Review: 2022 McLaren 720S Spider

The lowdown on the hottest rides in town



McLaren 720S Spider and 600LT Spider Global Test Drive - Arizona - Jan-Feb 2019Copyright FreeRef:  _MD_0142 1.jpg
McLaren 720S Spider and 600LT Spider Global Test Drive - Arizona - Jan-Feb 2019Copyright FreeRef: _MD_0142 1.jpg

By George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 1 Sep 2022, 9:19 PM

Last updated: Mon 12 Sep 2022, 6:45 PM

If you love speed, you’re bound to love McLaren. The 4,000-employee strong Woking company founded by Ron Dennis has been a motorsports giant since the ’60s. It is the second most successful Formula 1 team after Ferrari and is much acclaimed in the supercar business too, thanks to creations like the spectacular McLaren F1, the once fastest production road car and formidable P1 hybrid hypercar.

While McLaren is known for such specialties, the 720S Spider and its coupe sibling, are the flagship models of sorts, especially from a production point of view. We got to drive the Spider for a short while and here’s our critique of the topless wonder.

Design & aesthetics

Ferraris are touted as being beautiful. Lamborghinis have jaw-dropping quality about them. But McLarens, especially the 720S Spider, evoke all those emotions along with a deep sense of curiosity. In its presence, anyone would confirm an UFO sighting. This thing is out of this world. It looks like alien ship with its pointy snout, low-slung fuselage, and complex amalgam of surfaces, one that Batman would pull out of his garage. The headlamp space and every other cavity looks like they were cut with laser precision; and every mesh, gap and diffuser on the bodywork is a functional one. Even the bubble top cabin seems to float over the swoopy bodywork. The beautiful haunch is recognisably McLaren, thanks to those signature LED strip lights and active rear spoiler. And they’ve even managed to equip it with large tails pipes positioned in the middle, which are ready to send out powerful booms as an act of aggression against anything that challenges its capabilities.

With a gentle click you can pull open the cool dihedral doors (similar to ‘Lambo doors’), which swing upward like they should in any exotic. And while the door sills maybe leather-upholstered and padded, I must say this pigeonhole entryway isn’t suited for anyone 6-ft tall, neither is it suited for date night or any night for that matter. But let’s not conclude here. The gain is worth the pain.

Once in, and you shuffle into a relaxed position, you notice that the cockpit wraps around you, keeping every control within your reach, but leaving enough room to avoid claustrophobia. The generous appointments of leather, Alcantara and carbon fibre all around add visual, textural and even snob value to the interior. The seats are thinly padded, but heavily bolstered and they look amazing too. Wish I had one of these in my home office!

The whole interior has a vibe that is simple but sophisticated, somewhere between being Audi-esque and the overly characterful cabin of the Pagani Huayra. It is also a positive evolution over the 650S it replaces. There is a digital instrument cluster that flips to a minimalist position when in track mode, which also brings in the technological and theatrical effect to the cabin. The flat-bottom steering wheel is a joy to steer, again thanks to upmarket materials, but it’s also because McLaren got the elemental design right, which is observed in its diameter and thickness. And the centre console that contains the portrait-style infotainment screen (a refreshing change from the landscape orientation) is deliberately slanted towards the driver for a more connected feel; and the bridge that follows down to the lower centre console cascades into a series of toggle switches that may remind one of a fighter jet.

But it ain’t all hunky-dory inside. The sunshade is small, and the vanity mirror isn’t lit. There is as much storage as a fashionable tote, which means there isn’t a place for a handbag either. There ain’t even a glovebox. There is a secret flap in the door though that can hold a phone, 2 cup holders and a snuggly key holder…if that’s any consolation.

Powertrain & performance

The other delicious part that gets auto enthusiasts salivating is the engineering marvel i.e. the motor that sits behind the cabin. The latest 911 GT3 has a phenomenal 4.0-litre engine. This one does better than the Porsche, with 2 extra cylinders — being a V8 — and two quick-spooling turbos, which help it generate colossal output figures, 770 Nm of torque and 720 PS, specifically.

During our daily drives in the city and on the highway, the 720S Spider was found to be easy to steer at sensible speeds. But be wary of the lowered ride high — speed bumps aren’t your friend — and the low stature may render you invisible to neighbouring traffic, even if you’re driving a bright orange 720S. And part of that ease is attributed to the ride compliance (achieved through using double wishbone suspension), which is unusual for a vehicle this extreme. Can’t say the same about the Aventador!

There is plenty of poke to make a quick getaway from or merge with highway traffic even in economy mode. But if you want to feel the full effect of 770Nm of gut-wrenching torque you have to activate launch control. This allows you to rev the engine while standing still and as soon as you take your foot off the brake, you rocket from a screeching start to mind-warping speeds in no time. As per the spec sheet, 100 km/h comes up in a blistering time of 2.9 seconds. And the 200 km/h mark in an equally thrilling 7.8 seconds, which is about the time a sporty sedan gets to 100 km/h. These figures are especially remarkable considering this is rear-wheel drive, which by default is a low-traction setup. However, something in the traction control and transmission algorithm lets those enormous 305-section rear rubber hook up well. All you need to do is keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel and enjoy the thunderous exhausts and the intermitted crackles between shifts, while being pinned to your seat.

About power delivery, it is quite unlike the abruptness of a naturally-aspirated Aventador. Here it comes on smooth and then just takes over with a ceaseless tsunami of torque. A friend I took for a couple of short trips was frightened beyond belief. And just when you are overwhelmed with the speed, you can pull the chain on inertia almost instantly, courtesy of the hard-biting pistons and carbon ceramic discs.

All that Formula 1 experience has also granted the 720S Spider with the lateral dynamism of a race car. The Germanic obedience to steering input and unwavering chassis that keeps it flat through the corners, makes you hit the apexes with accuracy. The undamped, authentic nature of the carbon chassis lets you in on the sensations that come through the wheels, seats and steering wheel, keeping you involved in the act of driving.

Miscellaneous thoughts

Let’s not forget that you can also ride in grandeur with the top down. All it takes is 11 seconds for the roof to drop. Even with the top up you have an electrochromic glass roof that goes from transparent to near opaque in matter of moments. But of course, here in the Middle East even the darkest setting isn’t dark enough. With the roof up, you can set down your messenger bag and other flat items in 210-litre tonneau luggage area that sits over the engine. For a more usable space, there is always the 150-litre frunk that can eat up the gold standard of traveller’s luggage — the cabin baggage.

What’s even more commendable is that the 720S Spider is only 49 kilos heavier than its coupe counterpart, which is remarkable as compared to the Huracan Spyder, which is 120 kgs heavier. And the other rivals don’t do much better.

As for the infotainment screen, it does offer decent response, nothing to match the latest smartphones. But the menu is customisable and whilst using on-board navigation, you can add a stopover before the destination, which is a bit like Google maps. Also, while I never intentionally probed for fuel economy figures, I was left dumbstruck by the near 10 l/100km economy the trip computer displayed.

Verdict

As a regular car, a commuter that you would take you from A to B, it’s a bit of a misfire. It is difficult to climb into and out, it has next to no storage space, it is relatively annoying to park, and is as reliable as British exotics get. But as a supercar, something that you can use to draw a crowd, something that can tingle your spine with its soundtrack and move your body with urgency and in doing so, blow the doors of almost every other supercar out there, the McLaren 720S quite simply is a sensational piece of kit.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


More news from