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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
McLaren 720S Spider

Click to view picture gallery“I’ve been lucky enough to have
  driven all manner of cars over the
  years, including most of the great
  supercars from the likes of Ferrari
  and Lamborghini. But the McLaren
  720S Spider is, I reckon, the
  best car I have ever driven...”


BEST CAR EVER? Surely there are other candidates, I hear you cry. Of course there are. But the McLaren IS the best in terms of an all-round performer; a car that does everything well. It's not just that it's a supercar in the purest sense of ultimate performance; it's also that you can tick a whole armful of boxes in other areas, many of them quite unexpected — luxury, refinement and ease of driving to name but a few.

Counter-intuitively, perhaps, let's start this review with the last of these. The 720S Spider is easy to drive — I think anyone could do it. Well, almost anyone; you have to be able to manoeuvre yourself into the low-set seats first, but even that's not too tricky. One of my octogenarian relatives succeeded — so yes, perhaps that should be anyone.

The sheer speed is
astonishing. Some stats
for you: the 720hp
4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
delivers a 0-62mph time
of 2.9 seconds —
impressive, but not as
impressive as the
0-124mph time of a
distance-shrinking 7.9
seconds.
As for maximum speed,
that
s 212mph — with the
roof raised, that is;
it
s a mere 202mph
when open...”
Start the beast up using the central button and it ticks over with a surprisingly refined burble. It doesn't sound intimidating, and in start-up mode you can pootle around at shopping speeds in comfort. Like all supercars these days, the McLaren has an automatic gearbox. Say what you like about autos but McLaren's makes the car not only easy to drive but very smooth too.

On the centre console is a wonderfully named area called the 'Active Dynamics Panel'. When you first fire the car up, the driving mode dials on this panel don't do anything; you actually have to press a button labelled 'Active' to make it all come alive.

And 'alive' is exactly what you'll feel as soon as you start scrolling through the settings. There are two rows of dials, each knob labelled Comfort, Sport or Track; one set changes the engine, the other the chassis.

In Comfort mode, the 720S Spider makes a surprisingly refined grand tourer. But start turning the other dials and a whole Mr Hyde personality is revealed behind the Dr Jekyll. Turning the wick up changes the car's character utterly.

Sport mode makes the exhaust sound significantly more visceral, while in Track mode it crackles and roars like a Formula One machine. Yet the McLaren never sounds antisocial; McLaren's approach is to make a car that's exciting but liveable with, and from the outside the noise is never excessive. However, nor is it as exciting to listen to as, say, a Lamborghini V10.

The gearshifts get sharper with each mode, too, culminating in almost brutal upshifts in Track mode. Something McLaren calls 'Inertia Push' (kinetic energy stored in the flywheel) keeps the acceleration going with an extra kick of torque as each gear is engaged. Nevertheless, I found myself using the paddle-shifts to change gear manually a lot; the car changing gear for you is all well and good but there's no substitute for being actively engaged in the experience.

The sheer speed is astonishing. Some stats for you: the 720hp (710bhp) 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 delivers a 0-62mph time of 2.9 seconds — impressive, but not as impressive as the 0-124mph time of a distance-shrinking 7.9 seconds. As for maximum speed, that's 212mph — with the roof raised, that is; it's a 'mere' 202mph when open.

In Comfort mode,
the 720S Spider makes
a surprisingly refined
grand tourer. But start
adjusting the other
Active Dynamics settings
and a whole Mr Hyde
personality is revealed
behind the Dr Jekyll...”
These figures are very much helped by the fact that the carbonfibre body structure keeps the Spider's dry weight down to just 1,332kg (some 49kg more than the 720S Coupé). As any engineer knows, weight is the enemy of dynamism. With 720hp, the power-to-weight ratio is a mighty 540hp per tonne. You can really feel the lightness, too, almost as if the car becomes an extension of your own senses.

That's particularly true of how the 720S Spider corners. I had the opportunity to take it around the Mercedes-Benz World track at Brooklands where it felt utterly at home. On the one and only straight, it's viscerally quick. Brake very hard for the sharp right-hander — which the 720S despatches with zero drama — and the nose darts exactly where you point it. On the very tight, twisty and narrow remainder of the circuit, the 720S's incisive handling comes to the fore: almost zero body roll, ultra-fast and feelsome steering and a rear end that faithfully follows your chosen line.

McLaren does make a more track-focused car than this — the 600LT — but when you're not on the track, it's the McLaren 720S that copes better. Road surfaces of all kinds — Okay, almost all kinds — are not just coped with but conquered. There's even a suspension raising system that makes the 720S practical over sleeping policemen, kerbs and car park ramps.

I also love the fact that McLaren fits an 'Aero' button, which raises the rear spoiler for a sense of drama — even when you're parked! In normal circumstances it works automatically, adjusting itself according to your speed and whether you're driving with the roof closed or open.

Speaking of which, unlike some supercar spiders which have fabric roofs, the 720S Spider has a retractable hard top. This is masterfully engineered, as you might expect. Flip the console switch and it's swallowed up under the rear cover in 11 seconds (claimed to be the fastest time in the supercar class) at speeds of up to 31mph. One lovely feature (optional and fitted to my test car) is the fixed sunroof's glass panel that switches between blue-tinted and transparent.

One of the best things
about the 720S Spider
is just how comfortable
it is inside. While some
supercars feel
claustrophobic and
severe, the McLaren is
airy and cosseting,
while beautiful materials
like Nappa leather,
Alcantara and milled
metals give it a really
luxurious feel...”
One other glass-related fact (!): the rear flying buttresses are glazed, so you have excellent visibility by supercar standards. Even so, parking isn't always easy — it's a supercar thing — and I'd recommend paying the extra for McLaren's parking sensors and 360-degree camera; you really need the help when manoeuvring.

One other small downside in my time with the car was using the electronics to adjust the driver's seat: it took a lot of time and I'm not sure I ever mastered it, even after four days at the wheel. But once achieved, the driving position is superb.

One of the best things about the 720S Spider is just how comfortable it is inside. While some supercars feel claustrophobic and severe, the McLaren is airy and cosseting, while beautiful materials like Nappa leather, Alcantara and milled metals give it a really luxurious feel.

Supercar owners tend to be serial buyers; but if you only had one supercar, the McLaren 720S Spider would surely be it. Priced at nearly £250K, our test car had £62,000 worth of options, pushing the price up to almost £310,000. But for that you have it all in the 720S Spider: sensational performance, suitability for the track, open-roof fun, usability and luxury. Did I really say this is the best car I've ever driven? Yes, and I think it'll take a lot to change my view. ~ Chris Rees
.
McLaren 720S Spider | £246,990
Maximum speed: 212mph | 0-62mph: 2.9 seconds | Test Average: 23.2mpg
Power: 710bhp | Torque: 568lb ft | CO2: 276g/km

.