“Even in comfort mode the gears blast up and down the aural fret like guitarist Jimi Hendrix on acid (Essaouira period), so have no fear, this is still a mad car for true petrol heads.”
Yves de Contades
We took the marvellous McLaren GT on a luxury adventure tour of the South of England including West Wittering Beach, Hayling Island and Somerset before finally racing against two Parajets on a mile-long private road.
The high point was definitely the two Parajet pilots weaving around the car as we cruised together past sunlit fields full of summer flowers.
We also did some more jet boarding on a beautiful lake with Mako Jetboards. Well, why not. Fly or surf was the aim of the adventure tour and we were lucky enough to do both.
So the nitty-gritty details. The McLaren two-seater GT has a mid-engine (M84OTE) 4 litre V8 with twin turbochargers giving you 612 bhp at 8,500 rpm and weighs 1.5 tonnes. It reaches a top speed of 203 mph and goes 0-62 mph in 3.2 secs. O-124 mph or 200 Km/h is an eye-watering 9 secs. Mpg is 23.7 but real world is more like 18 mpg and that’s in comfort mode, Sport or Track will be lower. Though to be fair I took full advantage of the acceleration. It has a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with manual paddles and of course, rear-wheel drive.
The McLaren GT silhouette is magnificent, designed by Rob Melville and his team who have a brilliant eye for the quintessential supercar shape. If you spot this Black Ingot menace (gloss black with gold flakes in suspension) in your rearview mirror it’s like being pursued by the Batmobile. The Black Ingot gold flecks show up a treat in the sunshine, not so much in the rain.
You first notice the short stub nose that slopes down at the front, then the dihedral wing doors set in a narrow waist before resting your eyes on the bulging rear haunches with humongous air intakes. The wheel arches appear like the crests of two waves in a rolling sea. But it is always the back of a McLaren that appeals the most. A multilayered confection of honeycombed vents with the lights recessed beneath a sweetly angled spoiler. The boot tail is an impossibly long single piece of glass and steel. Whilst the side windows evoke Cleopatra’s eyes.
Those butterfly doors are not only exquisitely beautiful but lighter now so you can flick them up with some panache. To open from the outside, you push the triangular panel and then pull up. The bottom door sills also protrude less than on the 570S, so ingress is less ungainly. Though getting out with style takes some practice.
The GT is longer than the 570S at 4,683 mm and has more ground clearance than any other Sports model, which gives you the confidence to negotiate any terrain without scrape anxiety. Plus you can raise the nose further if needed.
The F1 style McLaren carbon fibre monoCell II-T tub keeps you safe with excellent rigidity and dictates the twin cabin feel of the interior. The leather and stitching are opulent whilst the interior is pared down and simple like all McLaren’s.
I found the aluminium trim on the steering wheel a little plasticky, but the leather is tactile and soft. Now, I understand the purity of a bare steering wheel, but it could do with a few more controls. Though now I feel like Homer Simpson asking for more cup holders. While we’re at it, please could we have somewhere to recharge and keep a mobile phone. Pointless having a McLaren with one of those awful phone holders stuck to an air vent. Plus you can’t mirror your phone. Fine once everything is programmed into the car, but like a lot of people, my destinations are all phone stored.
The sat nav works well, I used it instead of the phone for once. Though given McLaren’s heritage could we have a nice English lady’s voice or perhaps a dulcet New Zealand lilt, rather than the Texas twang?
The front luggage compartment takes 150 litres and the rear has a large flat space over the engine, insulated by a thick nodular blanket that is unbelievably good at conveying the heat out through two side vents, which get very hot, while you stay cosy inside. Room enough for a jet board, two skis, a golf bag or some large flat suitcases. It is a pity to cover up such a beautiful engine, but compromise is necessary. I would recommend buying the beautiful bespoke Mclaren luggage to hold everything in the back, otherwise, it will look a little messy. The lack of rear seats is not a problem, 90% of journeys are taken with one or two people.
The seats have the usual electronic adjustments and support, including lumbar. They are designed to hold your back in the right position so you emerge as fresh as the moment you got in. Four Bowers and Wilkins speakers look and sound the business, though I prefer the engine sound to any background music.
This is a Grand Track made Grand Tourer. A racing machine that’s been subtly modified for smoother braking, less aggressive acceleration and a smoother ride with proactive damping double aluminium wishbone suspension.
This new suspension cushions beautifully on long journeys yet still grips the road tenaciously. It softens the bumps and potholes while giving you detailed information about the road surface. Bung it in Sport mode or Track mode and the thin GT veneer is whipped off and you’re back to the full racing beast.
