RE: McLaren GT | Driven

RE: McLaren GT | Driven

Tuesday 17th September 2019

McLaren GT | Driven

Woking has voyaged into parts unknown with its latest model. Does it pay off?



Two pairs of skis and a thought begins to form. A full-size golf bag and the thought becomes clearer. It evades you awhile, but as they talk on about ground clearance and powertrain refinement, or explain something about ride comfort and more about visibility, it emerges, fully formed and perfectly rendered, and you want to ask this: don't the very best cars manage without explanation? Aren't their purposes so crystal clear they speak for themselves? And if you're resorting to a two-letter soubriquet so route one it makes hoofing the ball from deep inside your own half towards the opposition's box seem like intricate play, is it at all possible the car you're flogging is just a little bit confused?

Never in the decade it's been marketing cars has McLaren Automotive had to explain one so deliberately as it has the new GT. I can't believe anybody looks at an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera and misreads what it's for. Nor a Bentley Continental GT, nor a Ferrari F8 Tributo and not McLaren's own (and superb) 720S.

This thing about a car expressing itself unambiguously is important, because if you hadn't been briefed at length about what the McLaren GT is for, which we were on the media launch (and if you weren't aware of its hilariously literal moniker), I think you would drive the car and be more struck by the strange lethargy as you flick the steering wheel one direction to the other, and its tendency to smear its front tyres across the road surface than drill them into it, than you would the very good ride quality or road noise suppression. And you'd be entirely unimpressed. You'd think McLaren had built the baggiest mid-engined supercar on sale today.


I suppose my issue with the GT is this: without having been spoon-fed the messages beforehand, there's not a chance you'd identify this car as the sportier sort of grand tourer its maker wants it to be. You wouldn't necessarily work that out for yourself. It's a car that needs to be explained. But hey, if that's the most frustrating thing about the McLaren GT perhaps it's no dud after all.

Despite being built around the same basic building blocks as any other modern McLaren - same carbon tub albeit with modifications, same twin-turbo V8 albeit with unique power and torque outputs, same seven-speed dual-clutch transmission albeit with its own shift strategy - it doesn't sit within McLaren's familiar model hierarchy. The company has dabbled with the idea of a grand tourer before (and it'll do far more than dabble with that concept when it sets the extraordinary-looking Speedtail free) but whereas the 570GT was an adapted Sports Series car with a bespoke glass rear hatch and tweaked suspension, this GT was billed as a grand tourer from start to finish. McLaren talks about usability, storage space, refinement, ride comfort, about tyres that were designed as much to reduce road roar as generate bundles of grip, and then about handling response and performance.

The area that lingers beneath the powered rear tailgate is a good size, but awkwardly-shaped. Between it and the front compartment you have 570 litres, which is more than you'll find in the boot of a Porsche Macan. That's tremendously helpful if you've got lots of water to transport, but if you prefer to use boot space for suitcases you'll not have room for a big one. Cooling air is fed between the load space and the engine compartment to stop your things from getting too toasty, while several layers of very clever foam help to isolate the heat of the engine even further. Chocolate will melt at 37 degrees Celsius. Only if it's exceptionally hot outside and the engine is working hard will the compartment exceed that.


The Monocell II monocoque has been modified with a new rear structure and is labelled Monocell II-T. It contributes to a longer overall length than a Sports Series model - by some 15cm - which is where much of the additional storage space comes from. Suspension is not by the interconnected hydraulic system that gives the 720S its poise, but by conventional springs, dampers and anti-roll bars (the 720S system is more about roll control than ride comfort, apparently). Nonetheless, those springs, dampers and anti-roll bars have been configured for ease of use in normal driving and with what McLaren calls Proactive Damping Control, which is like adaptive damping but predictive rather than reactive. McLaren has allowed itself to spend a little additional weight on sound deadening material, as well as that hefty tailgate and the longer overall length. The GT is 35kg heavier than a 570GT, which doesn't seem like much. Nor does 1,530kg, not when the erroneously-named DBS Superleggera wobbles along at around 1,800kg.

