What Car? says...
For many car makers, the reason for competing in motorsport is still best summed up by the phrase 'Win on Sunday, sell on Monday'. However, McLaren’s recent fortunes should probably make them question that assumption, because its sales have grown at a rapid rate despite the struggles of its F1 team.
More than any other model, it was the 650S that was key to that showroom success. But this has now been replaced by the McLaren 720S, which produces a whopping 720 metric horsepower (hence the name), or 710 of the Queen’s brake horsepower (bhp).
That's a phenomenal amount, especially given that it’s a lightweight mid-engined supercar with a carbonfibre chassis and mostly carbonfibre bodywork. Indeed, the whole thing weighs just 1419kg – not much more than a family hatchback.
Power comes from a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, which drives the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox that can be manually controlled via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. And because of those turbos, it’s not just the power figure that’s startling; torque is, too, peaking at 568lb ft.
All of this translates into 0-60mph in just 2.8sec and a top speed of 212mph. But there’s more to a supercar than just statistics; the 720S’s biggest rival, the Ferrari 488 GTB, is engaging and fun to drive at any speed, not just when you’re thrashing it.
So, how does the McLaren 720S compare with best sports cars? That's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this review.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Most 720S owners will drive their cars on a track from time to time, and when they do, they’ll find that it’s crazily fast – faster than the Ferrari 488 GTB or the Lamborghini Huracan.
It's helped by clever technology, such as 'active aerodynamics' which allow the various wings and ducts to self-adjust to aid high-speed stability and cornering grip.
And instead of regular electronic stability control to tame the power, it has Variable Drift Control, which allows you to floor it out of a corner and make the car slide in (relative) safety.
Not much more than a decade ago, the fastest production cars ever built had less power than the 720S, yet McLaren has put that power into a remarkably manageable package.
On the road, it really is no harder to drive than a Porsche Cayman, with the pedals and steering feeling perfectly weighted, and phenomenal mid-revs shove in reserve to make overtaking effortless.
Meanwhile, the ride is as absorbent as in most executive saloons, despite the 720S’s massive wheels; no rival supercar gets close to this level of comfort.
The 720S, then, is a pleasure to drive at any speed and in any environment. And unlike most previous McLaren’s it sounds great, screaming as you close in on the redline, and emitting plenty of satisfying turbo whoosh at lower revs.
The interior layout, fit and finish
A crucial thing in any supercar is the driving position – and thankfully this McLaren’s is spot-on.
For starters, the pedals line up neatly with the steering wheel and have just the right amount of space between them. Plus, the seats are comfortable and supportive and there’s loads of adjustment.
Perhaps the best thing, though, is the visibility. While most rivals suffer from sizeable blind spots, the 720S has super-slim pillars and loads of glass, so it’s a doddle to see out of and place on the road.
McLaren also takes a very different approach to arch-rival Ferrari when it comes to the design of the steering wheel; the Italian brand covers it in controls, whereas there isn’t a single button or switch on the wheel of the 720S.
The indicators, wipers and lights are instead on conventional stalks, and all the easier to operate as a result. Meanwhile, you access the car’s various driving modes via two chunky dials on the centre console.
True, the portrait orientation touchscreen for infotainment functions can be quite distracting to use on the move. But the digital instruments display a lot of information clearly, or can be folded down and away at the touch of a button, until you’re left with an ultra-minimalist readout like an F1 car’s.
While not strictly necessary, this detail adds some serious wow factor. And build quality also impresses, aside from the slightly flimsy feeling piece of trim that wraps around the side of the centre console.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Mid-engined supercars are seldom practical, but the 720S scores better than most in this area.
Okay, it has only two seats, but they’re easy to get to thanks to McLaren’s trademark butterfly doors, which open upwards and forwards, taking a large section of the sill with them.
The 720S also has enough head, leg and elbow room to keep a couple of adults well over six feet tall happy.
Meanwhile, oddment storage includes two cupholders and a lidded bin between the front seats, and a handy tray beneath the centre console.
The space beneath the bonnet is big enough for a couple of airline-sized carry-ons, and doesn’t have the sort of fiddly catch you find on most mid or rear-engined cars. And you can even fit golf clubs behind the seats.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The McLaren 720S costs more than £200k, which makes it quite a bit pricier than its biggest rival, the Ferrari 488 GTB.
This is unlikely, however, to put off the sort of fabulously wealthy people it’s aimed at, just as they’ll find it easy enough to afford the huge insurance, servicing and fuel bills.
Indeed, McLaren doesn’t even include option prices on its website configurator; as the old saying goes, 'If you have to ask, you can’t afford one'.
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|RRP price range||£231,220 - £238,120|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||23.1 - 23.1|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£16,913 / £17,424|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£33,827 / £34,848|