What Car? says...
The trouble with convertible supercars is that they sacrifice dynamic appeal for their ability to let in the sunshine, right?
Well, it’s certainly true that a lot of them do, because taking tin clippers to their roofs compromises structural rigidity. And while some of this can be restored by reinforcing them elsewhere, that adds weight which hurts agility and performance. However, the McLaren 720S Spider is a bit different.
Unlike many of its rivals, you see, the 720S has a carbonfibre (rather than metal) structure, with this not only making it very light, but also extremely stiff. In fact, the open-top Spider version weighs just 49kg more than the coupé – and strength isn’t lost.
The Spider also uses the same 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 as the 720S coupé, with this sending a whopping 720 metric horsepower (hence the name) or 710 of the Queen’s brake horsepower (bhp) to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox that can be manually controlled via steering wheel-mounted paddles.
All of this means the 720S spider can accelerate from 0-62mph in 2.9sec and reach a top speed of 212mph (202mph with the roof down). Yes, the coupé accelerates even faster, but only by 0.1sec, while its top speed is the same.
In this review, we’ll tell you everything else you want to know about the McLaren 720S Spider. And while we won’t be able to get you a discount on one at the end of it, be sure to check out the deals available through our New Car Buying service if you’re next car is going to be a little more mainstream, because we could potentially save you thousands without the hassle of haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Most 720S Spider owners will drive their cars on a track from time to time, and when they do, they’ll find that it’s savagely fast – faster than the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, and a match for Ferrari's F8 Spider.
The 720S is 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 Spider, yet McLaren has put that power into a remarkably manageable package.
On the road, it really is no harder to drive than a Porsche 718 Boxster, with the pedals and steering feeling perfectly weighted, and phenomenal mid-rev shove in reserve to make overtaking effortless.
Meanwhile, the ride is as absorbent as in some 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 some previous McLaren’s it sounds great, screaming as you close in on the redline, and making you think a firecracker has gone off in the exhaust when you change down under braking.
Indeed, one of the main reasons for choosing the Spider variant over the coupé is so you can drop the roof or lower the rear screen so there’s less of a barrier between you and the engine.
As a bonus, there’s minimal wind buffeting when the roof is down, and the 720S Spider is pretty refined with it up, even though the wide tyres do generate some road noise.
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.
True, visibility isn’t as good as it is in the 720S coupé, because you have a buttress rather than a window just over your shoulder. However, the windscreen pillars are super-slim, so it’s a doddle to place the car on the road.
McLaren 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.
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, leaving you 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 when the roof is up, the space that it folds into can be used for more luggage.
The roof isn’t particularly quick, taking 11 seconds to fold up or down, but it can be operated at speeds of up to 31mph.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
This is unlikely, though, 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 it'.
It is worth noting, however, that standard equipment is no more than you’d find in cars that cost far less; it includes climate control, leather and Alcantara upholstery and a touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity.
Unsurprisingly, we don’t have any reliability data for the 720S – or indeed any Mclaren – and the car hasn’t been tested by the safety experts at Euro NCAP. However, its ultra-stiff F1-style carbonfibre body should help it perform well in a crash.
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|RRP price range
|£254,620 - £261,520
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|23.1 - 23.1
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£18,645 / £19,156
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£37,290 / £38,311