McLaren 720S Coupé Driving Impression
SILVERSTONE, England – Supercar fatigue is a real thing and probably even more so at the moment when people around the world are struggling just to pay the finance on their Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo. Who on earth is lining up to buy a supercar right now?
Well, the supercar world is a breed unto itself, and those who exist in it want a car that’s right for them; the perfect fit, so to speak. Which is why manufacturers offer everything from special editions to bespoke speedsters and even one-of-a-kind models built to the exact design and specification of just one discerning buyer with a very large bank balance ... or possibly even an actual bank.
That brings us to McLaren. The Woking-based firm has put its "Track 25" plan on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic (it was originally Track 22, you might remember). But that doesn't mean the company's not been busy. Enter the McLaren 765LT, the latest in a model lineage that goes back to the famous McLaren F1 long tail (LT) of the 1990s. The last LT, the 675LT (based on the 650S) was superb. It had grip that was mind-blowing and steering and suspension that communicated with the driver in a way that seemed almost supernatural. It was a great car for those of us who wanted to zip past the café, straight through pit lane and onto the circuit.
Which is exactly what we did at the launch of the 765LT held recently at the famous Silverstone Grand Prix track in England. Initially, though, things were slightly less zippy. Being England, it was chucking down with rain which didn’t bode well for the new Mac and its unique Pirelli P Zero Trofeo tyres. Off they came, replaced by normal P Zeros since McLaren’s PR team really didn’t want journalists spinning around in Chapel corner ... or any other corner, for that matter.
Not that we didn’t try; we’re naughty like that sometimes. Or maybe it was the car. Either way, putting that full 563 kW power and 800 Nm of torque down on the greasy Silverstone tarmac caused the occasional moment of oversteer. “Straighten the wheel,” came the command – regularly – from by minder in the passenger seat, Ginetta racecar driver Phil Glew.
Eventually the track dried out, the speeds increased and so did the grip. The LT came into its own, becoming both rewarding and edgy, occasionally even requiring a sharp intake of breath as it gently skipped laterally while touching the slight bump in the track down the Hangar Straight, particularly in track mode.
It is a very communicative car, in part through extensive focus on the steering, which chief engineer James Warner tells us they “spent a hell of a lot of time on”. It shows because normally the benchmark for steering accuracy and feel is a Porsche; however, the McLaren is just as good in this department and that in itself is an impressive achievement.
Steering is just one part of the concoction of changes in making this more track-biased model. These include an 80 kg weight reduction over the 720S, to just 1 339 kg, and an increase in downforce of 25 percent. It has bespoke springs and dampers, a 6 mm wider front track and the nose has dropped by 5 mm. There’s carbon-fibre for the revised front splitter and bumper, the front floor, side skirts, rear diffuser and bumper and the active Longtail wing.
Power is up and the engine gets the same three-layer head gasket as the Senna, as well as its piston set. It also gains an additional fuel pump, the gear ratios have been completely revised and it has a full titanium exhaust system feeding those four high-mounted outlets. What it doesn’t have is air-conditioning or an audio system, because they’re just heavy, but they are available as options.
It all translates into a car that is superb on track. We didn’t drive it on a normal road, but Warner told us the company could have made it quicker but that it needed to find a balance for the customer. So, yes, there are still some compromises if you are looking for a total track-day fiend, but you certainly won’t feel hard done by.
That’s not to say you can’t do more. The 765LT has already been given to the team at McLaren Special Operations (MSO). They can shave up to an additional 120 kg off the car. An astonishing example is choosing to not paint the car, opting instead to cover the carbon-fibre panels only in lacquer. It looks fantastic plus it saves a whopping 11 kg ... in paint!
So, basically, it all comes down to this – if the 720S is not fast enough or is too comfortable for your liking, then here you go: the 765 LT.
Author: Mark Smyth
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