Grand touring version of McLaren's mightily impressive 570S lives up to its high expectations

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To many, the 570GT will appear simply as a subtle new variant of the 570S, the machine we’ve named as one of our favourite cars on sale.

Rear bodywork aside, it looks almost identical and has exactly the same engine and gearbox. Even inside, the cabin is altered in detail only.

For an alleged GT car, this is a driving experience of quite extraordinary intensity and pleasure

And yet time spent in the car at its international launch in Tenerife suggested that the car was more changed in character than its on-paper headlines would ever suggest.

Indeed, you could call this the bravest product yet to be built by the new-era McLaren.

Why? Simply because all the others – from the original 12C to the P1 hypercar – have been pure supercars and therefore precisely the kind of cars you’d expect a company bearing the McLaren name to make.

The 570GT is the first to spear off in another direction, one in which McLaren has yet to travel. This is a softer, quieter and more practical McLaren – hardly core brand values for the marque, you'll agree.

This is a McLaren trying to be a touring car. A McLaren whose makers trumpet the claim that it has more boot space than a Ford Focus. A McLaren, in other words, unlike any other seen before.

It’s true that the company has left major mechanical components unchanged but the devil, as ever, is in the detail.

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Relative to a 570S, it comes with springs softened by 15 percent at the front and by 10 percent behind. The sticky standard Pirelli Corsa tyres of the 570S have been replaced by better-riding, quieter P-Zeros.

The steering is two percent slower, too. The side-hinged rear hatch offers genuinely useful additional luggage space and the car’s body has been stuffed with sound-deadening material. Inside, you’ll find a glovebox, a central storage bin and even a cupholder.

So the only question remaining is how it stacks up against the rather sterner test of British public roads.

Taking the McLaren 570GT out on the British A-roads

If you’d never driven a 570S and just jumped in the GT, your jaw would fall so far that you’d have to go rummaging around in the footwell to find it. The new body and sound deadening have increased weight by 37kg, but if you can feel that in a 562bhp car, you have a backside that belongs in a laboratory.

The car is absurdly quick and, unlike most turbocharged machines, builds its power as the revs build. There’s plenty of mid-range torque, but if you want to access the really nutty stuff, you’ll need to head north of 6000rpm, which is exactly as it should be.

And the chassis is superb. It may no longer wear track day tyres, but grip remains so prodigious that only a lunatic would unstick it on a dry public road.

Yet when you have finished having fun on the UK’s back roads, the 570GT performs its newly appointed grand touring role with confidence, if not quite with total conviction. The car rides well, although it’s never as eerily smooth as a 650S with its active suspension, and it is more than acceptably quiet on a long run. The additional luggage space is welcome, too, even though McLarens have always been surprisingly generous in this regard.

There is just one drawback: it’s not as good to drive as a 570S. The differences are small and to be expected from a heavier, softer car with a broader brief, but they are significant.

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Drive it hard and you'll notice that the body has slightly more vertical movement and the steering is fractionally less incisive than you’ll find in a 570S. Indeed, I’d argue that what it loses in primary ride control actually outstrips what it gains in secondary bump absorption and that, counter-intuitively, it’s actually the 570S that has the fractionally better ride quality.

If you like the looks – and the consensus seems to be that the GT improves on the already gorgeous 570S – and would use it more for holidays than track work, then of course. The additional storage space is genuinely useful and the lower levels of cabin noise will be welcome on a long run.

But we have to say we think the car would be improved further still if fitted with 570S suspension and steering. It should be easy to engineer and could simply be a tick in an options box.

In theory, at least, that should provide the best of two already deliciously enticing worlds. It could be called the 570GTS...

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McLaren 570GT 2016-2019 First drives