October 24, 2020
2020 McLaren GT review: What's in a name?

2020 McLaren GT review: What’s in a name?


As far as I’m concerned, this is McLaren’s prettiest car.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow

McLaren has said on more than one occasion that it absolutely, positively will not build an SUV. So how is the brand catering to customers who desire a softer, gentler McLaren? Meet the new GT.

Like

  • Sharp styling that turns heads
  • Powerful, emotive V8 engine
  • Stellar driving dynamics
  • Beautifully crafted interior with high-quality materials

Don’t Like

  • Laggy infotainment lacks smartphone connectivity
  • Missing some key luxury and driver-assistance features

That’s “GT” as in “grand tourer,” a McLaren for folks who want to cover great distances in great comfort, presumably at great speeds. On those criteria, the GT is as perfectly suited for long-haul duty as any of McLaren’s other products — it is most definitely a supercar at its core.

I mean that literally. The GT uses the same layout and construction as McLaren’s other cars: carbon-fiber tub chassis, two seats and a big V8 mounted midship. The tub in question is the company’s MonoCell II-T design — that’s “T” for “Touring,” meaning it includes an upper structure placed above the engine, which forms the underside of the luggage compartment. In order to accommodate this larger cargo area, the V8 sits nearly 5 inches lower in the GT’s body than it does in a McLaren 720S. The airflow and exhaust hardware has been redesigned so the two big outlets are positioned as low as possible, below the bumper, rather than just under the taillights, as they are on the 720S. All of this is done to keep the powertrain’s heat as far away from the cargo hold as possible. You don’t want that pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked to melt on the way home, do you?

The GT uses McLaren’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, good for 612 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. That puts the GT between the 570S and 720S in terms of output, and the rest of the performance specs follow suit. The GT will accelerate to 60 mph in just over 3 seconds and will hit 124 mph only 6 seconds later. All told, assuming you’ve got the space to stretch its legs, the GT will hit 203 mph.

Big power is what grand tourers — and supercars — are all about. But while GTs usually give up some sharpness in favor of passenger comfort and overall refinement, the McLaren makes no such compromises. On a winding road, the GT is as engaging to drive as any McLaren I’ve ever sampled. The hydraulically assisted power steering is a direct line of communication to the 225/35-series front tires, perfectly weighted and beautifully responsive. The engine is ferocious, the dual-clutch gearbox is a dream. The harder I push the GT, the more willing it is to play.

These 15-spoke, 20-inch wheels are a $3,000 option.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Yet it all feels… easy. The GT’s mannerisms are super easy to learn, and it doesn’t take long to form a rapport with the controls. You never want for power, but it never sneaks up on you or kicks you in the ass if you tap the throttle too eagerly. Even if you get it wrong mid-corner, the GT doesn’t punish your actions. Short of disabling every electronic safety net, it’s very hard to ruffle the GT’s feathers.

This car is at its best on full attack, but these attributes are also what make the GT a nice road car. The suspension is amicable enough to handle nasty stretches of freeway, there’s great visibility out the front and side windows and you’ve got 4.3 inches of ground clearance, meaning your buttcheeks won’t clench shut with every approaching speed bump. Hell, hit the standard nose lift and the front end raises to provide a midsize-sedan-like 5.1 inches of curb allowance. There’s no excuse for scraping this thing on your driveway.

The GT’s 20-inch wheels look positively enormous, but they don’t ruin the ride. And the only reason they seem so comically large is because the rest of the GT is so low and svelte. This is a far more sophisticated design than the 570S or 720S, which kind of look like they were designed by aliens. But it’s not so subdued as to be anonymous. I promise, the GT will turn just as many heads as any other McLaren, even if several of my coworkers say it just looks like a C8 Corvette.

