It has been interesting to watch McLaren Automotive making the most of its platform. The company has been highly resourceful, using the same (or highly similar) basic building blocks—a carbon-fiber monocoque tub and twin-turbo V8 engine—to build a range of supercars and hypercars for most occasions. With the McLaren GT, the carmaker has gotten as far away from laptime-obsessed machines like the hybrid P1 or the wing-covered Senna as it can. GT stands for “grand tourer,” and that means this is a car designed to be comfortable over long distances.
That’s something I tried to put to the test as best I could, given rather strict instructions not to put more than 250 miles (402km) on the odometer. And it’s true—this is the most comfortable, most easy-to-live-with McLaren I’ve driven. But don’t go expecting something soft or podgy—it might say “GT” on the chassis plaque, but it’s still a true supercar, through and through.
First, a confession: I’m not a fan of the way it looks, forward of the B pillars. The nose appears borrowed from a goblin shark, and the way some of the GT’s lines intersect halfway down the car makes me wonder if members of the design team each contributed elements without anyone talking to each other. Then again, from other angles, particularly the rear, I think parts of it look amazing. But looks are subjective, and plenty of passersby viewed the shape of its (aluminum) body far more favorably than I do.
And yes, I did write “aluminum body.” This car, like the entry-level Sports Series (cars like the 570S and 600LT), uses carbon fiber for its structure but metal for panels. That contributes to the GT’s asking price; starting at $210,000, this car is what passes for affordable when it comes to McLaren. Speaking of that carbon-fiber structure, the GT uses a new variant of McLaren’s carbon-composite monocoque called MonoCell II-T—the “T” is for touring.
The main change is that the tub now has an extra structure at the rear that extends out over the engine bay. As you can see in the gallery above, the GT’s engine is completely hidden from sight; instead, there’s a 14.8-cubic-foot (419L) luggage area that should be able to accommodate a set of golf clubs or even things like skis that previously would be relegated to a roof rack. (Additionally, there is a 5.3-cubic-foot (150L) cargo bay underneath the hood.)
The most efficient McLaren yet
You can’t see the 612hp (456kW), 465lb-ft (630Nm) 4.0L twin-turbo V8, but it’s definitely there, along with the 7-speed dual-clutch SSG gearbox. These are both closely related to the engines and transmissions in other McLarens, but with some unique bits to the V8 and GT-specific calibration to the gearbox that make the GT McLaren’s most efficient powertrain yet. The official EPA numbers for the car are a combined 22mpg (10.7l/100km), but I have to report that over the course of my 250 miles, I actually averaged 22.5mpg (10.5l/100km), which is quite good when you consider this is a mid-engined supercar. With a curb weight of 3,384lbs (1,534kg), it’s a relatively light car, particularly compared to more traditional GT rivals from companies like Aston Martin or Ferrari.
While I never completely gelled with the way the GT looks, I had no such reservations about the way it drives. In particular, the ride is spectacular, even over the DC area’s broken roads. It uses conventional hydraulic dampers and doesn’t feature the clever front-rear interconnected setup used on McLaren’s more expensive Super Series cars. The dampers are overseen by a clever digital system called Proactive Damping Control that’s adapted from the other 720S (one of those Super Series cars). This uses sensors to interpret what the road conditions are and reacts accordingly every two milliseconds. The practical benefit is a car you can spend all day driving (or being driven in) without feeling drained of energy by sunset.
Another concession to usability is a higher ride height than in other McLarens, which allows you to handle plenty of speed bumps and ramps without engaging the nose lift, despite the long front and rear overhangs.
And while it’s not really any easier to get into or out of than a 570S, it does feature more comfortable seats. Forward visibility is as good as always in a McLaren, in large part to the placement of the driver close to the car’s center line and the way the A pillars wrap around to minimize blind spots. Rear visibility is better than any other McLaren I’ve driven, as well as many other mid-engined machines. Coupled with our test car’s optional ($6,000) electrochromic roof and cream-colored leather and carpets, there’s never any danger of feeling claustrophobic once you’re strapped in.
Is it really a GT, or a more practical supercar?
The GT is not entirely perfect, though. McLaren says that it paid extra attention to NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness), but if you’re cruising at a steady speed, the GT is actually droningly loud. This is due to a combination of the engine, the tire roar, and a lack of mass to absorb sound, despite more sound-deadening material that you might find in any of the company’s other cars. The quality of the interior is an improvement on earlier cars like the 650S and 570S, but the small cubby in the door could use a little tweaking, and here and there you can hear creaks coming from the leather.
While I’m complaining, I might also suggest that there could be some middle ground between the way Ferrari festoons its multifunction steering wheels with dozens and dozens of switches and dials and buttons versus the entirely single-function wheel used by McLaren. And the infotainment system is still a bit of a pain to use, even if it is much improved compared to past McLarens.
Happily, none of the added comfort comes at the expense of driver engagement. The hydraulic power steering is shared with the 720S and readily communicates with you through what remains the industry’s best steering wheel (in terms of the way it feels to hold in your hands). The brake pedal is firm but easy to judge in terms of pressure, which is good because this is one fast car. Zero to 60mph takes 3.1 seconds (0-100km/h takes 3.2 seconds). Zero to 124mph (0-200km/h) takes nine seconds flat. (Braking distances are 417 feet/127m to come to a complete stop from 124mph and 105 feet/32m to stop from 62mph.)
Given the relative lack of mass and the sheer physical grip of the Pirelli PZero tires—225/35/R20s at the front and 295/30/R21s at the rear—direction changes are eager and immediate. Needless to say, I never got close to the car’s limits, yet I ended each drive with a huge smile on my face. I’d still quibble with calling the McLaren GT a true grand tourer compared to something like the Polestar 1—but only because it still drives like a such a good supercar.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin