This is what it’s really like to drive a McLaren (or two) for the first time
In my brief career as a car journalist, I’ve been lucky enough to drive a whole host of cars. To date, I’ve driven a triple-digit amount with one notable and very fast exception escaping my grasp, the fastest and greatest car of them all, the supercar.
So that I could fill this fast and very sizable gap in my life, the very nice people at McLaren automotive invited me to drive their 720S and the 570S Spider models. The feeling you get from such an invite is that of anticipation as “It’s going one of the greatest days of my life” mixed with the fear of “can I drive a supercar properly without killing myself”.
Starting off gently with the ballistic 570S Spider
First up was the McLaren 570S Spider, the very first supercar I have ever driven. The first very obvious thing that strikes you when swapping a normal car for a supercar is the massive difference in pace, think of it like swapping a firework for a ballistic missile, and you get the picture.
Before driving the 570S, I will admit some pre-show nerves about the sheer amount of speed and power about to be under my control. The newest entry to the McLaren Super-Series boasts a whopping 562bhp (570PS) from its 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo motor. All of this power gives you a very quick 0-62mph time of just 3.1 seconds. The ballistic missile factor comes into full effect with the 0-124mph time, which comes around in a positively rampaging 9.6 seconds. Top speed is an eye-watering 204mph completing the proper supercar credentials.
Driving very fast made very easy
Once I’d reached open roads, the 570S became a properly quick and very capable thing. The seven-speed seamless shift gearbox (SSG) lives up to its name in every sense of the word, as never before have I experienced gearshifts at such a frantic pace, it’s so blazingly fast on the up and downshifts that my brain struggled to accept the changes were happening at an almost unfathomably speed.
On the road, the 570S devours corners like nothing else I’ve ever driven (until later that day). The V8 motor pops and whooshes as the horizon in front of you becomes a blur. During my ‘spirited’ road test, the 570S never once felt like it was about to bite back as I scythed through the roads of the Cotswolds with ease.
Some will say that all this power is unusable on the road and that you’d need the reflexes of an F1 driver to tame it, but they are wrong. The 570S is a very easy car to drive regardless of speed, so easy in fact that even a small child could operate it (we do not recommend this). Around town for example, the automatic gearbox is smooth with light steering making it easy to manoeuvre in traffic; it’s so easy to drive and comfortable that you could drive it every day.
Jumping to lightspeed – The McLaren 720S
When I thought that my day couldn’t get any faster, McLaren gave me the keys to their latest and greatest super-series model, the 720S.
Earlier I explained how it felt to climb out of a normal car and into a supercar for the first time. Now I was swapping the ultra-rapid 570S for the even more ultra-rapid 720S. Think of it as swapping from a ballistic missile to a lightspeed capable starship.
The 720S is the coolest car to drop in all of 2017. I think it looks just awesome, as it’s every inch a completely insane supercar with those scissor doors and aero-infused bodywork. You may disagree on both points, which is fine - just to let you know that you’re wrong.
All of the power
McLarens latest super-series offering comes equipped with a slightly larger 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 powerplant. As its name suggests, the 720S has more power, it boasts 710bhp (720PS) to be precise which is a lot for anything with numberplates. All of this massive amount of horsepower hits the road via the same lightning-quick seven-speed SSG gearbox; again this was leaving my brain to struggle with the sheer speed of the changes taking place at full throttle.
So, the numbers are all very powerful and purposeful and mean that the 720S gathers pace like nothing else I've ever been fortunate enough to drive – the 0-62mph time of 2.8 seconds and the 0-124mph time of 7.8 seconds tell you it’s quick on paper.
In the real non-paper world though, it has such pace, power and precision that I never thought could be possible. Speaking of pace, the 720S can crack 212mph if you can find enough road which puts it right up there with its direct supercar rivals.
When playing the acceleration game, the noise the V8 motor emits is a turbocharged burbling symphony that sounds simply brutal. The harder you push, the more you hear the turbochargers devouring exhaust gases with all kinds of pops, crackles and wastegate noises, all of which makes for an amazing soundtrack.
One of the most accessible cars I have ever driven - end of
Now, I will admit to not being the world’s greatest driver by a long-shot. But the 720S is by far the fastest car I have ever driven while being one of the easiest and most accessible to drive. This ease of access to all that power with no hint that it’s going to kill you is an amazing combination. It gathers speed at a completely frenzied pace, think Millennium Falcon jumping to lightspeed kind of pace, and you get what I mean.
Taking a corner in a normal car can be a bit of a chore. In a 720S it’s a simple test of how well attached your internal organs are. It's capable of attacking corners like nothing else I have driven, show it a corner at speed and hold on, it's as simple as that. What McLaren has done is build a car that doesn’t just devour corners, it reshapes them as it sees fit thanks to all that aero bodywork and electronic trickery.
As with its smaller sibling, the 720S rides very well on the torn up British B-roads and is a comfortable place to be. There should be no doubt that you can (quickly) cross the continent of your choice in this thing with ease.
Verdict: Ballistic missile vs the Millennium Falcon
Driving a pair of McLaren’s latest and greatest in one day was a massive thing for me – Yes; it has to be up there amongst one of the great experiences. Make no mistake though; McLaren road cars have made massive progress in only a few short years in redefining the benchmark for how quick, and how capable a supercar should be.
Both the 570S Spider and 720S are weapon-like in their precision and the way they deliver hyper speed and handling alike. Their greatest strengths lie in their ease of use, alongside the massive performance that can be accessed by a majority of drivers. Both offer near perfect handling alongside masses of driver involvement which combine to make them truly great drivers cars.
Which one from the 720S or the 570S Spider would you pick as a first drive? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
A ballistic missile of a car, the 570S Spider is utterly capable and an all-round super-quick package with performance that is easily accessible by mere mortals.
The benchmark supercar - one of the quickest cars ever to grace the planet. The 720S redefines the word 'speed' by being a tamable beast that's is every inch a proper supercar.