It's still one of our picks for the best car in the world.
Making the best car in the world is impossible. There's just no way to grade it. Is it the fastest? The quickest? The most luxurious? Best means different things to different people, and you can't please everyone, even though the Audi RS7 is pretty damn close. But if you're an enthusiast, and you want a car that's livable on the street (for two people) and flat-out merciless on track, you could do worse than the $300,000 McLaren 720S.
It was the best car in the world for a few years, in our eyes, right next to the stunning Ferrari 488 Pista. Now both have been replaced with newer, somehow better models in the McLaren 765LT and Ferrari F8 Tributo. But after spending a long weekend with the aging - it came out four years ago - McLaren 720S, we're prepared to that if we hit the lottery tomorrow, one of our first calls would be to McLaren.
The McLaren 720S is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, up from 3.8-liters in previous Super Series models. It makes 710 hp (that's 720 pferdestarke, hence the name) and 568 lb-ft of torque, in a package that weighs just 2,828 pounds when dry. That's probably a little under 3,000 pounds when full of fluids and gasoline. And that leads to a weigh-to-power ratio of 4.22 pounds for each horse to pull around, one of the best in the under-half-a-million supercar world. It get's to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds with only two rear wheels twisting pavement.
In practice, the 720S feels like an arrow. But not just any arrow, Yondu's impossibly-vicious, whistle-controlled arrow from Guardians of the Galaxy. From the driver's seat, you see a gap in traffic, and before you even make the decision the turbos whoosh up and you're there. It makes other cars feel like they're standing still. The 720S just imposes its will on traffic. If those cars were people, and you were intent on murdering them (we don't suggest that), this could do it like Michael Rooker's gruesome Marvel character.
"Power is nothing without control." That's actually tire-maker Pirelli's tagline, but it fits here too, like a glove, because this 720S happens to ride on the Italian rubber. Its steering is electro-hydraulic, but it feels fully old school. Part of that has to do with those super sticky tires. When the pavement gets wavy, you'll know. If the lines on the cement change pattern, you're hands will feel it on the buttonless suede-covered steering wheel.
The 720S comes with the latest iteration of the company's carbon fiber Monocage II structure, which has FIA racing levels of protection. A few years ago, two journalists drove a McLaren 570S off a mountain in California (you can google it) and walked away unharmed.
McLaren's Proactive Chassis Control II suspension system works without antiroll bars, keeping the car flat through turns. It does this by connecting the front left damper with the rear right, and vice versa. That means when you make a right turn, the left side tries to compress, but is stopped by the right side pushing back. It's very similar to the system in the recently revealed electric Rivian R1T pickup.
The 720S has modes for comfort, sport and track, and the powertrain and handling can be adjusted individually. We kept it in comfort mode for the suspension over the weekend, and found it insanely comfortable over our broken midwestern roads. It also benefits from its massive tire width (305), which allows it to roll over smaller holes without reacting. We'd call it the perfect road trip car, but we have a few small complaints, mostly relating to the cabin.
You don't buy cars like this for the luxuriousness of their cabins, though most supercars today are filled with premium materials and lots of tech. And the McLaren has that. It looks great with its suede and leather switchgear, metal switches and slick-looking dashboard. The infotainment needs a little freshening but once you get used to it works adequately.
Our problem is first with the small pedal box. If you get on a long road trip, there's no place for your left foot to go. It has to rest flat on the floor, which is uncomfortable, or pointed down towards the brake. Because the area is so small, the pedals are close together too. That means you sometimes touch a little brake as you're trying to accelerate. If there was ever a car that you could use driving shoes in, it's this. Finally, for our (my, skinny, 5-foot-10) narrow frame, I couldn't find a comfortable position of the seats, which are also hard to adjust because the buttons are on the inboard side of the seat by your right knee.
We still love this car, even with those cabin complaints. You can't always have exactly what you want, and if you're in the market for a cold-blooded track monster that, despite its flaws, is comfortable on less that perfect roads, the 720S will do that. And after a decade of driving insanely powerful cars, this one still scares us a little.
Is the 765LT better? Probably. Is it faster? Yes. Does it look cooler? Okay, yes again, but it's a newer more expensive vehicle. Speaking of prices, the 720S we drove came in at $299,000, with about $40K in options like the MSO Ceramic Gray paint ($9,400, spectacular), the Performance trim with ambient lighting, black and carbon fiber trim and an electric steering column ($5,840, could skip), the audio system ($4,420, would skip) and a few other options for a grand total of $343,190.
We were going to bring you some used prices to peruse, but the cheapest 720S we can find is still around $240,000, more than most houses. However, we'll go back to the famous adage that we modified. "You can live in a McLaren, but you can't race a house."