The new GT is a 200mph supercar with comfy chairs and a bigger boot. But it’s still a 200mph supercar. Words by Ben Barry.
Sensible, by McLaren New car debrief
Who wants their mid-engined supercar to go big on luxury and practicality? McLaren is about to find out as its launches the GT, a £165k grand tourer that breaks from Woking’s Sports Series, Super Series and Ultimate Series hierarchy. It’s aimed at Ferrari Portofino, Aston-Martin DB11 and 2020 Porsche 911 Turbo S 992 buyers. The GT takes its lead from the 570GT, essentially a 570S with a side-opening glass hatch and dynamics softened to suit longer journeys. The 570GT accounted for around 10-15 per cent of Sports Series sales but is being discontinued.
‘Customers told us they wanted more differentiation, more power, and more luggage space, luxury and refinement,’ says Ian Digman, head of product management. The GT has targeted improvements over the 570GT in all areas, with the largest gains in comfort and practicality. Compared with a 720S Super Series, it improves on usability and comfort, but trails on key performance and driver engagement criteria.
“McLaren is promising a plush ride as well as the usual driver engagement”
The GT’s building blocks are very familiar, essentially shared with every McLaren Automotive vehicle built since 2011: carbonfibre chassis, mid-mounted twin-turbo V8, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, rear-wheel drive.
The tub is dubbed MonoCell II-T, which decodes as an evolution of the Sports Series’ chassis, but with a new upper rear structure for the luggage compartment. Expect the usual front and rear aluminium crash structures, and double-wishbone suspension front and rear with Proactive damping control borrowed from 720S (if not its hydraulically interconnected dampers). There are 20-inch alloys up front, 21s at the rear.
The M840TE twin-turbo V8 engine shares its 4.0-litre capacity with 720S models and up (Sports Series have 3.8 litres). It produces 612bhp and 465lb ft, more than any Sports Series and all McLaren’s key rivals, with the double-whammy that the McLaren’s carbonfibre construction and aluminium bodywork contributes towards a 1530kg kerbweight – 65kg lighter than the 911 Turbo S. It’s expected to accelerate from zero to 62mph in 3.2 seconds, to 124mph in 9.5 and on to 200mph.
New low-interia turbochargers should help reduce McLaren’s usual lag below 3500rpm, plus there’s a higher compression ratio, and a torque curve that’s largely flat between 2500 and 7000rpm. Gearshifts are tuned for improved refinement. It’s all designed to make the GT more progressive and more friendly at a leisurely canter. McLaren also promises a plush ride, braking and steering tuned for low-speed manoeuvring – which usually means lighter and less responsive feeling – and that the hydraulic steering will have more on-centre feel to suit high-speed cruising. But it also promises familiar McLaren dynamics and driver engagement, and it’s notable that McLaren ended up offering a Sport Pack on the 570GT to realign its dynamics with the 570S.
At a glance you notice the thinner headlights, Senna-style side scoops, higher bonnet, a tail that kicks up like an Aston Vantage and, more than anything, a longer body. At 4.68m long, the GT is 15cm longer than a 570S (if no wider or higher), and 14cm longer than a 720S too. Front and rear overhangs are much more pronounced, and there’s a more horizontal profile – not the familiar nose-down poise.
The payback is 110mm of ground clearance – 17mm up on the 570GT, or 37mm with the nose-lift – and an approach angle on par with or better than a 911 or DB11. Speed bumps and steep driveways will be easier to negotiate than in other McLarens. The extra length also unlocks generous luggage space either end, with a deep, wide luggage area under the bonnet holding 150 litres, and 420 litres under the hatchback. Lowering the top of the engine 120mm compared with a 570S helps, but it’s quite an awkward space, like sending your luggage potholing – there’s a deep well near to the tail lamps, a hump over the engine, then another deep well behind the rear seats. This unique configuration rules out a convertible version.
The interior is essentially a 570S with added garnish – dihedral doors still rise up theatrically, there’s still a tapering wedge of carpeted carbonfibre sill to step over, and you snuggle down into a very racy driving position on highly comfortable seats. The dashboard looks much the same, including the ‘floating’ portrait infotainment screen, digital instrument binnacle and cluster of controls between the seats. Trim including shift paddles, air vents and rotary controls is milled from solid aluminium, and there’s new infotainment said to be five times faster than the underwhelming current system.
For the first time on a McLaren, cashmere is available alongside leather and alcantara, and a glass roof is optional. It’s certainly richly luxurious at a standstill, and should feel all the more so at speed thanks to laminated glass.
Only time will tell if McLaren has produced a novel new twist on the GT segment, or if this is a niche too far.
ROAD, NOT TRACK
Suspension, steering and brakes are tuned for comfort, low-speed manoeuvrability and high-speed stability, though McLaren still promises dynamic excellence. Pirelli P-Zero tyres selected for comfort and low noise.
Ricardo-developed 4.0-litre V8 has been tuned to suit the GT’s remit. Low-inertia turbos reduce lag, and torque curve is near flat from 2500 to 7000rpm. Peak outputs are 612bhp and 465lb ft.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
There’s a deep 150-litre boot in the nose, and 420 litres in the rear, said to be enough for two pairs of skis and boots. It’s a decent capacity on paper, but accessing the space is awkward.
Interior gets fatter seats and faster infotainment.
BUSINESS CLASS DÉJÀ VU
Lotus dubbed its 2006 Europa ‘Business Class by Lotus’. It was a car that borrowed from the Elise, Exige and VX220, but added a more luxurious and usable twist. There are similarities here, given that the GT brings little that hasn’t been seen on other McLarens.
The Europa sold poorly; nobody wanted a softer Lotus. There’s a school of thought that a supercar owner who wants to drive to the Alps will leave the Ferrari at home and take the Range Rover. Will the new McLaren really be versatile enough to change that?
WHY BUILD A GT NOW?
McLaren sold 4806 cars in 2018, and has a target of approximately 6000 cars annually by 2025 as part of its Track25 business plan. Ian Digman, head of product management, notes that 12,000 cars are currently sold each year in the GT category, making it twice as large as the supercar segment. If McLaren can tap into that niche, sell 1000-2000 units a year of the GT – as one insider suggested McLaren hoped – and do it using parts mostly shared with other McLarens, then the business case certainly stacks up.