What Car? says...
When you think of a car that is ‘fit for purpose’, your mind probably doesn’t jump to the image of a six-figure Grand Tourer. But perhaps it should? After all, GTs only have to do two things, and do them well; they should be Grand, (which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means ‘magnificent and imposing in appearance, size, or style’), and they must be able to ‘Tour’ (make ‘a journey for pleasure, during which several different towns, countries, etc. are visited’), effortlessly at high speed.
Design a car to this checklist and you’ll no doubt end up with a large coupé with an imposing stance, a powerful, large-capacity engine up front, a spacious interior in the middle and a capacious boot in the rear. It’s a well-proven recipe. So why, you might ask, has McLaren decided to design its new Grand Tourer – creatively dubbed the ‘GT’ – around the same mid-mounted twin-turbocharged V8 engine and a two-seat carbon-fibre tub as its 720S Supercar?
Therefore, much of the GT is completely new. While the four-litre engine’s design is shared by the 720S supercar, the GT’s version has smaller turbos and more compact plumbing, allowing a smoother power delivery and freeing up space for a surprisingly large boot under the GT’s glass tailgate. The carbon-fibre chassis has also been tweaked to make getting in and out as easy as possible, the interior is swaddled in fine grain leather, and a supple suspension setup has been selected.
It’s an intriguing concept, and one that McLaren has clearly put massive time and resource into. But the question remains: can a car with the heart and skeleton of a supercar really cut it as a true GT? Read on to find out. And don’t forget, even if you’re not in the market for a McLaren, there's a good chance we can save you a few quid on your next new car if you check out our New Car Buying pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
With the carbon-fibre bones of a supercar, you’d expect the GT to be far more engaging to drive than a regular front-engined Grand Tourer – and it is. Compared with an Aston Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental GT – the latter weighing in at close to two and a half tonnes – the 1530kg McLaren feels light on its feet, diving into corners with gusto and exhibiting next to no body roll. You also get a beautiful sense of feedback through the base of your seat, helping you to judge just how much grip all four tyres have when pushing on.
Indeed, giving the driver ‘feedback’ is something McLaren does better than most. Case in point: the steering. Jump from a DB11 to a GT and you might at first be put off by the McLaren’s overly light hydraulically-assisted setup, but that feeling doesn’t last long. Get on a good road and the steering wheel comes alive in your hands, its weight naturally changing over every crest, compression and variation in surface. It’s a setup that lets you know exactly what’s going on under the front wheels, giving you a level of confidence that you simply don’t get from rivals.
And the good news continues: McLaren hasn’t sacrificed comfort for agility. The GT might do without the 720’s clever cross-linked hydraulic suspension, but its more conventional combination of coil springs, adaptive dampers and anti-roll bars is still shockingly effective. There’s a lovely sense of compliance over gentler lumps and bumps in its softest setting, and, while sharp ridges and potholes are felt through the base of your seat, the car never shudders or thumps. Indeed, we’d go so far as to say that it rides better than many executive cars we’ve driven.
With a view towards complimenting this relaxed demeanour, McLaren has also tweaked the 720S-sourced twin-turbocharged V8 engine to deliver its power more smoothly. However, it’s here where the GT starts to have a bit of an identity crisis. Drive it like a supercar, with one of the sportier modes selected and and the gearbox locked in manual, and the engine feels beautifully honed. It pulls well from 3000rpm and sounds like a proper race-derived motor as it approaches its lofty 8000rpm redline. What’s more, each shift from the push/pull gearshift paddles that are mounted behind the steering wheel brings a lightning-quick and brutally efficient gear change.
So, what’s the problem? Well, when you just want to cruise, like you often do in a grand tourer, the engine is altogether less obliging. Leave the gearbox in auto mode and it exhibits a propensity to shift up to the highest gear available, dropping the V8 out of its sweet spot and making the engine feel rather unresponsive. This can make overtaking difficult; you’ll often find yourself pressing the accelerator pedal harder and harder until the gearbox finally decides to shift down, at which point you get a sudden, slightly surprising burst of acceleration.
At higher speeds, things become even more frustrating. Sitting at a 70mph motorway cruise with the revs just below 2000rpm, the engine drone is considerable, and, despite McLaren fitting lots of soundproofing to the GT, that carbon-fibre tub acts as an echo chamber that amplifies road noise. Don’t get us wrong, compared to a McLaren 570S or 720S, the GT is significantly quieter. But compared to conventional GT cars such as the Aston-Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental GT? It doesn’t get close.
