by Adam Lynton
As everyone, exotic car owners included, flock to SUVs, McLaren remains steadfast in a promise to never tarnish its brand reputation to chase sales volume. A compromised vehicle like an SUV could never live up to the legacy set by the motorsport-inspired UK automaker. But a car that combines supercar levels of speed with daily driver practicality is a different proposition entirely. That's why McLaren decided to step a bit outside of its comfort zone to offer a new type of supercar with more practicality than we've ever seen before from the company.
It's called the McLaren GT and, looking at the spec sheet, it's clear that the car doesn't stray too far from the traditional supercar recipe. It features a spicy 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 producing 612 horsepower sitting in the middle, elegant low-slung styling, and a simplistic cabin that focuses on the task of driving. But unlike almost all other mid-engine supercars of this type, the McLaren GT attempts to be more livable by offering a massive storage area in the rear that's large enough for golf clubs. Not only is the storage space more than you'd get from an Acura NSX or Audi R8, but it's also more than an Aston Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental. To find out if the GT is truly a luxurious rival for an Aston or a Bentley, or just another supercar with a larger trunk, CarBuzz tested not one, but two GTs on either side of the pond, for a few days of fact-finding.
The McLaren GT is the British manufacturer's first true venture into the world of GT cruisers, even though it looks and performs very much like a full-blooded supercar. The GT is based on the 720S platform, but an increased body length and the incorporation of a carbon-fiber rear deck means you now get more cargo space, perfect for those long-distance journeys. The GT makes use of McLaren's slightly detuned 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine and features interior comforts such as leather seats with power adjustability, more sound deadening, and other livability improvements.
For the 2021 model year, its second on the market, McLaren has left the GT untouched, down to the unchanged 2020 MSRP of $213,195.
The McLaren GT debuts as a decidedly more hard-core and supercar-flavored GT than more luxuriously trimmed and comfortable GTs such as the Bentley Continental GT. In that vein, it's a strict two-seater, preferring to offer ample luggage space rather than trying to squeeze in rear-seat passengers. Ballistic performance is still very much a given though, this being a McLaren, and with 612 hp and a 0-60-mph sprint in 3.1 seconds, it shows most other GTs a clean pair of heels. Despite its exemplary dynamic prowess, the ride quality is good enough to daily it.
The GT is McLaren's first grand tourer. Based on the 720S, this car features a lengthened body, a carbon fiber rear hood for increased trunk storage, and a plush interior decked out in Nappa leather and optional Alcantara. Under the engine cover, you'll find a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine producing 612 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. The exterior of the McLaren GT features auto-leveling LED headlights and dihedral doors. Optional extras include a vehicle lift system and a power liftgate. The interior of the GT is covered in supple leather, carbon fiber, and aluminum. Optional materials include an Alcantara headliner and leather sill covers. It also gets dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a seven-inch touchscreen display with satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth streaming, and AM/FM radio.
The Mclaren GT is the first grand tourer offered by the British supercar manufacturer and is based on the same platform as the 720S; however, the body has been lengthened, and now features a carbon fiber hood that offers more trunk space. The interior is also a more refined and luxurious place to sit in. Power is provided by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine producing 612 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. The exterior gets auto-leveling LED headlights and twin exhaust exhibits, while the interior sports leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a seven-inch infotainment display.
What clearly sets the GT's exterior apart from its more performance-oriented siblings is its flowing lines and overall sleek form. The body has been extended to give it an even more shapely figure, and the overhangs look simply elegant while helping to decrease the GT's drag coefficient and increase its interior cargo capacity. Over the rear arches, the GT features functional cooling air intakes for the engine and rear brake assembly. In the front, the GT has LED headlights with discreet McLaren branding. Everything mentioned here is crafted around an ultra-rigid carbon fiber monocoque shell, which is a boon for handling and complements the overall styling as well. The iconic dihedral doors swing up in dramatic fashion, and the rear is finished off by two exhaust tips emanating from the diffuser. Optional exterior features include a vehicle lift system, soft-close doors, and rain-sensing window wipers.
