This latest special-series McLaren ‘Longtail’ model, the new 765LT, comes at what feels like a pivotal time. With Woking due to start making its own carbonfibre chassis ‘tubs’ very soon, and almost ready to usher in plug-in hybrid powertrain technology for its series-production models, it feels very much as if a new, second era is about to start for the company – assuming the ship can survive the long, dark night before the dawn.
Before all that, though, McLaren Automotive has given us something of an explosive celebration of its current era; a yardstick, if you like, by which we might measure just how far it has developed in its first decade of continuous car production. The 765LT is the third installment in the firm’s modern ‘longtail’ lineage. It’s an astonishing car to drive in so many ways, taking what might be recognised as a broadly familiar McLaren driving experience but exaggerating and enlivening it to genuinely new and spectacular heights.
I’m not sure it changes the narrative; that it proves that Woking has finally vanquished every last dynamic demon that has haunted it since 2010, and wrung every last drop of handling appeal out of this carbon chassis and V8 powertrain, before batteries and motors and plug sockets change the game. It’s so close, though – and so compelling in ways we’ll get to shortly.
The effort, expertise and expense that has gone into what must count as Woking’s most committed attempt yet at a special-series supercar is quite something in itself. It must be so hard taking weight out of, and adding outright track performance and dynamic purpose to, cars like the 720S which, let’s face it, are damned light, fast and monstrously purposeful road cars already. And yet, thanks to the kind of attention-to-detail that accounts for the weight of titanium wheel nuts and cabin carpets among other things, the 765LT represents a weight saving of up to 80kg relative to its base car.
In order to hit that figure, you have to pay extra for some lightweight body panels and be satisfied not to have air conditioning or an audio system. But, if you’re prepared to pay extra for some of them, every external panel and functioning aerodynamic feature on this car can be made out of carbonfibre. Its window glazing is 0.8mm thinner than is a 720S’. It’s practically standing there in crate paper underpants.