Highly prized

McLaren bouncing

back

McLaren 720S, 2021, front, action
McLaren 720S, 2021, front
McLaren 720S, 2021, front, action
McLaren 720S, 2021, front, static
McLaren 720S, 2021, front, static
McLaren 720S, 2021, interior
McLaren 720S, 2021, rear
McLaren GT, 2021, front
McLaren GT, 2021, rear
McLaren GT, 2021, interior
McLaren GT, 2021, boot

THREE decades ago the only McLaren cars you'd ever see were devouring a race track - whether an FI circuit or at a Can-Am event.

The list of works drivers reads like a Who's Who of super stars. Great names such as Lauda, Prost , Senna, Alonso and Hamilton, need no introduction.

Then, along in 1992 came the first road going sports car, a supercar aptly name the F1 with a centrally placed engine and three seats abreast, and one of the most elite marques was born which would go on to rival Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche.

Today McLaren - with state-of-the-art headquarters in Surrey - is one of the most innovative and highly prized sports automobile of the mega-rich.

Despite being side-swiped by the pandemic the firm is bouncing back with the sort of determination that would make founder and GP star Bruce McLaren proud.

In a rare back-to-back test I was able to sample some of the might of the outrageous 720S powered by a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 packing no fewer than 710bhp alongside the more practical - if a two-seat, mid-engined coupe can ever be described as such - entry level GT.

With its giant upward hinged doors, huge air ducts and teardrop shape, it cuts a striking profile which, despite its beauty, is dictated by the Monocell carbon fibre tub that lends the shell such strength and rigidity despite its relative lightness.

A weight of 1,283kg is noticeably less than the opposition including Ferrari's charismatic 488GTB which hits the scales 135kg heavier.

Getting into the £227,000 720S isn't as difficult as the 650 which it replaced. For a start the sill is lower and also the doors which flip upwards are cut into the roof.

The cockpit fit is snug but very drive orientated and comfortable with considerable steering wheel and seat adjustment.

The current infotainment system is vastly improved. There's also a slick track telemetery system that shows lap performance on a central display. Or you can download it if you want to further analyse it.

The front boot is surprisingly roomy for a supercar - plenty large enough to for a few days' luggage.

Now for the meat in the sandwich - performance. Blistering is possibly a decent adjective here. Stab the right pedal and you're up to 100mph in 5.6seconds and on to 120mph two seconds later.

The seven speed sequential gearbox seems continually to be changing up as speed mounts. 190mph can be reached within a standing mile, lifting the 720S in the sphere of the hypercar.

Special care needs to be taken on damp or greasy roads. On a cold autumn day I felt the rear traction break at more 85mph in third, a salutary reminder that this is two-wheel drive rather than four.

Despite the firmness of the ride and lack of body movement, it rides over poor or ragged surfaces well and enables its passengers to be surprisingly relaxed and comfortable.

With around 100 fewer horses and costing about £50,000 less, the McLaren GT is in many ways a more complete car...and certainly no snowflake. For a start, there's room for your golf clubs in the back!

Designed to have a less aggressive, more aesthetic appearance, its length is greater than any other production McLaren measuring 4683mm. The 4.0-litre turbo V8 pushes out 612bhp giving it enough shunt to hit 62mph in 3.3 seconds - that's a mere 0.4sec slower than its big brother, the 720S.

While it's hugely rapid in real terms, it doesn't feel as demanding or quite so acute as the 720S, but on normal roads this is more of an advantage to most drivers than a drawback.

Put simply, the GT is probably McLaren's answer to exotica like the Bentley Continental and Aston Martin DB11...and is priced accordingly at about £165,000.

To describe it as ‘easy-to-live with' is almost too patronising toward its maker, and seems to undermine the GT's enormous performance and handling prowess. Nevertheless the term is applicable.

It's docile enough pottering around town and relaxed a pleasantly quiet cruising at the legal limit on a motorway.

Although it can be hurtled around a track with enormous gusto, and not inconsiderable pace, it is more than content to be driven to the circuit rather than trailered, and even to call in at Tesco on the way home for a few groceries.

Should you happen to be on an unrestricted autobahn or on the straight of a private circuit, it will reach 204mph with the throttle buried to the floor.

With no less than 570 litres of boot space - divided between a front compartment and the smartly lined but shallow rear platform - it is a genuine grand tourer.

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