We don't think the GT is McLaren's prettiest car, especially from the front end, which looks a tad generic to our eye. The rear end is the GT's best angle, especially those ultra-thin LED taillights that give the car a Cylon warrior vibe. A great exterior color can do wonders for the GT, transforming it from vanilla to vibrant in an instant. The Ludus Blue paint included on our tester in the US drew stares from crowds, even at a Cars & Coffee event that was dripping with exotic metal. While in London, where supercars are two a penny, the stealthy Black Ingot coated GT emitted a Batmobile vibe and received plenty of thumbs up from pedestrians and drivers alike.
For the purpose of adding more trunk space (a prerequisite in grand tourers), McLaren has stretched the GT to a total length of 184.4 inches. This makes it over two inches shorter than the Aston Martin DB11, and 6.5 inches shorter than the Bentley Continental GT. With the mirrors included, the GT is 82.5 inches wide, and 129.4 inches wide with the doors open. The GT sits 47.8 inches tall and is 77.8 inches tall when the doors are opened. The GT rolls on a 105.3-inch wheelbase, the front track is 65.8 inches, and the rear track is 65.5 inches. Thanks to the extensive use of carbon fiber, the GT weighs in at only 3,373 pounds with a weight distribution of 42.5/57.5, front to back.
McLaren offers the GT with 37 different paint colors, ranging from reserved to bonkers. Color options are categorized into three classes, namely Standard, Elite, and MSO Defined. The colors in the standard category are Aurora Blue, McLaren Orange, Onyx Black, Silica White, Storm Grey, and Vermillion Red. The Elite range of colors takes things to the next level with vibrant colors such as Flux Green, Vega Blue, or timeless classics like Glacier White and Ice Silver. While more mature colors suit the GT's laid back personality, the MSO Defined range of colors begs you to go all out with hues such as Lantana Purple, Helios Orange, and the ludicrous Ludus Blue like our tester. If we were the ones doing the buying, Ludus Blue drew enough stares to warrant its $7,500 price tag. And for the added wow factor, you can have the key painted to match for $500.
Don't let the title fool you: this grand tourer will still decimate almost every other sports car on the road. It's a blindingly fast car that accelerates like a bat out of hell and will continue on to a top speed of 204 mph. As with McLaren's other products, the GT is well behaved in normal traffic and can even be described as docile. But switch into a sportier mode, plant your foot, and quickly be reminded that you're still driving a McLaren supercar. The twin-turbocharged V8 engine produces a healthy 612 hp which is more than anyone will actually ever need. Thanks to slightly smaller turbos than in the 720S, peak outputs are lower but responsiveness and low-rev performance have been improved. This means modulating the throttle in traffic isn't tiring, and the open road is still devoured in devastating fashion. McLaren offers the following stats for all to drool over: 0 to 60 in only 3.1 seconds, 0 to 124 mph in nine seconds, and the quarter-mile sprint in eleven seconds flat.
McLaren doesn't stray off the beaten path when it comes to its choice of engine for the GT: under the cover of this grand tourer lies an M840TE twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine, which is the same one used in the 720S. Here it is detuned slightly but still produces 612 hp at a soaring 7,500 rpm and 465 lb-ft of torque. The decrease in output can mostly be attributed to smaller turbochargers, which sacrifice the high-end speed of the 720S for more usable low-end power. Unlike other turbocharged V8 engines in this size, McLaren's 4.0-liter V8 still loves to chase the redline and feels lively well past 7,000 rpm. It sounds good too: its stainless steel exhaust system bellows out a futuristic combination of turbo whine and V8 bark, and for those who want even more song, McLaren offers an even louder sports exhaust system.
Power is fed to the rear via a seven-speed seamless shift transmission and an open differential. McLaren's seven-speed DCT is the source of the car's true magic. In its most lackadaisical setting, the transmission shifts so smoothly, you'll hear the revs drop without feeling a gear change. It's CVT smooth… in a good way. Dial up your throttle inputs and the dual-clutch transmission shows you why it's superior to a traditional automatic or manual. Sixth gear can flash to third before you even blink, giving you near-instant access to the V8's grunt on-demand. You won't feel it shift down from sixth, fifth, fourth, then third; just six-to-third and BAM, you're off to the races.
