A more mellow McLaren sports car is an interesting idea, albeit also a slightly confusing one. Britain’s now six-year-old supercar specialist isn’t known for its laid-back long-distance cruisers, but all that may be about to change.
This, the 570GT, is the firm’s first grand tourer: a version of the What Car? Award-winning 570S adapted to provide extra carrying space, a more plush and practical interior and a more supple ride – and intended overwhelmingly for regular use on normal, everyday roads.
The GT shares its carbonfibre construction and turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 engine with the 570S, has the same peak power and torque outputs, and is priced at an approximate £10,000 premium over its sister car. It has a marginally more luxurious interior than the 570S, getting extra standard equipment, too, as well as a panoramic glass roof, and an extra luggage compartment immediately above the mid-mounted engine with a side-hinged glass lid.
The car’s suspension springs have been softened slightly and its dampers retuned, while it also gets a slower-acting steering system than the 570S, a quieter exhaust and less aggressive tyres with noise-cancelling foam built into their construction.
What is the 2016 McLaren 570GT like to drive?
Less than 40kg of kerbweight separates a 570GT from a 570S, and so given that the latter’s just about the fastest and finest-handling junior supercar of the last 12 months, you’d expect the GT version to be an outstanding thing to drive. And so it proves – but as much because it’s a more rounded car than the 570S, and somehow also very little less exciting.
The adaptive dampers have the usual ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Track’ modes, but leave them set in the first of those and the 570GT rides uncannily well at motorway speeds. There's a lovely sense of compliance over gentler lumps and bumps, allowing little surface roar into the car, and disturbed only by sharp ridges and raised ironwork which transmit the occasional thump.
Overall noise is so well controlled that you could rack up big distances more comfortably than in almost any of the car’s competitors.
Even on the motorway, you get a strong flavour of the precision of the car’s handling and its supremely communicative steering – but on a country road, the car’s effortless agility really shines.
The McLaren 570GT corners flat and fast, with perfectly balanced grip, a keen turn-in and a vivid sense of feedback from all four tyres. You’d have to be on a track to appreciate what the car sacrifices compared with a 570S – and even then we suspect it would be very little indeed.
At times there's a noticeable pause between you putting your foot down and the turbocarged engine responding, and if you leave the gearbox in automatic mode it’s a little more docile and reluctant to downshift, which exacerbates the impression of laziness at times. But keep the engine working about 3500rpm using the gearshift paddles and engine response is good, with every hit of acceleration delivered in a huge, elastic surge.
What is the 2016 McLaren 570GT like inside?
Getting in is no easier than it is with any other McLaren. The 570GT has a low roofline; dihedral doors that don’t quite seem to lift high enough to be completely out of your way; carbonfibre rocker panels that jut threateningly at your ankles; and a carbonfibre tub that makes for relatively wide sills, which you have to lever your backside over before you can settle into the leather seat.
It’s the car’s testing entry and exit routine that most calls into question its suitability as a grand tourer – because after a big Bentley or Aston Martin, the 570GT certainly wouldn’t feel easy-to-use. But compared with an Audi R8 or Porsche 911 Turbo S – the cars that McLaren wants to target mostly closely – it’s usable enough.
The interior has been enriched with some new leathers, and while it doesn’t exactly feel spacious, it’ll be big enough for all-but the very tallest occupants – and is made to seem a bit more airy by the light admitted through the panoramic glass roof. The controls are well placed, and the standard seats comfy enough – though perhaps not the sort you’d spend eight hours in at a time by choice.
The 570GT’s added storage capacity makes it easily practical enough to handle the demands of a long weekend away. That new rear ‘touring deck’ loading area is big enough for a couple of large soft bags and smaller odds and ends, and its glass lid can be hinged for the ultimate convenience of both right- and left-hand drive cars – so getting to your cargo from the kerbside should always be easy (except, a little ironically, when you’ve actually gone touring abroad).
Bigger cases and bulky items have to be carried in the cargo box under the 570GT’s bonnet – but even this is bigger than those you’ll find in most rivals.
Should I buy one?
McLaren expects three in every 10 of its 570 models sold to be a GT, but that’d be much less than the car deserves. The car combines enhanced comfort, refinement and usability with outstanding speed, handling and driver appeal – and as such, seems to us like McLaren’s definitive take on the everyday-use supercar.
A 570S may beat a Porsche 911 Turbo S as a performance machine, but this GT comes closer still to levelling with what that seminal German offers in a broader sense.
Other purpose-built grand tourers are considerably more comfortable, practical and convenient, of course – but for such an outstanding natural athlete, what the 570GT offers as a daily cruiser is still remarkably convincing.
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What Car? says...
Engine size 3.8-litre V8 petrol
Price from £154,000
Torque 443lb ft
Top speed 204mph
Offical fuel economy 26.6mpg