In the realm of busy, well-financed individuals, flights are the most efficient way to get around Western Europe or the USA. But there’s still the unbeatable charm of a road trip, a mix of highway miles and mountain twisties, stopping only at the finest of city centres. The allure of a grand tour.
A grand tour often demands a grand tourer and the choices available continue to grow. A nice two-door GT is meant to be the best mix of performance, usability and comfort. In order to tick all those boxes, McLaren have made their entry with the new GT.
It’s not a GT version of another model like the 570GT even though it was that very model’s success that urged them to build an all-new GT product family and this is the first one. The McLaren GT may also be the world’s first mid-engined grand tourer, in contrast to its target rivals like the Aston Martin DB11, Porsche 911 Turbo S and the Ferrari Portofino.
McLaren have taken the same carbon-fibre monocoque and modded it to incorporate a rear upper structure that allows the creation of sizeable luggage space. It’s called the MonoCell II-T, where the T stands for Touring. The chassis for the GT is new as well which makes it bigger than the SuperSeries models, measuring 4683mm long and 2095mm wide. Most importantly, it’s light with a kerb weight of just 1530kg.
Powering it is the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 M840TE engine as the 720S but tuned for regular driving, not track performance. It evens gets low-inertia turbos for a smoother torque delivery. Don’t think that makes the McLaren GT a slouch in any sense. It still churns out 612bhp at 7500rpm with a peak torque of 630Nm, 95% of which is available from 3000rpm to 7250rpm. Mated to the 7-speed SSG transmission, the GT can launch itself to a 100kph from standstill in just 3.2 seconds while 200kph takes 9 seconds flat and the top-speed is a brisk 326kph. So, it’s light and it’s fast and a true McLaren product. But what makes it a GT? How’s it different from the 720S which is already regarded as the world’s best daily-driveable supercar?
As we said, this is a new dedicated product, not an adaptation. From the design to the mechanicals, everything is to make it a super(b) grand tourer. The styling from the outside is notable less angry, more fluid like the Speedtail. Its vents are subtle and tucked away neatly for aerodynamic efficiency in straight line driving. It’s beefy rear fenders house the air intakes for the high-temp radiators that cool the engine. There’s no standout wing-game but there is an integrated fixed rear wing and a large diffuser to hint at its performance abilities. Its large proportions demand larger wheels and as such the McLaren GT uses 20-inch alloys up front and 21-inch alloys at the rear, both wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber.
The double-wishbone suspension is made of aluminium with hydraulic dampers and Proactive Damping Control that pre-empts the terrain ahead (2 milliseconds before the wheels make contact with it) and makes the optimum adjustments for a smoother ride. It’s quieter inside the cabin thanks to less stiff engine mounts and reduced sounds from the carbon fibre structure. The front end ground clearance is 110mm which goes up to 130mm if you use the optional front end lift kit, making it easy to drive around most city roads. With cast iron disc brakes as standard, the McLaren GT’s braking systems have been reconfigured to be less aggressive at city speeds thereby reducing the jerkiness experienced by the passengers.
But the most GT thing about this McLaren grand tourer is that it has an astonishing 570 litres of luggage space – boot and frunk combined. The rear storage has 420-litres of space under the front-hinged, full-length glazed tailgate. It’s deeper than it looks and McLaren says it can easily fit a golf bag or two skis along with luggage and TopGear UK’s Jack Rix proved the former claim. The remaining 150 litres is available under the front hood (mid-engined remember) for a couple of extra bags too. How did they make space for the boot and extended rear support structure on top of the twin-turbo V8? They lowered the height of the engine and the positioning of the exhaust system.
Then you get to the cabin of the McLaren GT which is once again finished with fine materials for a luxurious feel and comfort, instead of various bits of exposed carbon fibre. It still has the Active Dynamic Controls to cycle between Comfort, Sport and Track modes for the electro-hydraulic steering and suspension settings. There’s a new and improved central infotainment system, a new sat-nav by HERE®, tactile aluminium controls and an optional 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system. McLaren will also offer an optional Cashmere trim which is the first time this material has been used in a production vehicle. The luggage bay will also get the option of SuperFabric® trim for increased resistance to stains, cuts and abrasions while also being easy to clean. It already gets something from the Speedtail – the electrochromic glazed panel that can darken or lighten at the touch of a button. It’s an optional extra if you don’t want the normal carbon-fibre composite gloss black roof.
When you put it all together, you can see why the McLaren GT really is a new car and the beginning of a new model family. The Woking-based company has taken their best tools and put it to a new use without having to upset a winning formula. In some ways, the GT can even be called a baby-Speedtail and at a bargain of a price. It may seem a bit delusional to say that a GBP 163,000 starting price is a bargain until you remember that the Speedtail costs millions. Want one? Customer deliveries are expected to start by the end of 2019. You can either register for one now or just play around with the configurator here.
Nobody’s driven the McLaren GT yet, but given the brand’s recent record of smash successes, the expectations are high. Personally, I like the GT and I like the idea of an alternative to the usual front-engined choices, but I’d like to have mine in Paris Blue, please. Another bonus for me is that the new frame design means there won’t be a convertible version like there is for the rivals and I’m quite pleased with that. What do you think of the new McLaren GT? Would you pick this over the DB11? Share your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the Auto Loons for the latest update on our newest content.