What is it?
This is McLaren’s take on a GT car, which means it’s a very different proposition to a traditional grand tourer.
In fact, as we’ve already found out, it’s quite a bit different from the time-honoured template of a continent-crossing, leather-clad cruise missile. With its mid-engined layout, extremely quick-witted handling and shattering performance, the GT is more supercar with extra spoonfuls of civility than the more typical sybarite with sporting pretentions.
This is no bad thing, of course, and there are many out there who will revel in a car that serves up 95% of a 720S’s searing straight-line pace and wrist-flick agility but is also relatively easy to live with. Yet for all that, our only test of the GT has been on the launch event in the south of France, which concentrated its driving route on the serpentine roads that wriggle their way through the hills above St Tropez. To truly judge a GT you need a sterner challenge, such as driving the length of France and then onto the UK, where its ride comfort in particular would be sorely tested. Which is exactly what we did next.
Before that, it’s probably worth a quick recap. McLaren says the GT is a stand-alone model but, in terms of price and performance, it fits somewhere between a 570GT and a 720S. Around two-thirds of the car is new, with much of the changes being found in the virtually all-new sheet metal (and carbonfibre) body. Until the Speedtail arrives, the GT is the longest car the brand makes, while the extended glasshouse, powered rear hatch and long nose all hint at the GT’s more practical and usable remit.
The interior is an exercise in contemporary luxury, all beautifully stitched leather and varying types of real metal finish - the knurled infotainment knob and perforated Bowers & Wilkins speaker grilles are particular highlights. There’s also that large 420-litre luggage compartment at the rear, complete with its hard-wearing, Nasa-specification lining. McLaren channels air from the side pods under the boot floor to keep it cool (no more than 40deg C, they say, which is hardly cool), but on hot days and in slow-moving traffic, any items stored at the very rear over the exhausts do get a trifle warm.
Under the sleek and elongated body is a new version of the familiar carbonfibre tub, while slung between the axles is a 4.0-litre V8 that features bespoke pistons, a higher compression ratio and smaller, quicker-acting turbos. Added together, it results in 612bhp at 7500rpm and 465lb ft at a heady 5500rpm - although much of the muscle is available from around 2000rpm. There’s an adaptive sports exhaust that aims to be less bombastic on start-up, while extra sound-deadening promises to soften the edges of the flat-plane crank’s occasionally industrial overtures.
Much of the suspension hardware is familiar, but with softened spring rates and the first stand-alone use of the firm’s algorithmically orchestrated adaptive dampers - we’ve seen them on the 720S, where they work in combination with the interconnected suspension. There’s more soundproofing here, while the steering has been tuned to sacrifice some shimmy and chatter in the name of refinement.