McLaren says it will never build an SUV, so the GT is likely the most comfortable car we'll ever see from the British brand. Straight away, you'll be reminded that McLaren cars ride surprisingly well thanks to its independent adaptive dampers with Proactive Damping Control, which soak up road impacts. Those same suspension components can stiffen up, limiting the body roll to a minimum. The GT can't stay as flat as the 720S through the bends, but there is nothing compromised about how it handles. McLaren still uses hydraulic steering, which transmits feedback to the driver like the handlebars of a bicycle. When you go over a dip in the road, you'll feel it through the wheel. This level of precision makes you feel as though you're sitting on the GT's front axle, willing it to change direction with ease.
As with other McLaren models, the GT features independent drive modes for the powertrain and suspension, each of which includes a comfort, sport, and track mode. In their most docile settings, the transmission shifts smoothly and the suspension keeps occupants from punishment, though cars like the Aston Martin DB11 and Bentley Continental GT do it a little better. You'll notice that the GT is quieter than other McLarens, so you won't hear road debris bouncing in the wheel wells. There's still plenty of wind and engine noise though, which could prove irritating on a long-distance cruise. The level of control offered by the hydraulic steering is welcomed during sporty driving, but on a rough highway, the intense vibrations caused our hands to get sore after a while.
Comfort mode should be quick enough for road use, but should you wish to spice things up, Sport and Track modes quickly transform the GT into a true supercar. In Sport mode, the car becomes considerably stiffer and the transmission feels more eager to downshift. With Track mode engaged, the suspension firms up even more and the powertrain is pushed to the edge. The baffles in the sports exhaust open up and the car quickly evolves from sweet-sounding to ferocious. To keep things comfortable while enjoying more rapid gear changes and instant throttle response, we tended to leave the suspension settings in comfort and the powertrain in Track mode.
The ability to go over 200 mph and achieve great fuel economy don't go hand in hand: The McLaren GT, as with any other car in its class, is on the thirstier side of things when it comes to gas mileage, but its relatively lightweight and slippery body design helps it along slightly. McLaren claims that its GT will do 15/22/18 mpg city/highway/combined. The admittedly less powerful Aston Martin DB11 makes it look bad with figures of 18/24/20 mpg. We averaged just 15.8 mpg with mostly spirited driving, and that's what we expect most owners to achieve. The McLaren GT is fitted with a 19-gallon fuel tank, which should give it a maximum cruising distance of around 342 miles.
McLaren's cabins are usually rather stripped-down places with an emphasis on performance over driver comfort. Slim carbon-fiber-backed seats and basic infotainment systems rule this domain, but the GT looks to change that perception with a more refined and classy offering. Step inside the GT, and you'll get the same uncluttered space as a 720S, but with several notably refined areas that make the GT feel a bit more in line with competitors such as the Continental GT. Visibility is excellent out the front, and the optional electrochromic glass roof opens up the cabin nicely. The rear carbon fiber hood adds an even greater sense of space, and it's clear from the outset that the GT is able to carry more than its true performance-minded siblings. The combination of carbon fiber and soft-grain aniline leather is enticing, to say the least, and you can even opt for the MSO carbon-fiber steering-wheel clasp, infotainment surround, and shift paddles. McLaren has nailed this interior.
The GT is built around a carbon-fiber monocoque that creates a snug interior seating situation. The door sills are also wide, so getting in and out of this car can get tricky for taller drivers. Once seated, the GT's leather chairs offer good support but aren't as hardcore as those found in cars such as the 570S. The seats are streamlined in accordance with the exterior styling and are adjustable in ten different ways, including lateral control and a memory function. The driver's seating position is excellent and clearly indicates that the driver is still the focal point. Taller occupants will have mild issues getting in and out of the GT, as in any low-slung supercar with winged doors, but once inside, there's enough space for most drivers and passengers.
The interior of the McLaren GT can be whatever you want to be. The Standard interior package covers the cabin in Nappa leather, bespoke stitching patterns, double piping, and intricate perforation. It also features a leather steering wheel, leatherette headliner, Satin Black interior surrounds and Satin Silver brightwork. The Pioneer interior package swaps in Alcantara and soft grain leather seats with contrasting color accents. This package also adds an Alcantara headliner, soft grain Aniline leather sills, and a SuperFabric or Aniline leather luggage bay floor. A third option, the Luxe package, incorporates soft grain leather headlining and sill finishers in a wide array of solid or combination colors and finishes things off with machined and knurled aluminum and Piano Gloss Black interior trim. Our black tester came with the Luxe package in carbon black, and unless you live in very hot climes, this is the color to go with.