Some supercars earn recognition for outrageous design while others are applauded for their beauty. The GT is firmly in the latter category. I love the gradual slope that starts at the top of the roof and ever so gracefully carries itself back to the uptick at the rear. The slim LED headlights are really quite cool, but only until you check out the single-line taillights around back. On your way, be sure to notice the huge side intakes that feed cool air into the engine, as well as the aerodynamic sculpting that forms the GT’s wide hips.

The GT’s interior is similarly impressive, though not such a drastic departure. Everything is covered in ultra-soft Nappa leather, even the sill panel that you slide your thighs over as you practice your graceful entry and exit procedure through the GT’s butterfly doors. The ink blue leather of this test car is fantastic, and nicely complemented by the porcelain hide on the center console and door cards. Everything that looks like metal is metal, and hell, you can even go wild and get cashmere upholstery. Now that’s luxury.

All of the GT’s knobs and buttons will feel familiar to anyone who’s been in other McLarens. There are big buttons for reverse, neutral and drive, with toggles for the normal, sport and track settings of the powertrain and chassis. Two important buttons to note: Launch control is activated just to the right of drive, and below it you’ll find the on/off switch for the stop/start system, which you’ll want to turn off, because it’s not good.

At one point, McLaren said the GT would have a new infotainment system that operates “in a similar way to a smartphone,” according to one representative. But this is basically a reskinned version of the company’s old Iris interface, just with a faster processor that still isn’t as good as what you get in a Kia Soul. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are nowhere to be found, so I kind of have a hard time buying the “similar way to a smartphone” descriptor when smartphone-mirroring tech isn’t even included. Yes, the infotainment tech is better, but it certainly isn’t great, and the portrait-oriented touchscreen still washes out when the sun shines in through the electrochromic roof.

I love the combination of ink blue and porcelain Nappa leather.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Happily, the GT is quite practical. Unlike the older 570GT, which had side-mounted hinges for the glass hatch forcing you to lean over the car to access the cargo compartment, the new GT is far more accessible. The whole back end lifts up, and electronically, too. This car has the porcelain-colored “superfabric” in its trunk, which is nicely textured and quite durable. McLaren says you can fit two sets of skis back here, or the yes-we’re-still-measuring-trunks-this-way set of golf clubs. I don’t own either, but I can tell you the GT has plenty of room for my backpack and suitcase, and don’t forget, the mid-engine design means there’s a second compartment in the frunk.

I suppose that’s the one area where the GT actually excels as a grand tourer: It’s far more accommodating for your belongings. But as a big, comfortable car you’d want to drive for long distances, there’s a little too much supercar in this package to call it a true GT, especially when, at $210,000, it’s priced up against grandiose distance runners like the Aston Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental GT.

Of course, $210,000 is merely what gets you in the door. The minute you start adding extras, it all goes to opulent hell rather quickly. A glance at my car’s spec sheet reveals $6,000 for the electrochromic roof, $4,500 for the blue paint, $3,500 for the sport exhaust (which sounds properly throaty), $3,000 for the wheels, $9,500 for the “Luxe” interior color and trim and a number of other add-ons. Include $2,500 for delivery and the lovely GT pictured here rings in at $253,430.

The McLaren GT is a superb sports car, but a grand tourer it is not.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Now, consider all the things you can’t get on the GT. You won’t find cooled or massaging seats here, and don’t even bother asking for driver-assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring or anything else. Are these deal-breakers for a supercar? Not really. But are they the kinds of things you’d want on a grand tourer? Absolutely.

This may be the GT of McLarens, but it’s a grand tourer in name only. The 570S and 720S are perfectly willing to settle down and play nice when you’re just on your way to work, and no one part of the GT is far and away more luxurious than its counterparts. It’s just easier to load up, and easier to park.

Instead, the GT is a great way to wedge another model in between McLaren’s other sports cars. It has a look all its own and is every bit as exciting to drive. Is it a true GT? Not really. But it might be my favorite of McLaren’s current offerings. And it’s way more interesting than an SUV.

Originally published April 2.



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