McLaren 720S - First

Drive

MANY so-called supercars now come with normal, comfort and sport modes. The new McLaren 720S doesn't have a ‘normal' driving mode, the reason being, ‘there is nothing normal about this car'.

As a successor to its Super Series models, the supercar family at the heart of the brand, McLaren bosses insisted the new 720S had to be ‘revolutionary'.

Not an easy thing to achieve when you consider how good the earlier models were.

It's to the enormous credit of McLaren's designers and engineers that they have succeeded.

Normal, has gone out of the window, instead we have something simply staggering.

Its beating heart is a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, which generates a phenomenal 720PS - 710bhp - and an enormous 770Nm of torque. For the fact-checkers, that's an increase of 70PS and 92Nm on the old 3.8-litre.

For us mere mortals, the performance is unearthly - 0-62mph takes a visceral 2.9 seconds and the standing quarter of a mile is dispatched in just 10.3 seconds.

Top speed is 212mph yet CO2 emissions are down from 275g/km to 249g/km and the 720S officially returns 26.4mpg.

Every road car built by the Surrey-based manufacturer since 1993 has had a carbon fibre chassis and the 720S is no exception.

However, it's based around a new lighter yet exceptionally strong carbon fibre tub which means the new model weighs in at a mere 1,283kg.

Incredibly, the aerodynamic efficiency of the 720S - the ratio between downforce and drag - is more than double that of the 650S Super Series.

Then there's a new generation of McLaren's remarkable Proactive Chassis Control, which features hydraulically-interlinked dampers at each corner.

The system - to which an extra 12 sensors have been added - constantly studies cornering, acceleration, braking, aerodynamic forces and the changing road surface and, in milliseconds, adjusts the firmness of the dampers to ensure all four P Zeros remain more consistently in touch with the road surface.

The result is a car with the highest-ever levels of ride comfort and cornering performance in a Super Series McLaren.

Now, you don't buy supercar and expect a wafty magic carpet-like ride and the PCCII doesn't supernaturally expunge all the lumps and bumps but, on very much less than perfect Roman and rural Italian roads, the 720S performed extremely well in Comfort mode.

It's on the track, however, that the McLaren comes alive. The seven-speed gearbox is sharp and seamless when shifting and all that aerodynamic and mechanical expertise combines to provide incredible amounts of power and almost physics-defying grip.

Superbly balanced, it gives you the confidence to push harder through the fastest corners without having to wrestle for control. It's a thrill you never want to stop. It is uniquely addictive.

For the more ambitious, there's also Variable Drift Control which allows you to dial up or down the degree of stability control in Sport and Track modes.

Priced from £208,600, the 720S comes in Performance and Luxury trims on top of the standard model.

The statistics are the same for all three, only the interior detailing is different - much more quality Bridge of Weir leather for Luxury, sportier touches for Performance. Optional kit is available in packs or individually for a more personal touch.

The interior is certainly much more luxurious than in previous models - plenty of leather and Alcantara available, all precisely fitted alongside wonderfully tactile machined aluminium switches and buttons.

Matched with glazed rear-pillars, the elegant sweep of its ‘teardrop' glasshouse gives the driver virtually all-round vision, a feat unrivalled in the supercar class. It allows light to flood into the cabin making it an airy, pleasant space to be in.

Open the doors and a unique folding driver display deploys and a massively improved eight-inch central infotainment screen springs to life.

With crystal clear graphics, it's simple to use and tilted handily towards the driver. It's a real step up in quality and ease of use.

Fully open, the folding display presents all the usual and necessary information on an upright high definition TFT panel, with three different layouts and colours depending on which mode you're driving in.

At the touch of a button, it disappears to a slim display with only the absolute minimum of information displayed.

The good news for potential customers, especially the less sprightly, is that getting in and out of a McLaren has never been easier. The sills of the 720S drop down dramatically where your feet swing in and out and the doors open wider yet need less space to do so - handy in tight spots.

The door pockets also now have a thoughtful cover which automatically locks when the door is raised - no more broken sunglasses, smashed mobile phones or lost loose change!

On the practical side, long weekends away are also now perfectly achievable - there's room behind the seat backs for two soft holdalls as well as 150 litres of luggage space - enough for at least two airplane cabin bags - under the front panel.

Bruce McLaren, founder of McLaren Racing, famously said life was ‘measured in achievement, not in years alone'.

With the 720S, the company that bears his name has achieved a world-beater - a car which is as comfortable to drive on the daily commute as it is as thrilling to drive on the track.

Genuinely involving and a car which is a huge leap forward from its predecessors, it is a car which will give other supercar manufacturers sleepless nights.

The only problem is, this year's production run is already sold out. Order one now and you'll have to wait until next year to get behind the wheel.

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