2017 McLaren 720S

The best supercar in the world right now. Just don't ask about the name.

3y ago

If you saw the title to this article – which you will have given you’re now reading it – you’ll already know that the car you see before you here is the new McLaren 720S. But what you won’t know is why it’s called that. Well, neither do I.

"McLaren has looked at all the possible power measurements and then simply gone for the biggest one"

James the Boring

It’s made in Woking, England at a McLaren factory by men in McLaren polo shirts, so that clears up the “McLaren” bit. And “S” is easy – that just stands for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. But the trouble comes with the “720”, because apparently, it refers to the total power figure, which is exactly 530 kW.

Of course, McLaren will tell you that they don’t measure the engine’s output in kilowatts, but that they use something called “pferdestärke” instead, and that’s how the name and number merge. According to them, the 720S makes exactly 720 pferdestärke, or 720 PS.

But that doesn’t really make sense either, because “pferdestärke” is actually the German word for “horsepower”. And what is a British company doing speaking German?

It gets worse I’m afraid. There’s two types of horsepower: mechanical (also known as “imperial”) and metric. And without getting bogged down in all the technical differences, it's at least worth noting that mechanical HP is what most of the civilised world uses and that metric HP has been officially rendered obsolete ever since the kilowatt was invented decades ago. PS is metric, so the 720S really only makes 710 HP.

What I think has happened here is that McLaren has looked at all the possible power measurements and then simply gone for the biggest one. Which is also the one Hitler almost certainly joked about while discussing “volks wagens” with Ferdinand Porsche.

So, now that we’ve got that sorted out, we can get onto the actual car. And that’s good, because the actual car, name aside, is brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I want one very badly.

The other day, when I had lots of better things to do, I had a play around on McLaren’s online configurator. Which was a mistake. There were literally endless choices for every car part known to man. Anyway, many hours and clicks and “hmmm’s” and Panadol tablets later, I finally had my virtual 720S looking just-so. The final step was to download the keep-sake PDF which showed all the boxes I’d ticked and computer-generated pictures of the final product. I did that, but then for the first time ever, I automatically went searching for the “Order” button. I haven’t the foggiest how I would have paid for it, but at the time, that didn’t seem to matter.

That might sound a bit strange. Wanting a McLaren, I mean. When you ask any normal person what the supercar of their dreams is, they’ll invariably rattle off something Italian and exotic – a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, or maybe a Pagani. Aspiring to own a McLaren, meanwhile, is like aspiring to marry an accountant. Yes, you might admire them for their cleverness and smart business suits, but you’d never want to actually live with one. Far too “boooring”.

"A supercar isn’t for driving in - it’s for posing in"

James the Aristotelian

Maybe this was true of their first road car of this century – the 2011 MP4-12C, which many said was more of a computer than a car, a Kenbak-1 at that. But it’s now a load of cobblers, because not only has its new successor had its chassis control system completely revamped “to give a more analogue feel”, the big news is that it also has what amounts to a drift mode.

Even more exciting than that though, is the Race mode. Because when you engage it, the instrument panel slides flat to reveal another thinner screen on the top which shows only what you need to know and nothing more. I like that a lot. Everything else that happens is probably good too.

Anyway, that’s actually all irrelevant. A supercar isn’t for driving in; it’s for posing in. Nobody buys one so they can fling it around on a private track; they buy it so they can potter through the CBD at peak hour. And for this, I can think of none better than the 720S. It could be used everyday, everywhere, and never drive you mad in the slightest.

They’ve finally fixed the stupid doors, for starters. They’re still very exciting “dihedral” affairs, but the difference is you can actually use them as a means of getting into and out of the car. Another plus is that they also don’t swing out quite as far, so when you go to Westfield, you won’t have to worry about clipping the mirrors off whatever’s alongside in the parking lot.

