McLaren 720S 2017 review

We drive the McLaren 720S, a new carbonfibre supercar that’s impossibly fast and involving yet perfectly usable every day...

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Matt Prior
2 May 2017 22:01 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

McLaren Automotive is still a relatively young car company, but here, already, is the first of its second-generation models. Called the McLaren 720S, it's a replacement for the 650S and is hugely fast; hardly surprising given that it produces 720 metric horsepower (hence the name), or 710 of the Queen’s brake horsepower (bhp).

That's rather a lot, especially given that this is a lightweight mid-engined supercar with a carbonfibre chassis and mostly carbonfibre bodywork. The whole thing weighs just 1419kg – not much more than a small family hatchback.

Its power comes from a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine, which drives the rear wheels through a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. And because of the turbos, it’s not just the power that’s startling; torque is, too, with a peak of 569lb ft.

In addition, there’s loads of clever technology that's designed to help you go faster. The 720S features active aerodynamics, while the suspension has a complex system of hydraulically linked dampers that are supposed to maintain exceptional body control while giving a supple ride.

McLaren 720S 2017 review

The 0-60mph sprint takes just 2.8sec and, all in, the 720S is capable of 212mph. But there’s more to a supercar than just plain numbers, though. The McLaren’s arch-rival, the Ferrari 488 GTB, is engaging and fun to drive at any speed, not just when you're thrashing it on a track. Let’s see if the 720S can offer the same breadth of talent.

What's the 2017 McLaren 720S like to drive?

Well, we’ll consider how it is at sensible speeds in a moment. But let’s consider first that most owners will use a 720S on track at some point, where you should know that it is crackers fast. It feels – and surely is – faster in a straight line and around a circuit than a Lamborghini Huracán or a 488 GTB.

The 720S feels light and exceptionally agile, and there isn't just two-stage stability control to keep things in order; instead, it has a variable drift control that allows you to put your foot hard on the accelerator on the way out of a corner while the car slides in (relative) safety.

We say 'relative'; this is still an A-list performance car. Not much more than a decade and a half ago, the fastest production cars ever built had less power than a 720S.

Today, the 720S puts that kind of power in a remarkably manageable package. The 720S really is docile to drive on the road. The ride is as absorbent as in most family cars, despite the massive wheel and tyre sizes. And the power steering – still hydraulically rather than electrically assisted, because McLaren says it gives better responses than the electrically assisted set-ups used by most rivals – is perfectly weighted and geared. It’s very easy to develop a smooth, easy flow in the 720S, using its phenomenal mid-range torque only when you want a brisk overtake.

The 720S, then, is engaging and rewarding to drive even at sensible road speeds. It sounds a bit less exciting, still, than a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but in all other areas it has precisely nothing to fear from any rival.

McLaren 720S 2017 review

What's the 2017 McLaren 720S like inside?

Inside, the 720S has a new design theme compared with previous McLarens, but for the most part the layout is familiar. There are two seats, the driving position is absolutely superb and the quality of the materials and fit and finish are good – although some stitching on the prototype car we drove could be improved.

On the centre console, there’s a touchscreen infotainment system with some shortcut keys. It’s the best system ever put into a McLaren, albeit still not quite as sophisticated as the kind of system you’d find in, say, an Audi or a BMW, but it’s much better than that fitted to a Ferrari.

The 720S’s newly developed carbonfibre chassis gives terrific visibility, and the 720S manages to be one of the more usable supercars, too. As well as space for a couple of airline-sized carry-ons under the bonnet, you can fit golf clubs behind the two occupants’ seats.

Next: McLaren 720S verdict and specs >