The engine is the 4.0-litre rather than the 3.8. The smaller engine in McLaren's two-strong line-up is beginning to feel out of date, lacking the tractability of similar engines from elsewhere. The bigger one is better in that respect, but still massively outdone by the F8 Tributo's stunningly responsive motor. Power here is rated at 630hp and torque at 465lb ft. The GT's cabin looks to me exactly like the cockpit you'll find in McLaren's entry-level cars, with the same sculptural forms on the doors cards and the dashboard and the same purposeful seating position. Only when you look over your shoulder do you realise you're sitting in something different, because you spot the airiness of that big, long compartment.

The seats are firmly-padded rather than plush and chair-like, which might be the thing that undoes this car's grand touring credentials. Because the way it rides, the calm in the cabin at speed, the steering that filters far more noise out than any other McLaren helm, the long-legged gait...it all feels very GTish to me. You could do distances in this car, as long as the seats agree with you.


But all of that comes at a cost. In turning up the dial marked 'civility', McLaren has had to turn down the one marked 'fun'. Whatever the GT gains over a more conventional McLaren in terms of long-distance usability, it gives up exactly the same amount when the road gets twisty. The chassis balance is far more nose-led than any other Woking machine, the front end pushing noticeably through medium speed bends, while the steering has far less of the intuitive sense of connection that marks McLarens out from the rest. There's this feeling of mass high up in the car, so when you flick the GT through a couple of sudden direction changes you feel it hauling itself from one lateral loading to the other, struggling against its own inertia in a way no McLaren ever has.

What you're left with is a mid-engined supercar that's strangely uninvolving to punt along a mountain road. Still very fast and competent, but not exciting. The GT is staggeringly fast, in fact, feeling urgent through the mid-range and then explosive across the final 3000rpm, but that lack of response further down the rev range does irritate every time you try to power away from very tight corners.

Perhaps a bigger issue than that is the engine's lack of character. It isn't a memorable or tuneful piece of kit, not like the 12 cylinders you'll find in Aston Martins, Bentleys and Ferraris. And for a grand tourer, that seems to me like a problem. So you see, even when you've taken the time to listen to McLaren's pitch and you've spent a day driving the car, you come away still unsure about what it is you've just sampled. By being a bit more agile than a conventional grand tourer and a bit more refined than a typical supercar - but also far less charismatic than most GTs and much less rewarding than an all-out supercar - the new McLaren carves out an unusual little niche that I'm not convinced ever needed filling.


SPECIFICATION - MCLAREN GT
Engine:
3994cc, V8, twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 620@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 568@5,500-6,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.2 secs
Top speed: 203mph
Weight: 1,530kg
MPG: 23.7
CO2: 270g/km
Price: Β£163,000

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Author
Discussion

sidesauce

Original Poster:

1,124 posts

167 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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In that colour, I must say I quite like that.

scottydoesntknow

446 posts

6 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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Another mid engined turbo V8 carbon tubbed McLaren. zzzzz #notaGT

cmoose

45,609 posts

178 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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"Woking has voyaged into parts unknown..."

Eh? More like a voyage courtesy of parts bin all too well known.

Hard to believe the clumsy, awkward styling of this thing got signed off. What a mess.

Still, one thing Prosser got right was the engine. McLaren's V8 lump has been dreary and unexciting from day one. Quality of powertrain, not quantity, please. Masses of power doth not alone an exciting sports car engine make. Something McLaren seems hell bent on proving over and over again. We've got the idea, chaps. Not that the market gives a toss, as they sell plenty of 'em.

ReaperCushions

3,843 posts

133 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
quotequote all
Needs 4 seats (OK 2+2) and more luggage space to really make sense to me. It seems like the worst of all worlds right now.

Sandpit Steve

388 posts

23 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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That looks rather lovely, much more subtle than the rest of the range and the colours suit it well both inside and out. The exterior looks like it was drawn by a man with a pen, rather than a computer and a wind tunnel.

Would be interested in a group test against rivals from Aston and Bentley, whereas the reviewer compared it more to a 600LT - which is undoubtedly a fantastic car, but a very different beast and definitely not something I’m going to want to use to take the wife for a long weekend in Nice or Monaco.

One advantage of the way McLaren makes cars, is that they don’t need to sell huge numbers of these for it to still make sense, maybe a thousand or two per year, which is probably achievable for this niche in the market. The stated price seems sensible too, but I’m sure as always there’s plenty of room to tick the options boxes to get a silly price!

RDMcG

14,183 posts

156 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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Nice to have a proper review that pulls no punches. They should all be like that.

threespires

3,345 posts

160 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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I like it's looks. It's understated compared to their other models which might suit their target market.

Nerdherder

1,655 posts

46 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
quotequote all
sidesauce said:
In that colour, I must say I quite like that.
Very much so. Very, very nice. This look should be the template for all models to come. Bar the air intakes, which have a slightly odd, unpleasing shape. As pointed out by Dan, no need for 'GT' style driving feel, just keep it sharp and exciting like the other models.

This is glorious:


Ps Dan, not much space in this article is spent on actual driving experience and lots of space on how Macca tried to pitch the car into a category where it does not fit or where you perhaps feel they should not go because the result diminishes the car itself and dilutes the brand. Not giving us a lot of words on driving experience is a bit curious for a 'driven' article. And not tying the lenghty bit about Macca's approach back to the driving experience leave me feeling a bit lost in this article.

Edited by Nerdherder on Tuesday 17th September 03:41

900T-R

20,249 posts

206 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
quotequote all
Can't help feeling that - for what it sets out to achieve - this car is compromised by its basic architecture. If you were to design a GT from a blank sheet of paper, you'd have the engine sitting between the front axle and the cabin and consequently a boot of useful dimensions (i.e. height) in the rear, every single time. Or am I being unduly conservative here?

richomk6

45 posts

25 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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Was reading Georg Kachers review of this elsewhere online and he commented on the luggage compartment getting so hot it played havoc with his shaving foam. Seems like that heat shielding isn’t up to scratch.

Gandahar

8,000 posts

77 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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I have to confess on finding that first paragraph very hard to read and wondered if Nic Prosser had written it.

Perhaps it was a clever way of showing an analogy to the GT by simply smearing words across the page in a parody? Bring back 720S Dan. smile


MikeGoodwin

1,565 posts

66 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
quotequote all
Woking as in the entire town? Not McLaren themselves but all of Woking ??? Get a grip. Who proofs these articles?

Tired of reading about how Dieppe did this or hethel did that.

j3gme

658 posts

143 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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Please say the doors open normally? Cant tell from pictures, …..that's what puts me of McLarens, the doors!

beanoir

1,016 posts

144 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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I hate to add to the PH editorial bashing of late but what a dreadfully flat piece, I’m not really convinced that the car was actually ‘Driven’ before this was written. Too much waffle about nothing in that first paragraph too!

The car looks beautiful, it’s a GT - take it on a trip across Europe and describe the experience. Like Mel used to, really evoke some passion.





Edited by beanoir on Tuesday 17th September 07:12


Edited by beanoir on Tuesday 17th September 07:44

av185

9,831 posts

76 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
quotequote all
Sand/ cream leather with the blue is so last year.

Wonder what it will be worth in 12 months? rolleyes

akashzimzimma

61 posts

26 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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"This thing about a car expressing itself unambiguously is important, because if you hadn't been briefed at length about what the McLaren GT is for, which we were on the media launch (and if you weren't aware of its hilariously literal moniker), I think you would drive the car and be more struck by the strange lethargy as you flick the steering wheel one direction to the other, and its tendency to smear its front tyres across the road surface than drill them into it, than you would the very good ride quality or road noise suppression".

A terribly written article that reads poorly. Look how long that sentence was for God sake!

Julian Thompson

1,240 posts

187 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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I really love that - I think it’s a beautiful shape they’ve ended up with.

It’s like a Bentley for a 45 year old!

I bet it still drives well in isolation too but was always going to be compared to its relatives.

Thin Lizzy

219 posts

204 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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A stunning looking car, well done McLaren. Subtle and sophisticated. Expect to seem them outside the Monte Carlo Casino.

355spiderguy

769 posts

120 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
quotequote all
av185 said:
Sand/ cream leather with the blue is so last year.

Wonder what it will be worth in 12 months? rolleyes
Ok...so what is 'this year'? I am curious...

Also, top marks for being the 1st to jump on the depreciation bandwagon.

can't remember

872 posts

77 months

Tuesday 17th September 2019
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Not sure why but Emma Peel popped into my head when I saw this.