Is it comfortable enough to tour in? Absolutely. Not the cosseted namby-pamby luxury of front-engine saloon touring, but the full-throttle hair raising adventure fun of mid-engine touring. Thrill as the engine starts up, a cacophony of cylindrical explosions. The twin-turbo whines magnificently as it scrolls up around 3000 revs.
There is a launch mode. Find yourself a nice mile-long private road as we did. Push the launch button, hold the brake, rev the engine with a stupid smile on your face and release the brake. As one passenger remarked, “who needs roller coasters when you have a car like this”. It’s a good analogy for the cornering too. The McLaren GT corners like it’s on rails. Pointed and planted, it will whip around vertiginous bends at high speed, then accelerate out with zero shimmy.
The hydraulic steering is precise and true. The mid-engine delivers perfect balance pivoting around your body. There is no roll or understeer, the GT is a master of physics, gravity works in your favour, keeping the car flat at any speed.
And that brings me neatly to why this GT is so excellent. McLaren has taken what is essentially a track car and engineered it to keep all the fun of the fair. Ludicrous rear-wheel power, incredible performance and softened suspension make it comfortable and easy to drive over long distances. Chapeau, that is no small feat for what are essentially opposing characteristics.
The car tries to save petrol in automatic, changing up as soon as it can. 6th gear at 30 miles per hour is insane. Switch to manual and you get all that 612 bhp goodness under your control. Paddle up, paddle down, like learning the piano scales all over again. One of the most enjoyable cars to drive in manual ever.
The ceramic brakes are surprisingly gentle but the deceleration is perfectly controlled with no lateral shimmer at all. The sound of the engine shifting down the gears is as beautiful as the acceleration.
Driving a McLaren is like wearing an Iron Man suit to me. The car envelopes you tightly in rich raw metal and leather granting you powers to perform incredible feats of speed and agility. The cockpit feels like a helmet. You see the world through the lens of a power suit. Look and leap ahead wherever you want, faster and more precisely than anything around you.
I covered over 600 miles on this luxury adventure tour and could have kept going another 600. This is genuinely the most relaxed McLaren.
Another plus for me was the lack of pointless additional electronics. Lane departure, cruise control, blind-spot etc. The parking sensors were annoying enough in the rain. Just hold the wing mirror button to turn these off. If you need these to drive you should not be buying an engine with more than 200 bhp anyway.
The Luxe Pack, Practicality Pack, Lightweight Sport Pack and the Premium Pack now all come as standard. Spec it out to your taste at no extra cost. That’s a tempting incentive compared to other GT’s in this category.
The McLaren GT is a track beast modified for long-distance touring that sacrifices nothing of its majestic precision, momentous road-handling and aggressive raw performance in the journey to comfortable driving. A truly excellent car that maintains the sheer joy and aggression of V8 style roller coaster thrills without the spills. And it’s sodding gorgeous to boot. This is the car for those who want to enjoy every moment of the drive and look fabulous doing so. A barebones tourer where the pleasure is in the driving. They’re not trying to replicate a luxury boudoir or fill the interior with pointless fripperies.
The six Luxe interiors epitomise classical elegance, albeit with a modern McLaren twist. A choice of Softgrain Aniline Leather interiors indulgently trimmed in full colour bathe or tasteful pairing of colours endow exclusivity. The perforated Softgrain Aniline Leather seats are ribbed and are embellished with a bespoke non-contrast stitch.
Softgrain Aniline Leather Interior, Seats and Environment
Tonal Aesthetic Piping and Stitching
Power Adjust Heated Memory Comfort Seats
Powered Adjust Steering Column
Interior Ambient Lighting
Leather Steering Wheel
Softgrain Aniline Leather Sill Finisher
Machined and knurled aluminium and Satin Black interior surrounds and brightwork
The Premium Pack refines the vehicle with high-end features. The Pack includes
Bowers & Wilkins 12-Speaker Audio System
Power Opening & Closing Glazed Rear Tailgate with Soft Close Function
Cabin Air Purification with Pollen Filtration
Full LED Headlights with Static Adaptive Functionality and Chrome Tipped Headlight Bezels (Full LED Headlights and Headlight Bezels subject to market availability)
In USA, Canada and Chile, the pack furthermore includes Vehicle Lift, Homelink, Electrically Folding Heated Door Mirrors, Luggage Bay Privacy Cover
All images by Yves de Contades, additional images of the Parajet and McLaren GT on the private road by Jack Godwin.
Thanks to Parajet for the excellent flying race and Mako Jetboards for the incredible surf.
Watch the video below!