What is it?
McLaren’s new all-scenarios ‘Super Series’ supercar, and thus the successor to the 650S and 12C. It has an all-new body design made from superformed aluminium with gullwing doors and lots of concealed vents and ducts for a smooth appearance – apart from the signature ‘eye socket’ headlamp-cum-air intakes. The bi-turbo V8 engine is bigger at 4.0-litres, developing a monster 710bhp (720ps), and the suspension is a revised version of the original ‘Proactive Chassis Control’ (PCC), with more sensors, that manages roll and pitch even more effectively. In short, it’s not just a new look, it’s a faster, more capable car. And it features a drift-mode, too.
Engine, transmission and 0-60
The new ‘M840T’ 4-litre version of the flat-plane crank V8 is the first up-sizing of the engine and is said to be 41 per cent new. Compared with the 3.8 in the 650S, power goes up almost 70bhp and torque by 68lb ft, again fed through the seven-speed dual clutch ‘SSG’ gearbox. Weight has been saved, to the tune of 18kg comparing dry weights, and performance is astonishing – 0-60mph in 2.8sec (3.0sec for 650S), 0-124mph in 7.8sec and a top speed of 212mph (207mph).
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The heart of the car is the carbonfibre tub, dubbed ‘Monocage II’, which now incorporates the windscreen hoop, saving weight in a crucial area versus the metal version on previous Super Series cars.
However, the change that should be most noticeable is to the suspension. The new control system for the cross-linked hydraulic set-up (which does without anti-roll bars) adds another ECU and a dozen more sensors to know more accurately what the car is doing and what road inputs there are. Using that information, it goes to look-up tables to determine how the car should respond. It’s the fruit of a PhD project that has been in development for five years. It’s said that the superior wheel control it brings improves braking to P1 levels and cornering to trackday-tyre levels, all on the latest spec ‘everyday’ P-Zero with its all-weather performance and ride-enhancing suppleness.
What’s it like to drive?
The human-machine interface is marginally improved, especially switchgear tactility, and there are certainly none of the chassis foibles that characterised the first MP4-12C and, to a lesser degree, the 650S – the sensation that there was occasionally diagonal pitching and that the car wasn’t quite as firmly tied down as it could be.
The feeling that ride comfort was gained at the expense of handling was less the case with the 650S and the 720S moves things to another level with exceptional ride comfort for a supercar and the roll- and pitch-free control you’d expect in the corners. It’s sensationally quick and control is clean and precise, and yet it isn’t as exciting as you’d hope.
A large part of this is down to the lack of an exciting engine note – just a lot of hissing and wooshing as large amounts of air are ingested, compressed and turned into power, rather than what a supercar should have, namely a thrilling, engaging engine note.
On track, Variable Drift Control didn’t seem to make slides any easier, either – you still need to be brave to initiate them and the car doesn’t seem to behave consistently. Loosening the ESP control to the ‘dynamic’ setting seems to do pretty much the same job, ie not letting the car get too far out of line.
Price and rivals
The 720S takes the Super Series car well into the £200k bracket. It costs £208,600 in base form, and there’s lots you can add to make the car more bespoke. The list includes the lovely, exposed carbonfibre A-pillars on the inside, transparent panels for the gullwing doors for the full glasshouse experience and a McLaren track telemetry app.
It makes the 661bhp Ferrari 488 GTB look like a bit of a bargain at just over £183k, especially given how it conjures more excitement from a similar engine and a remarkably adept chassis.