this isn’t the car for you. If your idea of enjoying your supercar involves regular track days in a car that will endure hard use while setting the hottest lap time of them all, the 2019 McLaren 720S Coupe is the one to have.