Hearts will not bleed for a person forced to give up a £180,000 supercar as their daily drive after only a few weeks (previous incumbent Dan Trent having earlier moved on to pastures new, leaving yours truly with the key). But so captivating is the vicarious supercar ownership experience, and so memorable is McLaren’s first attempt at a grand touring sports car, that letting it go was a proper wrench.
With limited mileage remaining in our allowance before the car had to be returned to McLaren, I couldn’t do everything I would have liked in my time with it.
If I had, McLaren would have probably had the first 30,000-mile 570GT on its hands, and that might have been tricky to sell just a few months after launch.
On the motorway, it was brilliant (bar some very loud thumps over catseyes); around town, it stopped traffic both on the road and on the pavement; and up in the Brecon Beacons, it was every inch the bona fide supercar.
The McLaren was a joy on any drive, be it in Wales, the humble commute, mooching around with friends or trundling along a motorway. Traits that are becoming McLaren hallmarks shone through on every journey: beautifully feelsome, hydraulically assisted steering, tremendous visibility, superb wheel and body control (with a sumptuous ride) and, without wishing to put too fine a point on it, incredible speed.
That this is one of McLaren’s least powerful models remains a completely barmy concept to me.
The noise never quite thrilled as it should, though, even with the £3240 sports exhaust reinstated from the more focused 570S. It whooshed and gurgled and fizzed like a really exciting turbo, but there wasn’t enough from the V8 to really get the blood pumping, beyond an aggressive blare.
Back to the positives. Perhaps the most satisfying part of my whole time with the car was just the sense of occasion. That’s terribly intangible, I know, but the way the car made you feel – and the positive way in which passers-by responded to it – was a real joy.
That’s not to say our time with GT08 MCL was perfect. We had to return it to the dealer to have a few persistent squeaks and rattles sorted, and the optional nose lift occasionally made an extremely unpleasant graunching noise. We never did get to the bottom of that.
More fundamental, however, was the interior usability. The 570GT is McLaren’s attempt to build an everyday supercar in a sector that includes cars such as the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo S. Those cars make pairing a mobile phone, programming the sat-nav and changing a radio station far simpler. Somehow, the McLaren sometimes struggled even to hold a radio station – one of its more irritating flaws.
The McLaren was a delight to spend a prolonged amount of time with. The irks and foibles couldn’t detract from an inherently fabulous car. It wasn’t cheap to run (name a car of this ilk that is) and some of the prices for options are cheeky, but the 570GT leaves a resoundingly positive impression.
Mine would do without the exhaust, the carbonfibre interior bits and the lightest wheels, dropping the price to £169,505. That’s still a lot, although during my time with the 570GT, it felt worth damn near every single penny. If you are in the fortunate position of considering a car slightly cheaper – or, indeed, slightly more expensive – than this McLaren, I implore you to take a look.
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Both cars are aimed at a similar customer too, delivering the performance and exotic feel of a true supercar with driving manners that also make them viable daily transport.
But from this common ground, the engineering approaches veer off in wildly different directions, perhaps showing how the road car ideologies of the two F1 partners have diverged. It’s a stretch to say that is in any way related to the strained relationship on track, but, then again, if the corporate ideologies are so different, perhaps it’s not such a far-fetched suggestion.
For all my enthusiasm for the McLaren, the tests against the Honda and the two German rivals revealed that it’s still a pretty raw machine, despite being pitched as the GT product in the range.
Although slower geared and less urgent than the 570S, the steering is constantly wriggling away in your hands, be that on a challenging back road or the motorway. I really like that, but it’s not a sensation drivers of most modern cars will be familiar with, or necessarily enjoy as much.
At a cruise, it’s comfortable – the glass roof makes it feel more spacious than you might credit and the ride quality is, like all McLarens, excellent.
But there is tyre roar and the stiff carbonfibre tub transmits thuds of cats eyes and some bumps through the structure in a way that more refined rivals – the Honda especially – simply don’t.
I’d count these as observations more than criticisms, the pay-off being the focus and purity of feedback through the controls and the seat of your pants, none of the other cars can hope to match.
Well there’s nothing everyday about the kerbside theatre of getting in and out. It’s not for those with bad backs or stiff joints but, with practice, I’ve just about nailed the entry procedure of ‘bum first, legs in and swing the door down’ in one motion.
Once you’re settled, the 570GT’s clarity of purpose is unmistakable. It may be the luxury McLaren, but it’s still a McLaren, with the driver-focused minimalism, superb visibility and meaningful weight of the controls all characteristic of the brand.
This is a dramatically fast car. You can barely dip your toes in its performance reservoir on the public road, but even at sensible speeds you can appreciate the superb feedback through the steering, the crisp damping and the response of the dual-clutch transmission.
On the motorway it’s surprisingly comfortable. There’s a fair degree of tyre roar, and cats’ eyes and ridges can send thuds through the body, but the airiness of the glass-roofed cabin is relaxing, the engine’s drone can be drowned out by the fabulous stereo and it’ll cruise on the motorway at close to 30mpg. So far, so impressive.
