by Roger Biermann
The McLaren 720S is the hotly anticipated new model to replace the vaunted 650S, and marks the first vehicle in the second generation of McLaren Super Series vehicles. Where every current McLaren has been built upon the same platform and utilizes the same basic engine, the McLaren 720S is the first to utilize a newly developed carbon fiber MonoCage II – a lightweight unibody chassis to reduce overall weight and increase rigidity – and a newly developed 4.0-liter V8 engine. This is the model with which McLaren is taking the fight to the Ferrari 488GTB in a turbocharged war of wits and engineering.
The signature dihedral doors open large apertures, whilst the new MonoCage II features narrower sills to aid ingress and egress. Despite this, it still requires some effort to drop into the low two-seater supercar. The interior is spacious, though, and features a standard glass roof to add an air of openness to the cabin – in contrast to the bucket seats that offer a snug hold on the occupants.
The interior is decidedly driver-orientated and features a new McLaren Driver Interface, unoriginally dubbed the Folding Driver Display. In standard driving modes, the display features a full array of information including revs, speedometer, fuel gauge, trip monitors etc, but in Slim Display Mode – linked to drive modes or available at the push of a button, the display folds to allow greater forward visibility, and only displays essential driving information like a tachometer and speedometer. The 720S also features a new 8.0-inch touch screen infotainment setup, once again portrait in orientation.
As we now expect, active aerodynamics and smart suspension technology are standard fit, including an active rear wing that doubles as an air-brake for increased stopping power – something the McLaren 720S does with great efficiency. For the 720S, McLaren introduces a Comfort mode to the drive modes, which pairs with the second generation of McLaren's hydraulic suspension. It works, better than in any model before it. On broken surfaces, the ride is more compliant than a 540C, and possibly better than even a Porsche 911. The flip side is that it resists body lean and controls the 2828 pound 720S with incredible precision. Regardless of the surface, body control is exceptional – the chassis unfazed by mid-corner bumps – and grip levels from the driven rear wheels is massive, until you want otherwise, when the Variable Drift Control comes into play. Cabin insulation is more akin to a luxury sedan than a high end supercar.
At the heart of the new Super Series model, McLaren has dropped a new 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, codenamed the M480T. An evolution of the old 3.8-liter, now with 41% new parts, the 4.0-liter outputs 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque with just a smidgen of turbo-lag before the horizon goes blurry. The rear wheels are driven through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, assisting in propelling the 720S from 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, and 0-124mph in 7.8s, before reaching a top speed of 212mph. The soundtrack is muted compared to the chief Italian rival, the 488 GTB.
The McLaren 720S can be had in three base trims – or fully customized to your liking – 720S, 720S Luxury, and 720S Performance. 720S trim includes dark exterior trim and a choice between an Alcantara or Nappa and Alcantara interior. The Luxury includes engine bay lighting, luxury leather interior, and electric, heated memory sports seats. The Performance trim mimics Luxury, but swaps leather for Alcantara and Nappa leather, loses the powered seats, and adds carbon fiber trim inside and out. Options include a 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, lap telemetry with a 3 cameras, and a lift kit. Safety features include carbon ceramic brakes with ABS, front and rear park sensors, and a 360-degree camera.
The McLaren 720S offers brutal straight line performance, class-leading cornering, and supreme comfort. It's breadth of ability and impressive performance are fast cementing it as a benchmark in the supercar segment. There are few better or quicker ways to reel in the horizon than this.