To some, this won’t matter. But if you are looking for a GT to cover big miles in, it’s also worth noting that the McLaren is also sorely lacking in the driver-assistance department. There’s no lane-keeping assistance, active cruise control or blind spot monitoring; each of which are handy features that can make long, average speed camera-strewn sections of motorway much less taxing.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Compared with that of the McLaren 720S, the sill line of the GT’s carbon-fibre tub has been lowered to make it easier to swing your legs inside, and the seats are set higher to make the drop into the interior less severe. It works, too, but it’s worth remembering that a conventional coupé, such as a Bentley Continental GT, with normal doors and a wider entrance, is far more accommodating.
Likewise, while the seats might have a touch more padding than those of the 720S, they still feel pretty extreme, despite being electrically adjustable and coming with adjustable lumbar support if you add the must-have Luxe Pack. Indeed, we could only travel for a couple of hours before we had to get out and have a proper stretch.
More in keeping with the Grand Touring remit is the GT’s interior finish. Everywhere you look, there’s soft Nappa leather (Softgrain Aniline Leather is an option), milled aluminium and ambient LED lights. You can also choose to have your boot lined in either leather or a clever hard-wearing fabric aptly called SuperFabric, which was initially developed for NASA. Clever stuff.
McLaren also makes a pretty big deal of its innovative Electrochromatic Panoramic roof. This allows the driver to choose between five different levels of tint, going from transparent all the way to a tint that only lets 0.6% of light through. It’s a clever system and a sound one in principle, but we found it slow to react to our whims and very tricky to use on the move. There’s also the small matter of its price – you could buy a reasonable used car for the cost of the clever roof alone.
The view forwards or back over your shoulder is terrific; while most rivals suffer from sizeable blind spots, the GT has slim pillars and loads of glass, so it’s a doddle to see out of and place on the road. That said, with those massive hips and a narrow rear window, reversing can be a little tricky, so we’d advise adding McLaren’s Practicality Pack. It’s not too expensive and gives you a rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, electrically heated and folding door mirrors, Homelink (to remotely control electric gates and garage doors), a luggage bay privacy cover and a handy system that lifts the front suspension so you can drive over speed bumps without scraping the nose.
The GT features McLaren’s latest infotainment system, which is claimed to be faster and easier to use than that of the 720S. We found it to be fiddly, though, with small icons that are difficult to accurately hit on the move. The touchscreen also seemed very slow to respond to inputs, making the physical shortcut buttons located below the screen a lifesaver.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The electrically adjustable seats and steering column don’t match the range of movement provided by those in the Bentley Continental GT or Aston Martin DB11, but there’s still plenty of space for two six-footers to get comfortable.
It’s also worth remembering that, despite its Grand Touring moniker, the GT is strictly a two-seater; if you want to go four-up on a road trip, you’re best looking at a Continental GT, Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe or the comparatively roomy Ferrari GTC4 Lusso.
But what about luggage space? After all, that’s a big part of the GT’s concept. Well, the good news is that, judged on volume alone, the McLaren offers more boot space than a Volkswagen Golf. The front boot is a deep and a usefully square shape, big enough to take two carry-on suitcases, while the rear luggage area is capable of swallowing four carry-on suitcases with room leftover for soft luggage.
However, all this comes with a few caveats. Neither compartment makes it easy to carry tall or bulkily shaped objects, and, as the rear luggage area is essentially a large parcel shelf that sits atop the engine and below a glass hatch, your luggage could get rather warm on a long drive. You’ll have to resist the urge to buy novelty-sized Toblerone on the cross-channel ferry. You must also remember to strap your luggage down before you set off, to avoid your belongings turning into high-speed projectiles when you hit the brakes.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
As standard, the GT gets essentials such as a 7in infotainment screen, sat-nav, DAB radio, iPhone integration, keyless entry, and full LED headlights and taillights. However, it being a Grand Tourer, we suspect you’d like a little more kit to make your life more comfortable, so we’d advise ticking the following boxes on your order form: the Luxe Pack, which gives you powered everything (including memory seats), the Practicality Pack with its Rear View Camera and clever Front Lift system; and the Premium Pack, which brings a brilliant Bowers & Wilkins 12-Speaker Audio System.
Of course, once you factor these packs in, plus a couple of individual extras such as a sports exhaust or "Elite" paint, you’ll be looking at an invoice that would secure a pretty reasonable house in many parts of the country. However, the same is true for the GT’s closest rivals – indeed, the price of a well-kitted McLaren GT will only get you a ‘boggo’ Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T.
And, should such things bother you, its fuel economy is pretty impressive compared with that of its rivals; despite an engine that pushes out over 600bhp, we regularly saw over 30mpg on long motorway cruises. Meanwhile, its residual values look relatively strong for the class; you can expect the GT to hold onto its value better than an Aston Martin DB11 AMR or a GTC4 Lusso, if not quite as well as a Bentley Continental GT or Porsche 911.
|RRP price range||£170,220 - £170,220|
|Number of trims (see all)||1|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||23.7 - 23.7|
|Available doors options||2|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£12,399 / £12,399|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£24,799 / £24,799|