The McLaren720S: The smooth operator

Soon to zoom down Indian roads, the super car is devastatingly smooth

Updated: Sep 08, 2018 20:44:33

By Hormazd Sorabjee

The 720S’s trademark butterfly doors that swing open skywards, give the car an element of drama

McLaren. Formula 1 fans know the name well despite the team’s dismal performance in the past few years. The fact remains that it’s the second most successful team after Ferrari, if you tot up the total number of Grand Prix wins. Also a fact, but less well-known, is that it produces some amazingly fast sports cars. And of late it’s on the road and not the track that McLaren is giving its long-standing Italian rival a good run for its money.

With decades of racing expertise under its belt, making a sports car is the easy part for McLaren. Where the British specialist sports car maker has typically struggled is to deliver stupendous performance with an equal amount of emotion and drama. That’s the edge Ferrari has always had but now McLaren is winning hearts on the sheer strength of performance, design and technology that is best embodied in the 720S.

Refreshingly different

Cars like the 720S have given McLaren new found confidence to enter virgin markets like India and rumour has it that a distributor in Delhi has already been identified in time for a market launch by the end of the year.

Coincidentally, Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute, a car enthusiast and a good friend, loaned me his 720S for a quick spin. Adar’s 720S, which he imported directly from the UK is possibly the first McLaren to be registered in India. A long time Ferrari owner, Adar wanted something that he saw as refreshingly different. Just the kind of response Ferrari must dread.

This car is winning hearts on the sheer strength of performance, design and technology that is best embodied in the 720S

For a car developing 720hp (hence the name 720S) you would expect the car to have huge spoilers and other aerodynamic aids to keep it planted to the ground. But to keep the shape clean and uncluttered, McLaren’s designers have tucked these bits away and the overall design might seem a bit too generic to some. That is until you swing open the 720S’s trademark butterfly doors skywards. It gives an element of drama none of its rivals can match. Not those in the same price range at least.

Inside the cabin though, it’s a more business-like environment and you can tell you’re in a car designed by a company that has its roots in racing. What’s interesting that McLaren doesn’t have a single button on the steering wheel, which is quite the opposite of Ferrari. The message here is that a steering is meant for steering and nothing else.

Seriously fast

It’s time now to unleash those horses. Not the ones sauntering in the Poonawalla stud farm, but the 720 nestling under the meshed engine cover. I brace myself to give corrective steering inputs to counter the rear tyres scrabbling for grip. But, astonishingly, the 720S simply rockets forward without any fuss. It’s clear within the first hundred metres that its mammoth performance is so approachable and this user-friendliness is what sets it apart from its rivals. There’s no drama, no histrionics, just one massive head-snapping surge of acceleration that is more thrilling than frightening. This is one seriously fast car which, on power output alone, outguns the competition. It blasts from 0-100kph in just 2.6 seconds and has a top speed of 341kph, a speed most owners will never get close to, but to many those statistics are worth their weight in bragging rights.

This car doesn’t have a single button on the steering wheel, which is quite the opposite of Ferrari

The lasting impression from this short drive is the matter-of-fact way in which the 720S serves up its performance. It won’t break into a sweat (and neither will be the driver) when asked to outrun a Ferrari 488. It has a pliant ride, doesn’t feel as edgy, and hence is easier to handle too.

In fact, so flawless is the 720S to drive that the driving experience feels a bit too clinical. Worthy rival to a 488 or Huracan then? For sure. It won’t engage you as emotionally but will hook you with its engineering brilliance. Bring it on McLaren!

(Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India)

Sunday Drive appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, September 9, 2018

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First Published: Sep 08, 2018 19:41:18


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