McLaren’s wildest convertible turns out to be, well, a little tamer than most – we tried the new McLaren 720S Spider in the US state of Arizona
How scared should you feel when driving a supercar? Most purists would suggest at least a few beads of perspiration to be snaking their way down your back should the steering wheel you’re grasping be attached to such four-wheeled fanciness. In any case, it surely shouldn’t be too easy.
Now, on the road, nobody wants to see accidents – note: never trust any motorsport fans who claim similar for the track – but you do want to feel as if you need to be a tiny bit careful. So in its aim to make the most complete convertible supercar on the market and pleasing the widest span of potential buyers ever, has McLaren made a snarling dog or a purring pussycat?
Let’s first consider that the 720S – yep, that name is also the horsepower figure – is 102hp up on McLaren’s first true icon and daddy of the hypercar, the F1. A car that, lest we forget, was famously binned by celeb owners such as Rowan Atkinson and Elon Musk. A sense of danger should definitely pervade. Except, well, it doesn’t…
The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 bleeds refinement where many might prefer rollicking revs; the rolling thunder that used to announce the arrival of a supercar is, here, more of a passing storm on the horizon.
You will, naturally, be hitting that horizon in the blink of an eye in the 720S Spider, the development of which began in 2013, at the same time as the coupe. Along with the 600LT Spider, previewed at the same international launch, these are the sixth and seventh Spider variants. The pair will comprise about 50 per cent of McLaren’s total production in 2019.
Despite the 720S Spider being a whole 48kg heavier than its coupe sibling, Mac’s engineering whizzes have performed wizardry to maintain its dashing performance – that means it can match the original’s 0-to-100km/h split (2.9 seconds) and top speed (341km/h). The only place where it loses a barely perceptible fraction is in its 0-to-200km/h time – 7.9 seconds representing a tenth of a second more than the coupe.
Much of that is down to clever aero work. Its carbon-fibre framework is McLaren’s Monocage II-S, a development of Monocage II, which underpinned the coupe. Monocage I, fact fans, debuted in the P1.
That carbon is visible everywhere you look, perhaps most notably in the exposed rollover-protection system. Glazed flying buttresses, which also help rear visibility, add downforce with almost zero drag. The active rear spoiler keeps it all on the tarmac.
Despite the weight gain, McLaren claims it to be the lightest roadster in class versus the likes of Ferrari’s 488 Pista Spider and Lambo’s Huracan Performante Spyder and Aventador S Roadster.
Dashing through the desert landscapes of Arizona, the 720S Spider certainly wows in visual terms, too, in a US state where the best-selling vehicle is rather more utilitarian: the Ford F-150. Its bug-ish rear quarters remain an almost-extraterrestrial sight, two years on from the coupe’s first bow.
The added dimension given by the lidless element is driven by impressive technology that allows the roof to retract in a mere 11 seconds. When up, however, that roof is even more remarkable: the electrochromic glazing is able to block out almost all UV light. Maximum tint is automatically engaged when the car is locked for security (less important in the Gulf) and keeping out the heat (rather more vital).
A moveable rear screen is meant to better connect the occupants of the cockpit with the noises emanating from the eight cylinders behind you, and you will want it down, too, to eke the most aural pleasure from the 720S Spider. Should you prefer to drown out the slightly disappointing engine note, however, the stereo is configured to adapt to different airflows; the air con also automatically senses whether the top is up or down.
New dihedral doors open at an increased angle to improve access for driver and passenger – although the gloriously impractical exit and entry of all true supercars remains high on the limbo factor.
McLaren has tried to make the 720S Spider almost practical, then, claiming the broadest span between track and road of all its drop-tops. The result is a driving experience that’s as accurate as a drone strike, but similarly lacking in a little of the humanity. Take the 720S Spider for the (relative) comfort and refined top-down cruising, but before you buy, perhaps peep our verdict on the 600LT Spider.
McLaren 720S Spider
4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 | seven-speed sequential shift transmission, rear-wheel drive | 720hp and 770Nm of torque / zero to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds | AED1,148,186