In town it’s more of a liability. The visibility helps but I’m forever panicking about the wheels, the front end is vulnerable to speed bumps if you’re not quick enough with the nose lift and you need to consider where you park to make sure there’s room to open the doors. They need less space than you think but I live in fear of being boxed in.
My solution? Drafting my four-year-old into joining me for the weekly shop. In his booster seat he gets a view of the road he’s never had before and I get to park in parent and child spaces, which removes the stress of finding room to open the doors.
The glass-backed Touring Deck holds plenty of shopping too... Dan Trent
With the 570S bridging that gap, the GT is intended as McLaren’s all-round alternative and a machine that can deal with the daily commute as well as the traditional supercar stuff. It’s new territory for McLaren.
And I’m the lucky person to be putting this to the test. Hand on heart, my natural instincts are probably more geared towards the S. But the GT is an interesting proposition and one I’m curious to explore.
Compared with the S, it has a slightly softer ride (springs are 15 percent softer front, 10 percent rear), extra sound-deadening, more relaxed steering and – the most obvious feature – a distinctive glass-backed shape with a 220-litre ‘Touring Deck’ luggage compartment to complement the 150-litre one in the nose.
Speccing my car from scratch was a most enjoyable experience, especially given the hospitality of McLaren’s team at the London showroom.
Sales controller Simon Snowball talked me through the options with the help of the configurator and coloured blocks to enable comparisons of exterior paint and interior trim combinations.
The S suits brighter colours like McLaren Orange or Mantis Green, but customers opting for the 570GT tend towards more reserved shades.
My initial choice of Pacific Blue was steered to the Ice Silver you see here, a shade from the optional Elite range that costs an additional £3490.
I’ve faced accusations of it looking ‘boring’ but, to my mind, the way it shifts from a golden tinge to a blue one, depending on the light and time of day, is really rather beguiling. It contrasts nicely with the Dark Palladium trim on the front and rear valances, side skirts and intakes, too. You can have those items in carbonfibre if you’d like, either individually or as a whole. I rather think you’d want to go all or nothing with that approach, and I reckoned I could do without this addition to the price (it costs about £30,000), given I’d be paranoid about general wear and tear. This is supposed to be an everyday car, remember…
I did splash out £3490 on ‘super-lightweight’ forged wheels, plus an extra £1110 for having them in Stealth Grey. I’d best not kerb them.
This extravagance was offset by sticking with the standard iron brakes, the theory being that these will be less grabby in traffic than the ceramics the 570S gets as standard.
Given that I’ll be spending a lot of time in this McLaren, I splashed more cash on the interior. The £5020 GT Upgrade Pack looks like a total no-brainer because it bundles the rather nice Bowers & Wilkins stereo with essentials such as an alarm, parking sensors, a rear-view camera and a nose lift.
Experience of previous McLarens has shown their noses to be very vulnerable to speed bumps and steep ramps, so the last of those options was an essential choice.
From the various By McLaren interior design packages, I went for the £2520 Luxury 2 Saddle Tan/Carbon Black option. I chose a black steering wheel to tone things down a bit while the £2500 carbonfibre interior package adds some bling to the doors, centre console and infotainment surround. It also gives me longer, carbonfibre, shift paddles.
Whether I want to be the centre of attention in my primary transport is going to be the ultimate – and most interesting – test of this car. Dan Trent
McLaren 570GT specification
Pricing:List price new £155,755; List price now £155,755; Price as tested £178,735; Dealer value now £139,950; Private value now £145,000; Trade value now £132,000; Options GT Upgrade pack – includes nose lift, rear view camera, alarm upgrade, 12-speaker Bowers and Wilkins stereo system, car cover and branded floor mats (£5020), Ice Silver Elite paint (£3490), Super-lightweight Forged alloy wheels (£3490), sports exhaust (£3240), By McLaren Luxury 2 interior package – includes Saddle Tan Nappa leather upholstery, Slate Grey contrast stitching, colour co-ordinated steering wheel and sill finisher (£2520), interior carbon fibre package (£2500), stealth wheels finish (£1110), red brake calipers (£900), vehicle tracking (£630), stealth exhaust finisher (£440), warning triangle and first aid kit (£60)
Specs: Engine 3799cc, V8, twin-turbocharged petrol; Power 562bhp at 7500rpm; Torque 443b ft at 5000-6500rpm; Kerb weight 1495kg; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Boot space 350 litres; Wheels 19in front, 20in rear, alloy; Tyres 225/35 ZR19 (fronts), 285/35 ZR20 (rears); Top speed 204mph; 0-62mph 3.4sec; Claimed fuel economy 26.6mpg; CO2 249g/km
Costs: Mileage at start 29; Mileage at end 7947; Fuel tank 72 litres; Test average 21.1mpg; Test best/worst 28.7mpg/6.8mpg; Real-world range 330 miles; Contract hire rate £1295pcm (36 months); Expenses None; Fuel costs £2044; Running costs including fuel £2044; Cost per mile 26 pence; Depreciation £23,775; Cost per mile including depreciation £3.25; Faults Squeaks and rattles and nose lift graunch