First Drive: McLaren GT – practicality as well as performance

First Drive: McLaren GT – practicality as well as performance

What is it? 

When you think of McLaren, what comes to mind? Most likely it’ll be a razor-edged supercar, be-winged and bellowing, all low-flying splitters and carbon-backed bucket seats. For the most part that’s true, but to tap into the lucrative grand tourer segment, the Woking-based firm has introduced this – the GT. 

It’s designed to be a car that offers all the thrills of a McLaren but with the comfortable, continent-crossing abilities that you’d want from a GT. Has it nailed both aspects and can it make headway against established rivals in the class? We headed to the south of France to find out. 

What’s new?

Traditionally, McLaren cars sit in three main categories – Sports, Super and Ultimate. The GT sits in none of those, instead residing in a new category out to one side which, handily, is called ‘GT’. Despite being out on a limb, the GT uses the same basic components as the other cars in the range. However, some subtle changes have been made to make the GT more comfortable. The ride height can be increased to match that of a Mercedes C Class in order to get over bigger speedbumps, while the glass has been thickened to improve in-cabin refinement, too.

What’s under the bonnet?

Mounted in the middle of the GT is McLaren’s tried-and-tested 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which here produces 612bhp and 630Nm of torque. It’s driven to the wheels through a seven-speed gearbox, which incorporates a launch control function for seamless standing starts. The GT’s performance stats make for impressive reading; 0 to 60mph takes 3.1 seconds, and flat out it’ll crack 203mph. The GT certainly ticks the right boxes when it comes to performance, then.

Economy-wise, McLaren says the GT will return 23.7mpg combined, while emissions sit at 270g/km under the latest WLTP tests. And when it comes to range – a key factor in grand tourers – McLaren says the GT will manage 414 miles between trips to the pump, but this is under the older, less stringent NEDC tests.

What’s it like to drive?

Thumb the large red starter button in the centre of the cockpit and the 4.0-litre V8 rumbles into life behind you and, initially at least, things are impressively simple. Around town, the automatic gearbox shifts smoothly, and the engine is barely audible as it ticks over. 

Gather some pace – which is easy to do in the GT – and the car is just as easy to drive. The steering has a decent amount of weight to it, and taking manual control of the gearbox results in crisp, seamless shifts. The traction control systems aren’t too intrusive either, although in fully-on modes they can be a little over-eager to disengage the power. We’d just like it to sound a little more exciting; the exhaust note feels a bit flat at times. 

The car’s only real drawback is that when travelling at speed the GT just isn’t as cossetting as rival grand tourers. The ride is good, but it doesn’t feel vastly improved over a regular McLaren such as the 720S, for instance. 

How does it look?

Long, imposing and impossibly sleek, the McLaren GT is a car that turns heads wherever it goes. Rocking in at nearly 4.7m, it’s almost 300mm longer than a Ford Focus, for instance, and longer than any Sports or Super Series McLaren. The tapered rear end evokes the look of the upcoming Speedtail hypercar, too.

Around the back of the car things are equally  sharp. The look is far less in-your-face than other cars in the McLaren range, that’s for sure, but it mirrors the under-the-radar, subtle approach usually taken with long-distance grand tourers. 

What’s it like inside?

Open up the scissor doors, slide into the cabin and you’re met with a driver-focused seating position. In truth, we’d like the seat to go a little lower – but everything is logically placed around you, and there’s tons of adjustment in the steering wheel. The whole forward area is kept impressively clutter-free too, with all of the main controls accessed via the central touchscreen that dominates the middle of the cabin.

McLaren has made a big deal of storage space with the GT – it is a grand tourer, after all. At the rear there’s 420 litres of space, with a further 150 litres located in the nose. 

What’s the spec like?

The main infotainment offering comes courtesy of an all-new touchscreen set-up, which is a huge leap for McLaren. 

Clear, crisp and responsive, it’s a genuinely impressive unit to interact with and makes accessing key features such as navigation or heating and ventilation controls far easier than on previous McLaren models. 

Our car came in Luxe specification – a step up over the regular car – and this adds electronically controlled seats with heating, as well as a function that automatically moves the seats to their rearmost position when parked, making exiting the vehicle easier. The trim also includes a piano-black finish for the infotainment screen surround, along with chrome highlights which combine with interior lighting to give the cabin a spaceship-like feeling. 

What do the press think?

Top Gear said: ‘It drives like a McLaren sports car should, but a GT should probably be more practical.’ Autocar said: ‘Woking’s most user-friendly car to date is still a McLaren first and foremost, and a GT more in name than behaviour.’

What do we think?

The GT feels a little muddled. It’s not as sharp as other McLarens in the range and only feels slightly more comfortable out and about than cars such as the road-orientated 570S – while in out-and-out cross-country sumptuousness it’s trumped by rivals. That’s not to say the GT is a bad car as a whole – far from it – it just feels like McLaren introduced it because it felt it needed to.

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