by Sebastian Cenizo
When McLaren reintroduced itself to the automotive world, the MP4-12C was a formidable opponent to the excellent Ferrari 458 Italia. Yet, for all its technological ability, that car was not a looker in any way and was often accused of being created without passion. You see, McLaren is a different kind of car company. Form follows function and everything the brand does on every car has a purpose. These days, however, not only does it produce some of the world's most incredible supercars, these machines have become more and more beautiful too. The 720S is a case in point. This car is stupendously fast but looks like a real supercar, something worthy of being on any teenager's bedroom wall. Besides its gorgeous design, the 720S features a full carbon fiber monocoque, along with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces an astronomical 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. Capable of 0-60 mph in just 2.8 seconds, it's a ferocious machine. But is it worth spending $300,000 on?
The McLaren 720S is a completely separate model that comes as part of McLaren's Super Series, while lesser vehicles fall into their Sports Series. As such, it gets a specially developed engine, active aerodynamic aids, and a novel folding display ahead of the driver. Carbon fiber is one of the favored materials and nothing unnecessary adds weight to the car - even the seats and steering wheel are manually adjustable in standard form.
The 720S has an almost bug-like, alien appearance, with sharp creases, smoothed edges, and a "floating" glasshouse. The hood features angular vents while the LED headlights have a touch of classy mascara around the borders. At the rear, a massive vent runs the width of the car, with the taillights subtly integrated. The dual-exit exhaust tips are also integrated into the above vent. Above this is a deployable rear spoiler, while a huge rear diffuser lies below. On the profile, a large raked vent draws air away from the front wheels, which measure 19 inches in size at the front with 20s at the rear.
The 720S has some classic supercar proportions with a length measuring 178.9 inches and a width of 76 inches. The height is ridiculously low, at just 47.1 inches, while the wheelbase measures 105.1 inches. Curb weight is respectably low at 3,139 lbs.
A wide range of colors is available for the 720S, but just two standard hues are available: Silver and Blue. The Special paint options are more extensive, with Silica White, Blade Silver, Storm Grey, Onyx Black, McLaren Orange, Argon, Quartz, and White. Our favorite in this range is the stunning Memphis Red, but Elite colors like Volcano Yellow and Azores are stunning too. The MSO Defined palette has more vibrant colors available, with Helios Orange, Lantana Purple, Ludus Blue, and Burton Blue among the most striking choices. In total, there are 36 different colors to choose from.
The McLaren 720S is arguably the most capable supercar in its class and one of the greatest machines ever made. Sure, it doesn't have the top speed of something like a Bugatti Chiron, but it's still incredibly fast and certainly far more capable on track. A 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine sits behind the driver and passenger, producing 710 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, all of which is sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to the rear wheels. Despite not having an all-wheel-drive system, the 720S accelerates from 0-60 mph in just 2.8 seconds, according to McLaren, although some real-world tests have shown even lower times. 100 mph comes up in just 5.5 seconds, and the quarter-mile is dispensed with in 10.3 seconds. Top speed is a stratospheric 212 mph. As impressive as these figures are, the 720S is not built to be a drag racer. Countless hours have gone into developing an exceptional chassis and clever aerodynamic aids, making this a remarkable track weapon too.
3.8-liter V8s are common in many of McLaren's products, but the 720S gets a special 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. This power plant produces 720 British horsepower, hence the name. In our money, that's 710 hp with 568 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic controls gear shifts, and it's just as impressive as the engine. Shifts are smooth and sharp, with barely a few milliseconds interrupting the flow of power. Thanks to clever turbo engineering, the 720S is almost completely free of turbo lag. Throttle response is near instant and the revs keep climbing effortlessly, with a wave of constant power shoving you in the back and making you open your eyes involuntarily wide. From the line, a launch control system helps those turbos spool up to optimum levels, and when you let go of the brake pedal, you jump ahead with the kind of vicious acceleration that is sure to elicit fear from your unsuspecting passenger. That power is always available, and overtaking opportunities that would normally seem insane are now dealt with in record time. The notchy click of the steering-mounted paddles is also satisfying, encouraging you to engage with the car and row up and down the gears at every opportunity.
Thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber, as well as ingenious active aerodynamic aids and a low center of gravity, the 720S is razor sharp on track, yet still manageable in traffic. The steering system is electro-hydraulic, making it incredibly feelsome and offering levels of feedback and communication that are now becoming rare in new cars. It's also a quick rack with good weight, and placing the 720S through a corner with the perfect apex clip is as simple as looking where you want to go and watching the car follow your commands. It's all very involving and it builds your confidence. Grip is incredible and the ability to strain your neck is something that this car excels at. You feel a part of the car and with a system called Variable Drift Control, you can learn to hang the rear out around bends too, while standard carbon ceramic brakes handle stopping with ease when it's time to back off. Despite all this racing excellence, the 720S hasn't forgotten that these are still road cars. Thus, adaptive dampers are fitted as standard, making the 720S surprisingly comfortable over regular tarmac. This is a supercar that won't hurt your back, besides when you're getting in and out.
People who can afford to spend $300,000 on a car are unlikely to give a damn about fuel economy, but McLaren has provided estimates anyway. According to the company, the 720S will return figures of 15/22/18 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. A 19-gallon gas tank means that you should realistically be able to achieve around 342 miles with mixed driving, so long as you can resist the temptation to floor it at every opportunity.
The interior of the 720S is simple but impactful. Carbon-backed bucket seats keep you firmly in place, seated low down. The steering wheel is unfashionably simple, with no buttons. In a car with the capabilities of this one, it's probably a good thing to let the steering wheel do just one job. The center console is where you'll find miscellaneous buttons and switches, as it floats out of the center tunnel and leads up to a seven-inch touchscreen. These are angled towards the driver as they should be, while more purity of purpose is exhibited by the digital driver info display that folds into a narrow strip-like display at the touch of a button, showing only the essential information you need and improving forward visibility.
The 720S is a genuine supercar, and for it to be such, it must be impractical and undignified to get in and out of. Thus, just two seats are fitted. Despite their aggressive bolsters and low position, they're reasonably comfortable and can be occupied for hours without much complaint. Getting in and out is, as mentioned, a tricky proposition thanks to the low ride height and large sills, but the dihedral doors help a bit. The only problem is pulling them down once you're in your seat. Fortunately, everything else is ergonomic, with all controls in easy reach. As standard, the seats and steering wheel are manually adjustable, but power-operated seats and steering are fitted to all but the base version. All-round visibility is good for a supercar, but you may still be nervous when backing out of a driveway.
As standard, the 720S comes with black Alcantara and a little leather and aluminum scattered about, but a Black and Scoria Grey color scheme is available too. Seatbelts can be had in your choice of Carbon Black, McLaren Orange, Yellow, or Red. On the Luxury trim, Carbon Black and Cassis, Almond White, and Vintage Tan leather are your options, while the top Performance trim offers Jet Black, Black and Xenon Yellow, Scoria Grey and McLaren Orange, or Black and Carmine. Naturally, plenty of carbon can be added to various areas, including the air vent surrounds.
The McLaren 720S is not especially capacious, offering just five cubic feet of volume in the front cargo area, but there is a compartment behind the seats that can allow you to carry an extra duffel bag.
In the cabin, your storage options are even more limited. You get a central cupholder and the space behind the floating center console can carry your phone, but that's about it.
For a six-figure car, the McLaren 720S is relatively short on the usual creature comforts found in many other cars, but it does boast race-inspired technology like an adaptive rear spoiler and active aerodynamics. You also get adaptive dampers, a digital and revolving driver info display, a drift function, variable drive modes, and launch control. There are also some conventional features like cruise control, auto-levelling LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated power-folding mirrors, soft-close doors, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, and parking sensors. Available features include ambient lighting for both the cabin and the engine bay, heated seats, a vehicle lifting system for speedbumps, and a 360-degree parking aid. You can also get McLaren Track Telemetry with or without cameras for recording and analyzing your laps.
The infotainment system in the 720S features a vertically mounted seven-inch touchscreen display and a four-speaker sound system as standard. It uses smartphone-like inputs and is responsive and easy to get the hang of but it will still confuse on the first few uses and isn't very well laid out. As standard, it features onboard storage, a pair of USB ports, Bluetooth, aux input, voice control, and navigation. If you want a more powerful sound system, a Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker surround sound setup is available too. However, smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is not available.
No recalls have been issued for the 720S thus far, and since the brand makes this car in low volumes with a high level of attention to detail, we don't foresee any issues.
A limited and a powertrain warranty are included for the first three years of ownership with no mileage limits imposed. Also available for a fee is a 12-year extended warranty, but this carries a mileage restriction of 12,000 per year.
Low-volume and uber-expensive vehicles like this will likely never be intentionally crashed, so neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has any data or info on this. However, a carbon structure that is incredibly strong adds to the safety of the vehicle.
