From £165,3007
McLaren reaches into luxury GT territory. Should Bentley, Mercedes et al worry?

The October 2019 market launch of this week’s road test subject, the McLaren GT, must seem like an awfully long time ago for anyone reading this at the firm’s Woking headquarters.

From taking its creditors to court, to putting its factory and office headquarters up for sale, McLaren has had to resort to extraordinary measures just to survive as the Covid crisis closed its production lines and dried up so much of the business of the wider McLaren Group last year. A time of expansive thinking, when the outfit was reaching into new niches and imagining new roles for its cars, must be very hard to recall.

The GT's sophisticated styling really grew on me, but I’m not sure I’d use it any differently from a 720S, and I think I’d enjoy that car even more. My guess is that a 720S would be little less refined or convenient

And yet that kind of mood brought us what was claimed to be the most usable, most aerodynamically efficient and in some ways most innovative new model that McLaren has put into normal series production at any time during its short history.

Whether those claims are true of the £165,230, 612bhp McLaren GT is what this road test must ascertain. This car’s design concept, which we’ll detail shortly, is clearly not as wildly free-thinking as that of the £2 million limited-run Speedtail – but McLaren says the GT was inspired and influenced by that Ultimate Series creation. Fundamentally, this is a mid-engined, carbonfibre-tubbed, turbo V8-powered McLaren like every other of the current era – but it’s one with very different aims and priorities from a 720S, a 600LT or a Senna, one whose major ingredients may sound familiar but have been mixed quite differently.

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It isn’t the firm’s first crack at a GT car, of course. So is it a significantly different and better one?

The McLaren line-up at a glance

Leaving out limited-numbers specials like the 600LT, 765LT, 620R and any ultra-rare Ultimate Series models, what you could call McLaren's series-production range includes the current-generation Sports Series models, which are soon to be replaced; but it still positions the GT in relation to its immediate siblings.

Convertible versions of the 570S and 720S are, of course, available. The GT doesn’t have a derivative range as such, but some of the car’s option packs can be considered de-facto trim levels.

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First drives