The McLaren GT Is Only a GT When Compared to Other McLarens
Many things in life are relative. Obviously, space and time, Einstein proved that decades ago, also the talent of your local NFL team (if the Detroit Lions were playing an elementary school, they’d be great—unfortunately they play in the NFL). It’s the same with vehicle prices. To some, a Cadillac is expensive. To others, its not, but a Ferrari is. And it’s true for vehicle types, too. McLaren sees the GT as a grand tourer. But compared to vehicles we’d classify that way, like the Bentley Continental and Mercedes-Benz SL, the McLaren GT is nothing short of a supercar.
For starters, look at it. The top of the roof is only 48 inches from the ground. It’ll slip under a limbo stick without coming off its raised ride-height setting for getting into driveways. The rear looks like a spaceship. None of the styling implies grand touring, really. Okay, maybe the front end, a little, as it looks less aggressive—less like a cheese shredder—than the Senna and 720S.
The thing is, I never thought the 720S was too stiff. I never winced over pavement heaves or bumps when driving it around Detroit. But for those that would find it too stiff, here we are: a GT for the supercar class.
This McLaren GT launched late last year with the company’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, here making 612 hp and 456 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sends power to the rear wheels at a quick enough rate to get to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, 124 mph in 9 seconds and to a top speed of 203 mph.
The GT is longer than the 570, 620 and 720 McLarens, with longer front and rear overhangs. It has a 10-degree front approach angle, which goes up to 13 degrees with the lift engaged, and a ground clearance of 4.3 inches, 5.1 with the vehicle lift. That’s only a tenth or two of an inch more than the 720S.
Aluminum double wishbones sit at all four corners with McLaren’s Proactive Damping Control and Proactive Chassis Control. Like previous models, the GT has two knobs in the center, one for handling and one for powertrain. The powertrain makes the fuel map more aggressive and the handing dial speeds up steering and stiffen’s the suspension.
I’ve been lucky enough to drive several McLarens. I think the 720S is one of, if not thee, best car on the planet. But if I’m shopping for a McLaren in the $200K range, I’d pick this over the 570s and maybe the 600LT as well. As those other McLarens look a little too wild. This is a smoother, cooler take on those beasts.
Get in and you do get more of a grand touring feel. There’s leather everywhere, instead of naked carbon fiber and brushed aluminum. The seats are a little wider and softer, too. Personally, I found them less supportive than, say that 720S. But I can see preferring them to the sometimes-claustrophobic carbon-shelled racing seats.
The central screen gets easier to use every time you mess with it. It has shortcut buttons for climate, radio, nav and the like. Below that is the main control panel for the powertrain and transmission. One thing the McLaren GT doesn’t have is the transforming gauge cluster that folds down when in track mode. That was a cool party trick of the 720S and I missed it here.
The biggest get is that the trunk can now hold a set of golf clubs. Instead of seeing the engine through the rear window, all you can see is the fabric board cover, with a big divot in the middle to place the clubs. My set is small and fit easily, but some of you with bigger golf bags might need to squish them a little.
Sorry, scratch that last one, the biggest, biggest get is the sunroof that has five levels of shade, adjusted through buttons on the ceiling. It goes from completely clear, though with UV protection, to a deep, deep tint that allows you to stare directly into the sun (not recommended). That feature is not just a party trick, but very useful in late, hot Detroit summers.
On the road, the McLaren GT feels one notch softer than the 720S. The chassis is still super tight. I paid close attention to any road imperfections so as not to bang up the wheels. But like the 720S, it’s not tooth-rattling harsh. Same with the steering, it’s probably one notch easier and lazier than the 720S (we’re going from 100 to 99 here) but there’s still a ton of delicious feel from the leather-wrapped wheel with the hydraulic power steering setup. The first bump that made its way to my palms was like a revelation. Road feel, glorious road feel!
Again, it’s all relative. This McLaren is a GT, but a swallow-your-tongue fast GT. Quick starts are met with a feeding of power until you’re ready to slap the steering-wheel-mounted paddle for second gear. At that point, you don’t see the traction control light switch on, you just hold on for dear life, snatching paddles all the way.
For instance, I was stopped at a red light on a four-lane surface street with another red light a quarter mile away. I was in the left lane but saw that the right lane was open at the light 1,000 feet up. I thought, “hmm, can I make it over there in front of traffic?” Stupid, I know. I made it to the second red light before that traffic even moved. Not everyone knows this, but most traffic problems can be solved with speed (again, not recommended). Your best bet is to keep the ESC in dynamic mode, which will allow for super hard launches without reining in the power–but will also save you in case of an emergency
For your feet, the pedalbox is small, and the pedals are too close to each other. But, as I’ve said before, it makes less of a difference without a third pedal. Although, a few times I went quickly to the brakes and my foot caught the edge of the gas. Luckily, the brake pedal barely moves, which is how I like it. With such a firm pedal, you can stab them hard without ABS kicking in, and then a split second later reassess how much pressure you really need. They might be a tad softer than McLaren’s other models, but still a shorter stroke than most cars on the road.
Like all McLarens, everyone on the road with the V8 or twin-turbo V6 wants a piece of the action. Hellcat Widebodys fly by. Corvettes slow, speed up, then slow again. People stop you at gas stations to talk. Whether it’s a Senna or a GT, it’s going to happen. Prepare yourself. If, like me, you enjoy talking to strangers, you’ll be the belle of the ball.
The McLaren GT doesn’t feel like a grand touring car, it doesn’t look like a grand touring car and it doesn’t sound like a grand touring car—unless you put it next to a P1 or 720S or Senna. It’s all relative.
McLaren GT Specs
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $213,195
Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, RWD
Output: 612 hp at 7500 rpm, 465 lb-ft from 5500 to 6500 rpm
Wheelbase: 105.3 inches
Length/Width/Height: 184.4/80.5/47.8 inches
Curb Weight: 3,464 lbs
Fuel Economy: 15/22/18 city/hwy/combined
Pros: A grand touring car in name only.
Cons: The seat adjustment buttons. Owners will be sad not to see the engine every day through the back glass.
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