Advanced and semi-autonomous driver aids are not available for the 720S, as its focus is purely on performance. What you do get, however, are features like front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, auto-levelling LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a hill start assist system. You also get the usual traction and stability control systems, as well as frontal, side-impact, and knee airbags. The carbon fiber monocoque also contributes to the safety of the vehicle in the event of a crash.
At this level, value seems to be a subject that is completely irrelevant. After all, what reason is there to spend $300,000 on what is still a "just a car"? Well, the 720S has an argument for that, as McLaren claims it is quicker around a track than even the million-dollar P1 hypercar. For less than a third of the price, the 720S thus seems like something of a bargain if you're in the market for something ridiculously fast. It's not perfect though - the infotainment system is less than simple and really should offer smartphone integration in this day and age. In addition, those accustomed to luxury features will find the 720S wanting. However, this is arguably the best supercar on sale at the moment. It has tremendous levels of mechanical grip, accelerates like an absolute rocket, and can even make you look like a hero with its Variable Drift Control. In addition, it looks absolutely spectacular. So, it's fast, it handles and feels like a genuine road-going race car, it's comfortable, and it looks like nothing else on the road. We love it. The only reason we wouldn't take it is that we want even more as always, and the upcoming 765LT promises to be even better.
The 720S is available in three configurations, with the base variant starting at $299,000 before a destination charge of $2,500. The 720S Luxury costs $311,130, a price it shares with the 720S Performance. Fully loaded with special paint and options, you can get that price to approach the $380,000 mark.
The McLaren 720S is a singular model that forms part of the Super Series in McLaren's lineup, with the roadster version viewed as a separate model. The 720S features a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 710 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque. It is capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in just 2.8 seconds, with 100 mph arriving 2.7 seconds later. The quarter-mile is dealt with in just 10.3 seconds and top speed is limited to 212 mph. As standard, the car features adaptive dampers, carbon ceramic brakes, a staggered 19/20-inch wheel setup, auto-levelling LED headlights, soft-close dihedral doors, and some commonplace features like cruise control, hill start assist, parking sensors, and a rearview camera. Also included are performance enhancements like Variable Drift Control and McLaren Brake Steer, a system that replaces a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential, thus reducing weight while improving handling.
As impressive as the features of the 720S are, various upgrades can be made. The standard four-speaker lightweight sound system can be swapped out for a more powerful Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker setup. You can also change the standard Pirelli P Zero tires for P Zero Corsa tires that are stickier on track but perform a little worse in terms of grip in the wet. There are also various exterior carbon fiber packages that replace various accents with carbon pieces. A sports exhaust system is also available, and power-adjustable heated seats (standard on the Luxury specification), are available too.
The 720S is a spectacular vehicle in any guise, but at the same time, we like the idea of having the raciest model. Hence, we would opt for the Performance trim. Although it doesn't have the heated seats and additional Nappa leather of the Luxury model, it does feature ambient lighting and a much more aggressive level of carbon fiber on the exterior and interior. For a car that has speed and performance as its focus, going for the most hardcore variant seems to make sense. Besides, if you can afford a 720S, you can afford a Rolls-Royce for the days when you want ultimate luxury too.
The Ferrari 488 Pista is another supercar with incredible performance and a limited production run. At a base price of $330,000, it's also ridiculously expensive. It is powered by a 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 with a whopping 711 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque - one hp more and one lb-ft less than the 720S. However, it's one-tenth of a second slower from 0-60 mph and is one mph slower on top end than the McLaren. Essentially, these cars are very similarly matched on paper. So how do you choose? Well, Ferrari has the heritage and the sound going for it, even if turbos have lessened the impact of the latter factor. Meanwhile, the 720S looks more outrageous and has been hailed as one of the greatest supercars of our time. We also like the simplicity of the cockpit and the way that the doors open, even if that is a little silly. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference, but we prefer the Mac.
Perhaps the 720S seems too intimidating and too extreme for your tastes. In that case, the 600LT is a special model based on the 570S, McLaren's smallest sports car. This car comes with a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 592 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque, enough for the "baby" McLaren to get from 0-60 mph in the same time as the 720S. It's barely slower on the quarter-mile strip too, but top speed is slightly lower at 204 mph. Beyond the figures, the looks of the 600LT are not particularly attractive in our opinion, with a front end that looks like a perpetually surprised and unnecessarily happy clown. Sure, saving 60-odd grand on a car makes sense when straight-line performance on paper seems very similar, but a supercar is about looks and emotion as much as figures. For these reasons, as well as enhanced track ability, we'd have the 720S all day, every day.
Check out some informative McLaren 720S video reviews below.