McLarens are notorious for offering little to no trunk space, with models such as the McLaren Senna only offering a shelf for two helmets to fit inside the cabin. The GT seeks to change this perception by providing an actual usable amount of trunk and overall cargo space. As with most other rear-mid-engined cars, the GT offers users a frunk, or front trunk, which provides a reasonable 5.3 cubic feet of space. That's large enough for a small grocery run, a couple of small weekend suitcases, and room for jackets and small bags. The rear upper structure of the GT is unique to this model: a carbon fiber clamshell design creates more space and now features a rear luggage bay. This setup is good for an impressive 14.8 cubic feet of space. The rear cargo area is a bit oddly shaped but houses a full set of golf clubs with ease. Combined with the frunk, the GT's 20.1 cubic feet of storage space trumps the DB11 and Continental GT. Small items can be stored in a shallow center console storage tray, leather pouch on the driver's seat, storage net in the passenger footwell, or cubbies in both doors.
The McLaren GT offers more than just a carbon fiber shell and some flappy paddles on the steering wheel: it's an authentic grand tourer in the sense that it envelops the driver in luxury and comfort, and offers more standard features than you'll find on McLaren's performance-minded models. Noteworthy exterior features include an optional powered rear tailgate and an optional electrochromic glass roof that can become clear or opaque with a couple of grades in between at the press of a button. The interior is lit up by ambient LED lighting offered in a selection of colors, and you sit down on manually adjustable leather seats. The steering column is also manually adjustable but the optional premium package adds power adjustment to both for added ease of use. There's also an auto-dimming rearview mirror and dual-zone climate control. The Premium Pack also adds Cabin Air Purification with Pollen Filtration, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, and a luggage bay privacy cover.
McLaren says that the GT's infotainment system was inspired by the world of private jets instead of the automotive world. That's most apparent in the way the display screen is fitted in portrait. This seven-inch touchscreen display offers crisp images and smooth transitions, but interacting with it can be a bit finicky while driving. McLaren has improved the processing power a bit, so it's at least smoother than the company's other system. Standard infotainment features include satellite navigation, Bluetooth streaming, as well as satellite radio and AM/FM radio. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, unfortunately, do not make the list. The standard sound system consists of four speakers, but a 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system is also available under the Premium Pack option and among the best stereos available in a supercar.
The McLaren GT, along with other McLaren cars such as the Senna and 570GT, have been recalled due to a fuel tank issue. An NVH pad under the tank can collect debris and water, leading to corrosion of the tank. The 2020 GT was additionally recalled for possible brake failure at one corner that could cause the car to pull to one side when applying the brakes. McLaren covers the GT with a three-year basic warranty, a ten-year corrosion warranty, a three-year drivetrain warranty, as well as with a three-year roadside assistance plan.
The all-new GT has not been crash-tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS, and nor is it likely to be given that these agencies tend to shy away from testing exotic supercars and low demand cars in general. However, we have complete confidence that McLaren has put every bit of effort into making the GT as safe as possible, especially considering its extensive experience in the motorsport industry. With safety systems such as an ultra-stiff, and impact-resistant carbon fiber monocoque, as well as advanced traction and stability control systems, the GT should prove to be as safe as, or even safer than the competition.
Despite asking a small fortune for the grand tourer, McLaren forgoes advanced driver assistance features such as lane keep assist and rear cross-traffic control; there's not even a blind-spot system in place. It seems that this trend runs through the supercar community. What you get instead is a basic airbag system and contemporary safety features such as LED headlights, hill hold assist, cruise control, and an electronic parking brake. More traditional safety systems include ABS brakes, as well as an advanced sport-tuned electronics stability and traction control system. Personal security is ensured by a keyless entry and lock system, as well as keyless start and a car alarm system.
McLaren may have missed its mark when it pitched the GT as a sportier alternative to an Aston Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental GT. Yes, the GT boasts more overall storage space than those cars and it's more exhilarating to drive, but by the sheer nature of its shape and design, it's also far less livable. Opening those dihedral doors and stepping into the carbon monocoque chassis requires far more athleticism than hopping into a more traditional Grand Tourer like the Aston or Bentley. Those two cars are quieter and more comfortable too, making them better long-distance cruisers, and we have to say that Bentley's cabin is far more luxurious than McLaren's.
