- Photos: Kurt Bradley

Is the McLaren 720S Spider the best all-round supercar on the planet?

3d ago

38.6K

Kurt is a freelance automotive and motorsports photographer, and reasonably quick test driver.

***

F​or a driver looking to get a wildly fast, sexy, and obscenely expensive supercar, the marketplace is currently saturated with options from seemingly every notable manufacturer. Distinguishing advantages and attractive reasons to select one is no easy task. McLaren has made that decision much easier with its introduction of the 720S Spider.

A​n open-top variant of the 720S, this Spider packs all the tech and speed McLaren can produce into one looker of an exotic car. When competing with the likes of Ferrari's 488 Spider and the Lamborghini Huracan, stealing buyers takes some effort from a company that has only been making road-going cars for a decade. To sort out if the 720S Spider is worthy of such an investment, I gave it a solid evaluation over several days along exhilarating roads under the sunny skies of Southern California.

T​he figures

A total of 7​10 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque are ready to be unleashed from a mid-mounted turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. A 0-62mph sprint is completed in as little as 2.9 seconds, and 124mph is achieved in just 7.9. Track top speed is 212mph, and scrubbing off all that speed is done from 124mph to 0 in 387 feet (118m) and 60 to 0 is knocked off in just 98 feet (30m). Dry weight is 2,937 pounds (1,332kg), and the curb weight is a mere 3,236 pounds (or 1,468kg).

A​s you would expect, this sort of performance doesn't come cheap. Starting MSRP for the McLaren 720S Spider is right around US$315,000, and with a bunch of good options my Memphis Red tester rang up at US$379,960.

T​he really good parts

S​upercars are typically impractical and destructive to your spine should you attempt driving them on a freeway. The McLaren 720S Spider is not. Storage in the front can stow two carry-on bags with ease, and there's a tiny bit of space for a backpack – if you keep the top up – under the tonneau cover. While being a mid-engined car, the two-seat cabin has a more breathable space than you'd expect, with forward and lateral visibility being surprisingly good. On the freeway McLaren's dampers make a Mercedes S-Class seem firm.

O​pt for the US$9,100 electrochromic roof, and you'll get a hardtop that keeps the light and heat outside while allowing you to let light in when you want it. I also appreciate the way McLaren's transparent rear buttresses offer more visibility where you'd expect blind spots. The hardtop and its motor only add about 100 pounds, and because the carbon fibre tub (or Monocage II-S as McLaren calls it) is wildly stiff, you sacrifice none of the chassis' corner-tackling abilities. Nor do you give up any noticeable time during fast sprints.

My 720S Spider tester also had the Bowers & Wilkins audio system option, which is fantastic. Clear, rich sound pumped throughout the cabin, and was some of the best stuff I have heard in any car. The speakers and door panels also carry out the McLaren styling language nicely throughout the interior. The coolest party trick might be the little rear window, which can be rolled down independently, if you want to listen to that awesome engine with the top still up.

N​ot so wonderful things

I​s it a complaint to say that a car is too good looking? Catching eyes everywhere, onlookers gravitated toward the McLaren 720S Spider. At stoplights, the phones would come out to snap a picture, and I was nearly run into a handful of times at highway speeds. Put your phone away while driving, people.

T​he infotainment unit is intuitive and keeps the center console tidy, although it's quite different from most systems you'll experience, so there's a learning curve. The factory navigation system would mistake my location around Los Angeles, and think I was a few blocks off when routing my way. I also wish Apple CarPlay was available in the 720S Spider.

Y​our daily driver

McLaren's Proactive Chassis Control II system isolates nearly any disruption you'd expect from a pothole, and even along concrete freeways the 720S Spider was gobbling up anything I'd anticipate hating in a supercar. Driving top-down and windows-up, the cabin was quiet and comfortable, and never did I have to raise my voice to speak to my passenger. With the windows and top down, there wasn't a hint of turbulence around my head.