That’s another thing. If this were any other supercar, popping down to the shops with it would be ridiculous, because you would not be able to bring a single thing home again. But the 720S is not any other supercar. The compartment in the nose might be the same useless little fob pocket as what you’d get in any other supercar, but inside behind the seats – where you’d usually see an engine – there’s actually a decently-sized parcel shelf. McLaren even offers a “luggage retention strap” for it, and you wouldn’t go to that extreme for a pair of socks.

There’s more. McLaren might struggle a bit with names and doors, but they’ve always been rather good at making sure the driver can actually see where he’s going. The 720S is no different. Visibility all-round is exceptional, especially when you keep in mind that this is not a carriage on the London Eye, this is a mid-engined supercar.

So, already, we can conclude that the McLaren 720S is best. Simply because it would be incredibly easy to live with. I will admit there are other supercars out there that take a similar approach - I’m particularly thinking of the Audi R8, which is basically just a squashed VW Golf R. But that’s exactly its problem – nobody will notice it. The 720S, on the other hand, also stands out, in the best possible way.

"the McLaren 720S is best. Simply because it would be incredibly easy to live with"

James the Pre-Marriage Counsellor

All this is not to say it’s just a granny’s shopping cart with sporty wheels. Throngs of polo-shirt-clad McLaren engineers will happily bore you for hours rambling on about how much downforce is created at 157 km/h (or whatever that is in German), and how the polarising “eye-socket” headlights contain vents which help cool the dual-clutch gearbox, and about all the algorithms that dictate the position the automatic rear wing should adopt at any given moment. And that’s all as it should be. That’s the whole reason any supercar exists in the first place.

So, it’s nice to know that in this area too, the 720S is the best. McLaren’s very proud of the fact it’s underpinned by a chassis made completely of carbon-fibre, and that as a result, it weighs under a tonne and a half. They’re also proud of the fact it in can reach 100 km/h from rest in a mere 2.9 seconds, while Ferrari’s 488 GTB takes as long as 3. And that it has a top speed of 341 km/h, while the Ferrari’s is only 330. And then there’s the engine – a 4-litre V8 with two turbochargers that makes…

We’ll leave it there I think.

2017 McLaren 720S

PRICE: $489,900 (AUD) | ENGINE: 3,994 cc V8 twin-turbo petrol | POWER: 530 kW (710 bhp) | TORQUE: 770 Nm (568 lb·ft) | TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic (with manual shift mode); RWD | PERFORMANCE: 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds (0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds); 341 km/h (212 mph) | ECONOMY: 10.7 L / 100 km (26.4 mpg) WEIGHT: 1,419 kg

Here's two I made earlier:

On McLaren's online configurator:

On the coffee table (note LEGO man's polo shirt):

PHOTO CREDITS: NetCarShow.com; McLaren.com; me

TAGS: #reviews #supercars

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Comments (14)

  • I couldn't agree more. If I came into a large enough sum of money to get a super car, without much consideration at all (largely because I've considered it at length already), i'd head to my local McLaren dealership and order one of these. And then wait in their lobby till it arrived!

    Specifically, this one!

      3 years ago
  • Thanks James, for the interesting and informative article. A good read. I'm hoping you didn't actually hit the "order" button at the end of your McLaren design work, but if you did, please take me for a ride, before things go completely pear shaped when they come chasing you for dosh. Still, you'd be hard to catch in a McLaren, unfortunately they might have one too.

      3 years ago
  • Very interesting read. With all my scepticism towards supercars, I have really enjoyed it. What specifically amused me is your splendid and "mature" humour. And yes, this can't go unnoticed: you love McLaren :)

    Btw, I have read today Clarkson's story on Lamborghini Gallardo in "Don't Stop Me Now" (2007) book. This story and your article have intertwined in my head as the way you write - and the arguments you use - are very akin.

      3 years ago
    • Thanks Ost for the generous compliments. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

      And it is indeed an honour to be compared to one of the greatest motoring writers.

        3 years ago
  • So... Have you driven one?

      3 years ago
  • Knowing that you are sensible with money James, and hence would be fastidiously saving, I guess by now you have a down payment on the insurance for the 720S? ;-)

      3 years ago