Today’s premise isn’t very complicated.
The seventh-generation 911 Turbo, driven here in S trim for the full 641bhp monty, moves Porsche’s famous export away from its recent roost as an ICBM-quick but more long-legged device and to somewhere sharper and considerably harder. Somewhere where its road-racer roots are once again threatening to break through; where its supercar-slaying credentials have, in the 45 years since the original 3.0-litre 930 Turbo was born, never felt so strong.
Meanwhile, McLaren, with its new GT, has given us a machine that in the metal and on paper shrieks supercar but is really, according to CEO Mike Flewitt, “designed for distance” and “refines the notion of a grand tourer in a way that only a McLaren could”. Clearly there’s an element of convergence here. For prospective owners, the two cars – mighty mid-engined Mac and colossally boosted 911 – now cruise in the same airspace for the first time. To make matters all the more intriguing, only £7030 separates them.
So which is the more rounded, which is sweeter to drive, and which one should you buy if you’re lucky enough to have £160,000 burning a hole in your Swiss bank account?
Our day of finding out begins at McLaren’s service HQ, which is hidden away in Old Woking, just around the corner from the premises where the Porsche-engined Formula 1 cars were built in the early 1980s. It’s my first chance to see the GT up close.
The ducktail is sensational, but the glossy new multi-spoke wheels – at 21in, the largest ever fitted to any McLaren – don’t confer much in the way of the marque’s hallmark function-over-form thinking and the high snout still looks awkward. The nose has been styled this way not only to give the car fuller and more traditional GT proportions but also to lay the groundwork for the 150-litre frunk and to lift the splitter higher than usual above the road.
Approach angles aren’t something we often talk about with supercars, because they matter more to Land Rovers than Lamborghinis, but usability is central to the GT’s brief and McLaren is proud enough to put into writing the 10deg on offer. And you know what? It works. Over five days’ hard grind, not once will the car ground itself on speed bumps or the like, which is unheard of for mid-engined exotics. In fact, merely knowing that body won’t sickeningly connect with road relaxes you in town, and with the nose lift activated, the GT matches an E-Class for ride height. Is the basking-shark mug worth it? Hmm. I’m still not sure.
Clearly this is a curious car, and the GT’s shaky start continues as we roll out of town with 170 miles ahead of us. Exmoor is the destination plugged into McLaren’s new infotainment system, for our rendezvous with Matt Saunders and a Porsche so pumped-up and vibrant you have to wonder whether it can already smell victory. Back inside the GT, it’s obvious what McLaren has tried to do, but if your corporate persona is one of austere motorsport-honed purity, upping the luxury quotient doesn’t always come naturally.