M​any supercars are a bit wonky when driving around at slow speeds, and particularly when pulling away from a stoplight. In the McLaren, it's smooth off the line, especially when the auto-stop fires the engine back up. When buzzing around town, the power delivery is buttery, the car doesn't mind cruising at responsible speeds, and it can open the taps in an instant with a predictable surge.

After spending long days in the sporty seats, I felt as comfortable as if I had been in a recliner all day. The touch points are superb, easily within reach, and the materials are all machined and crafted to an excellent appearance. The front trunk will handle a few bags from the shops, and there are two usable cupholders for reasonably-sized drinks.

McLaren's d​ihedral doors are a cool feature. Getting them up and down was easy paired with the soft close option, while offering the simplest access my cranky back could ask for. Fuel economy is expected to suck in a supercar, but the 720S Spider achieved an average of just over 17mpg in my test, and that included plenty of traffic-filled miles in Los Angeles.

If you're downtown, and the roads are filled with potholes, simply put the car in lift mode, as McLaren's setup doesn't make the car too bouncy, and lets you mosey about with the axle lift engaged up to 35mph.

B​ut you bought this to have fun

S​ure, you have to run errands and commute to work, but you have a 720S Spider to assault canyon roads and race tracks. In these environments, the McLaren is astounding. Lurking behind you under red lighting is a 710-horsepower twin-turbo V8, ready to pounce. Hooked up to a slick-shifting seven-speed DCT and a witchcraft-filled differential, the most ham-fisted driver will look like a hero when they smash the accelerator.

P​acked with all the tech and parts tasked with making the car and driver as fast as possible, the McLaren is almost too easy to handle at its limit. A driver at any skill level will enjoy how effortlessly they can take corners with more pace than they can in other performance cars.

In the comfort setting for the powertrain and handling setups, the 720S Spider is sharp through corners and has no power lag at all. As soon as you hit the "active" button, and toggle the knobs to sport or track settings, it comes to life, tightens up, and gives you a supercar that will outperform cars in a higher tax bracket. I also love the sound of the McLaren's optional sport exhaust when I blast forward.

S​imple and clean inputs get the most out of the 720S Spider, as the car's software and parts work in harmony to maximize grip as you stab the gas from bend to bed. Around hard corners with tons of speed being carried, the McLaren stays planted, and I love how easily I can work a flick of opposite lock and cleanly slide as I exit a corner, even though I actually suck at drifting. McLaren's hydraulically interlinked suspension system is working hard behind the scenes, but I won't gripe that some clever work by McLaren's engineers makes it easier for me to carve canyons.

Forged lightweight wheels on my test car look fantastic in their gunmetal finish, and drop a good bit of unsprung weight while the open spokes show off massive brake rotors. McLaren lets you choose between Pirelli P Zero, Corsa, and Trofeo R rubber, depending on your grip needs, and the P Zero tires my tester had were great. Brake inputs take an adjustment, if you've not driven a modern McLaren before, as there's a hint of pedal travel before the calipers bite down on the massive carbon ceramic brake discs, but I appreciate how smooth and consistent the brake pedal feel was during any input.

N​ot that I did with this tester, but I have had the chance to take other 720S models around Circuit of The Americas, and with ease I could turn laps within a second of the mighty McLaren P1 – which used to hold the production car lap record at COTA –and only a couple ticks slower than the McLaren Senna. Keep in mind, the 720S Spider costs less than half the money you'd drop on a Senna, and offers way more practicality.

A​s a complete package

The McLaren 720S Spider is the most complete all-around modern supercar I have ever driven, and I'm lucky enough to have drive quite a few. It combines all the performance I crave from a fast car while being compliant enough to use as a daily driver or road tripper.

At the high end of $300,000, the McLaren 720S Spider isn't cheap, but there's fabulous value for your money in this well-rounded package. If you're looking at the Ferrari 488 or Lamborghini Huracan, do yourself a favor and take the McLaren for a test drive. I have a hunch you'll place an order from the good people in Woking. With McLaren announcing the new 765LT, there's another fast variant on its way, but it'll cost a lot more than the 720S. If you're going for the hardcore track day car, the LT will be fantastic, but you won't be disappointed with the 720S Spider.

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