McLaren Has Finally Figured Out How To Rival Ferrari

Opinion / 10 Comments

The automaker that brought you physics-bending hypercars now realizes there's more to life than speed.

Last week, McLaren debuted the 750S - a mid-life evolution of the 720S - and, if I'm entirely honest, I was unenthused about it. It's not that its mildly refreshed design was a letdown - I can forgive that because the 720S was already beautiful. For the first time since McLaren Automotive was reborn in 2011 with the launch of the 12C, a facelift didn't result in a giant leap forward in power and performance, and that, to me, came as a bit of a shock. After all, the platform has already lent itself to the bonkers 765LT and its 755-horsepower output. Instead, the 750S seemed like a step down from what it could be.

But the McLaren 750S may be better for it. And maybe, McLaren will become a better supercar brand as a result. Because McLaren has finally realized that there is such thing as too much power and that with 2,000-hp EVs becoming the norm, an ICE supercar will never be able to compete in an outright horsepower war.

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Poring over the McLaren 750S press release, I discovered there was one common thread: minimal talk about more performance and everything to do with how it feels. There's more power than the 720S, and a shorter final drive means all the essential acceleration metrics happen a few tenths of a second quicker. And there's even talk of less weight for more performance. But at every turn, McLaren spoke about driver engagement, feeling, and emotion.

Since when have those words ever been important to McLaren?

The world expected McLaren to pull out all the stops and produce a car to rival the Ferrari 296 GTB's 818 hp. Instead, McLaren gave us less power and a new exhaust that focuses heavily on musicality.

Driving Front Angle McLaren
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It even ditched the super cool folding driver display to give us one that's more driver-centric and lets us keep our hands on the wheel at all times. I don't know how it will feel yet, but this is out of character for McLaren; the 750S even has softer front suspension than it used to.

But let's be realistic for a moment - when was the last time you heard anyone hop out of a McLaren and say it wasn't fast enough? I know many people who have owned and driven these supercars, and every time they climb out from behind the wheel, usually with a slight tremble, they all say some variation of the same thing:

"Where do we go from here?"

"There's no way we need anything more than that, ever."

"That's too much speed for anywhere on Earth."

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Engine Bay McLaren
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McLaren reached the glass ceiling of outright performance early on in its career, and it was an unsustainable trajectory.

And now, I understand what McLaren is doing.

We're rapidly accelerating toward a world where 1,000-hp, four-door family-friendly EVs can obliterate the 0-60 mph sprint and quarter mile quicker than a McLaren could ever dream of.

McLaren won't win the horsepower war with an ICE supercar. It's impossible. And more of these hyper-EVs are coming in all shapes and sizes.

And when you can no longer compete on anybody else's terms, what do you do? You have to wage war on another front, one where the supposed flaws of a machine give it the character we so desperately desire.

And that's what McLaren has realized.

Hagerty / YouTube
Hagerty / YouTube

We don't need more speed. We don't need sub-two-second 0-60 times anymore. The world has changed, and those numbers are no longer impressive. But you know what is? And what will always be? The emotion of a musical V8 supercar. The tactility of hydraulically-assisted power steering. The allure of a communicative chassis that wants to dance with its driver.

And all of these things have one thing in common - they don't need power to exist.

It's taken McLaren more than a decade - an impressive decade, I'll admit - to realize that chasing numbers was a monumental and highly awe-inspiring feat but that, ultimately, the best supercars prioritized emotion and how they made you feel behind the wheel.

And now that McLaren has realized power isn't everything, I can't wait to see what comes next.

There is such thing as too much power, but I've never met a car with too much emotion. And if McLaren can prioritize emotion over physics-bending performance, it might just be a true Ferrari rival after all.

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