“You won’t have experienced performance like it,” we were promised at the recent launch in Rome of the new McLaren 720S.
Neil Lyndon is more fortunate than most and got to drive McLaren’s latest Super Series car the 720S
Anybody who has ridden a superbike or driven an Ariel Atom might want to sneak up a bashful hand at this juncture; but, measured in terms of normal life on four wheels, it is almost certainly true that less than 0.0001% of the population will ever have sat behind the wheel of a car with 720PS of power, 770Nm of torque, capable of 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and 0-125mph in 7.8 seconds.
Driving the 720S to the Vallelunga circuit named in honour of Pierro Taruffi, it crossed my mind that we have, in fact, experienced performance and figures much like those before – if only from a safe distance. Engine rule changes in 1991 limited F1 contenders to 710bhp at 13,500 rpm. Acceleration figures for those cars in the year that Ayrton Senna became the youngest ever three-times world champion and won seven GPs were quite closely comparable. The idol of my middle-age was driving a McLaren that year; and here was I, in old age, driving a McLaren to the circuit dedicated to the memory of one of the great heroes of my youth, having become addicted to Pierro Taruffi’s book, “The Technique of Motor Racing” in my early teens.
Allah, it would appear, is indeed merciful and mighty, as widely advertised.
The endearingly if madly OCD staff at McLaren reckon that this car is completely unlike any other they have produced in the seven years since they first produced the MP4-12C and claim that 91% of its components are entirely new. Nobody with a normal cast of mind might detect these differences at first sight. The 720S cannot help but look much the same as any object whose outward appearance is largely determined by wind-tunnel aerodynamics and – to that extent – it looks very much like all the other McLarens in the range.
Closer examination and experience, however, do reveal significant changes and advances.
One huge leap is in price. The MP4-12C which the 720S finally dislodges altogether from the McLaren range was originally priced at an amount you might be able to afford if you took a second mortgage on your house. To prove that McLaren isn’t the slightest bit interested in having customers like you, however, the 720S Luxury model we drove starts at £218,020 and has a list of “key options” which themselves add up to £76890. You can actually buy a house for in some parts of the UK for the amount that the owner of this car would be paying for extras.
Less objectionably, the excruciating contortions previous McLarens have inflicted on the innocents who were trying to get in and out have been eased.Though the sills on the carbon fibre tub are still just as wide, the body and chassis of the 720S are about 60mm lower than the MP4-12C which it now supplants in the Superseries range. This means that you don’t necessarily have to attend a Pilates session to make yourself limber enough to sit in your car.
Another big plus is much enhanced all-round visibility. In previous McLarens, you might as well have lost an eye as turn your head for a three-quarter view behind. In the 720S, you are least in with a chance of spotting an artic approaching before it crashes into that quarter of a million quids’-worth of hand-built glory.
The carbon-fibre surrounds framing the satnav and information screen still look as if they come from a kit car and the satnav itself remains exasperatingly capricious in its operation (sometimes, for instance, telling you to do a U-turn when it means turn left); but the cabin has been significantly improved, with a new drop down dashboard for primary instruments which could have been swiped from the Tardis. Increased luggage space means that you might now slot two bags for aircraft cabins in the trunk in the nose instead of the one and a half that might have been possible before;
and the state of the art Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker audio system now puts out 120w which makes it almost as loud as the car itself.
Electronic wastegates enhance the drama of the performance from McLaren’s familiar twin-turbo V8, which has now been enlarged to four litres; and a £4750 sports exhaust can be fitted to add to the fun. All-new wishbones and springs and Pro-Active Chassis Control make this supercar unnaturally easy and comfortable to drive and it even comes with variable drift control which allows you to stick the tail out to the degree to which you feel safe knowing that you are in secure electronic hands.
Mountains of bullshit and clouds of hot air inevitably surround the launch of any supercar, but McLaren genuinely spoke the truth when they said: “this car develops the driver”. Of the 0.0001% of the earth’s population who might buy this car, only a further 0.0001% might be able to drive it to its limits and that extraordinary person died exactly 23 years ago as I write this, on 1 May 1994.
Ayrton Senna would have loved the new McLaren 720S, I feel certain; and so would Bruce McLaren, whose legacy this car fully honours.
Higher praise is inconceivable.
Car reviewed: McLaren 720S – On the road £41955, price as tested £218,020 2.9secs Top speed 212mph limited Fuel Economy combined 26.4mpg CO2 emissions 249g/km Engine 3994cc 32v twin-turbo V8 Max Power 720PS@7500rpm Torque 770Nm@5500rpm Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Slightly easier to get into
Improved all-round visibility
Satnav, capricious in its operation
No items found, please search again.