Instead of picturing the McLaren GT as a mid-engine rival to its fellow UK counterparts, we choose instead to position it as a thrilling, more practical rival to an Acura NSX or Audi R8. In this matchup, the GT's focus on comfort and storage space without sacrificing performance feels more in line with the competition. It may do without the fancy hybrid system of the NSX, the spine-tingling V10 of the R8, or all-wheel-drive, but we think these omissions help the McLaren GT feel slightly purer a driver's car as a result. If you do own either an NSX or R8 and want something that offers a more involving experience, we think the McLaren GT serves as a compelling step up without entering 720S and Ferrari F8 prices. In fact, the GT costs nearly $100,000 less than a 720S, so it's kind of the bargain in McLaren's range. If the larger trunks and nicer interior will influence you to put more miles on it, we say go for the GT over any other McLaren.
McLaren's new grand tourer is competitively priced against its rivals. With an asking price of $213,195, it's no sales lot bargain, but after all, you're buying a McLaren. The Aston Martin DB11 Coupe, for instance, goes for around $200k, and the Bentley Continental GT will set you back $202,500. Fully-kitted, the McLaren GT should see its price rise by a significant margin. Our tester, for example, came equipped with MSO Defined paint, the Bright and Premium packs, ceramic brakes, sports exhaust, electrochromic roof, plus a few other add-ons bringing the as-tested price to $263,625.
McLaren gives new owners three options when it comes to interior specifications. The Standard Package includes manually adjustable comfort seats and steering column, a leather steering wheel, and leatherette headlining. The Pioneer package includes power-adjustable seats and a power-adjustable steering column, ambient interior lighting, as well as an Alcantara headliner and soft grain leather sill finishing. You also get SuperFabric soft grain Aniline leather on the luggage bay floor and machined and knurled aluminum and Piano Gloss Black interior surrounds. The Luxe package includes a soft grain Aniline leather headlining.
Additionally, you can option on the Premium Pack, which adds a Bowers & Wilkins 12-Speaker sound system, a power tailgate with soft close function, LED headlights with static adaptive functionality, and chrome-tipped headlight bezels, as well as vehicle lift, HomeLink, electronically folding side mirrors, and a luggage bay cover.
With only one model on offer, prospective buyers can turn to the options list to make their GT a truly unique creation. If we were the ones doing the buying, the cars that McLaren sent us to review were both pretty special. One model included the Ludus Blue paint for $7,500, the other with Black Ingot (an Elite paint), while both featured the electrochromic roof for $6,000, 15-spoke forged wheels for $3,000, sports exhaust for $3,500, Premium package for $5,500, and a few other add-ons bringing the price to over $263,000. Expect to spend in the region of $250,000.
Aston Martin builds gorgeous cars, and the DB11 Coupe has to be one of its most beautiful creations to date. It might not be the fastest or well-built when compared to the rest of the class, but it makes up for it with sheer beauty. Under the hood of the Aston Martin DB11 Coupe lies a Mercedes-AMG sourced 503-hp twin-turbo V8 or a 630 hp twin-turbo V12 with. Both engines offer more than enough pluck for a GT car. We love the attractive interior, which is plusher than the McLaren GT, and the fact that it is highly customizable from the factory. It's also the more comfortable car to drive over long trips: exactly what a GT car should offer. Visibility isn't as good as in the McLaren, and the rear seats are cramped. Its trunk is also smaller than the McLaren GT. If it's a true GT car you're after, the Aston will be your best bet.
Bentley is known for building some of the best grand tourers in the business, which means stiff competition for Mclaren's GT. The Continental GT is one of the best in its class, and with good reason: it offers awesome power, a relaxed driving experience, and a beautifully crafted interior.
The Continental GT is offered with two engines: a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with 542 hp, and a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 with 626 hp. In both cases, there is more than enough power for sporty driving, as well as highway cruising. The Bentley Continental GT is also highly customizable, with a seemingly endless amount of paint and interior options on offer. It should be mentioned that this Bentley is a heavy drinker, and things get cramped in the rear. At the end of the day, the Bentley is a more accomplished GT car, but not as fun to drive.
The most popular competitors of 2021 McLaren GT: