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McLaren plots 720S Longtail for 2020

An additional Ultimate Series model is in the pipeline - but not before a new LT is launched

By Nic Cackett / Tuesday, August 06, 2019

McLaren Automotive will be 10 years old next year. When the fledgling division first showed the MP4-12C in 2009 it was still operating as McLaren Cars and hadn't designed and built an entirely new production model since the F1. Two years later, it had a purpose-built factory - the McLaren Production Centre. Just two years after that it introduced the P1; not just the spiritual successor to its iconic hypercar, but also the firm's first plug-in hybrid. The 650S followed a year later, then the 675 LT, then the 570S, the 720S, the Senna, the 600LT and now, imminently, the GT. It's been some decade.

I suspect that McLaren isn't particularly sentimental about the anniversary - it prides itself on its forward-looking ethos. The company has attained a certain size - or volume at any rate - and has declared itself content, for now, with the progress. But next year, alongside the introduction of the GT (and eventually the Speedtail), will see the unveiling of two new models that arguably distil the firm's most expressive impulses. One, already hinted at elsewhere, is the third tranche of the current Ultimate Series, a self-styled two-seat roadster which will split the difference between the Senna's track focus and the Speedtail's straight-line speed. The other is a Longtail version of the 720S.

The former is clearly an evocative concept, and a source with detailed knowledge of the car told PH that its dramatic styling had sought to deploy McLaren's aerodynamic expertise in innovative new ways. Rather than maximising downforce (as it has done in the brutal Senna) or minimising drag (in the Speedtail), its engineers are actively seeking to develop a model without any kind of roof - and potentially no side windows either. Even the design of the front screen is unknown - or undisclosed, at any rate. Clearly this would place the speedster in direct competition with rarefied exotica like the Ferrari Monza SP2.

Yet the notion of a 720 LT is no less seismic on the McLaren register. The Longtail cars have, after all, tended to showcase the best of its all-round abilities. The Ultimate Series may well sit above them in the pecking order, but the LT badged models have previously eclipsed them when it comes to driving. At launch the 675 LT was quietly acknowledged by insiders as being a superior supercar to the heavier P1 - and the current 600 LT, whether in coupe or Spider format, could justly be called the best car McLaren currently sells.

It is the fast approaching conclusion of the latter which heralds the launch of the next model in the Longtail story. The prospect of the 720S receiving a similarly far-reaching round of optimisation is a tantalising one - the supercar having already enjoyed numerous accolades for its handling and performance. Both will be revised as McLaren seeks to enhance driver engagement across the board - alongside design alterations which have typically allowed the manufacturer to boast that the Longtail is, indeed, longer.

Precise details of how the firm intends to take its Super Series car to another level remain under wraps, although we can assume that it will have applied the established blueprint: improved aero, reduced weight, a more track-focused chassis and, yes, increased power. Our source wouldn't be drawn on where exactly the LT's output - and correspondingly, of course, its name - would end up, although it's probably that McLaren would not seek to step on the toes of the 800hp Senna. Between that and 720hp, it's anyone's guess. Although the smart money (given the transition from 650 to 675 and 570 to 600) is surely on 750 LT.

A commensurate lift in peak torque - alongside what is likely to be a significant reduction in kerbweight (the 675 and 600LT having both lost the best part of 100kg) ought to see a tenth or two shaved from the 720S's 2.9 second-to-62mph time and obviously result in the better lap times that the Longtail cars typically target. No word yet as to where its maker has gone with the LT's styling - or if McLaren has opted for a different exhaust exit as it did with the 600 LT - but it would be a brave soul who bets against the introduction of a Spider version following the coupe's launch.

The latter is expected to take centre stage at next year's Geneva show. The timing for the Ultimate Series 'speedster' - a model so early in the development phase that a name has not yet been finalised - is said to be far more fluid, and PH's source wouldn't speculate on a timetable for its reveal. Given the pace at which things move at MTC, it's perfectly possible that we'll have a lot more to get excited about in the meantime.

As it does for the 720S, the outgoing Longtail version of the 570S signals that there is not long left in its life cycle, and McLaren's stated commitment to electrify its entire range by 2025 means that its replacement is virtually guaranteed to be a hybrid. The manufacturer continues to ramp up the involvement of its new Sheffield-based facility - the McLaren Composites Technology Centre - and there's still the little matter of the Speedtail with its 250mph top speed and central driving position to come.

Not too shabby. For a ten year-old.

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