If there's a better car, we haven't driven it.
When the McLaren 720S hit the scene, the stunning machine instantly rocketed the supercar category into new heights by outpacing the last crop of vastly more expensive hypercars like the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918. Ferrari was gut-punched by the 720S as the 488's track-focused version, the Pista, could barely match the McLaren's might. CarBuzz recently had the chance to drive a 2019 720S Spider for an upcoming review and after a few days in the car, we've come to the conclusion it is the best car on sale this year. Here's why.
Most supercars sold in 2019 are comfortable enough to drive every day. Supercar owners no longer have to contend with heavy clutch pedals, overheating engines, and the risk of fire but McLaren has taken livability to a new level with the 720S Spider. The seats are comfortable and the cabin has enough space even for large millionaire athletes who will likely buy this car. A sports car can have a tendency to feel claustrophobic but the 720S Spider has a piece of glass on the convertible top which can become opaque at the press of a button. The Coupe can also be optioned with glass pieces on the doors, giving the cabin a nice, open feeling.
You'd think a 700-plus horsepower car would be extremely uncomfortable to drive but thanks to McLaren's incredibly advanced suspension, the 720S rides beautifully over most road surfaces. McLaren even paid attention to luxury with options like the Bowers & Wilkins audio system, which is capable of overpowering the beast mounted behind the driver.
It is easy to make a car go quickly around a race track but it can also be very easy to let the car feel soulless. Some modern sports cars feel more like a computer than a precision instrument but McLaren hasn't fallen into this trap. The 720S uses electro-hydraulic power steering, which is among the best we've felt in any modern car. It delivers so much feedback through the wheel, we could run over a coin and say if it was a penny or a dime. When it's time for high-speed maneuvering, the steering still communicates without feeling twitchy, inspiring confidence to keep the accelerator planted down. McLaren has mastered how to design excellent steering and other automakers need to take notice.
No supercar is complete without its engine and the 720S has a whopper - a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque. Or at least, that's what McLaren claims because we have a sneaking suspicion the V8 is producing way more power (closer to 800 hp). Even with power only going to the rear wheels, launch control helps get the sub-3,000-pound car to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds, 124 mph in just 7.8 seconds, and onto a top speed of 212 mph (or 202 mph with the roof down). With the roof down, the thrill of the V8 engine is maximized and there is virtually no noticeable or measurable tradeoff in performance.
Anyone who says a car needs to have a manual transmission in order to be fun clearly hasn't been in a 720S. McLaren's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission ranks among the best in the world, right up there with Ferrari and Porsche's PDK. Gear changes happen so quickly, the car has already had time to watch you blink and cue up the next gear. Even in automatic mode, we were astonished at how quickly the box could hop from seventh gear for cruising down to third or fourth in a snap. There is no feeling of the car going through the gears, just straight into instant terror. You can take control manually via the trigger-like paddles on the steering wheel but the transmission is so brilliant on its own, shifting yourself feels like microwaving a frozen dinner in the presence of Gordon Ramsey.
Everything we just described would be completely meaningless if the car didn't drop the collective jaws of every person who sees it on the road. Luckily, the 720S Spider has the awe factor in spades. Whether it is the bold orange paint job, striking body lines, or those lovely dihedral doors, people will snap their necks trying to get a good look at it on the road. During our three-day stint with the car, we lost count of how many people almost swerved into our lane trying to take a picture of it, offered to trade cars at the gas station, or just gave us the thumbs up. This is a car designed to grab attention, something it does better than most.