There is undeniably some mental baggage to bring with you on a visit to the McLaren Technology Centre these days. Anxiety about the manufacturer's financial standing has been a recurring theme, one not aided by the (necessary) delay to its first non-hypercar hybrid, the Artura. And while some of the smoke is easy to dismiss as ‘situation normal’ in the often fraught business model of a low-volume British carmaker, there has been some legitimate fire. No one at MTC was particularly keen to revisit the trials and tribulations of launching the Artura, but there was a palpable sense of relief that the full story behind its latest supercar is a much more familiar one.
Very familiar, in fact. McLaren has indulged itself with some jazz hand-style silliness in the past when it came to the business of revealing new variants (blindfolding weary hacks on a minibus drive around Woking was a personal favourite) - but here it declined to even drape a dust sheet over its updated supercar. This was surely prudent: there is much to unpack about the 750S - its maker claims that fully 30 per cent of the car is new versus its predecessor - but the main thrust of its styling is obviously not. Even those well accustomed to spotting minute differences between model generations needed to have the various modifications pointed out to them; save for the badges, a layman will probably not notice.
Given the strides made elsewhere, the extent to which anyone will care is, as ever, debatable. For its part, McLaren did a mostly fine job of glossing over the design similarities with Porsche-like nonchalance, choosing instead to highlight the many (many) detailed ways in which the car - available immediately as both coupe and Spider - has exceeded the already exceptionally good 720S. The facts and figures were redolent of Porsche, too: the 750S is claimed as the lightest and most powerful series-production McLaren yet, thanks to 30kg subtracted from the 720S’s DIN kerbweight and the additional 30hp extracted from the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8. The car generates more downforce. It has a sensibly revised interior. It stops quicker. It is quicker.
But among all this data-based meticulousness, there was a broader message. The 750S is reputedly more ‘fun’. That is not a word McLaren has traditionally put much stock in, yet it was repeated several times alongside other hard-to-quantify attributes like ‘soul’ and ‘character’. For a manufacturer previously obsessed with presenting a pie chart for every possible metric, this felt like an admirable new target - and evidently some of the pressure to aspire to it came from above. New CEO Michael Leiters, recruited from Ferrari a year ago lest we forget, is said to be an encouraging presence at MTC, and attaining “truly exhilarating levels of emotional connection” is not a sentiment limited to his press pack quotes. He genuinely requested it. Or at least something very much like it.
Of course, McLaren being McLaren, it has umpteen ways of explaining how it went about achieving it. Beyond the painstaking removal of mass - the 750S's dry weight is now said to be 1,277kg - much of it is located in the overhauled chassis. The suspension geometry has been updated, including a 6mm wider front track, and a new lightweight 10-spoke forged alloy design said to save 13.8kg over the 720S's standard wheels. A new coil spring and damper design has saved another 2kg, although the 750S retains the hydraulically linked Proactive Chassis Control system that does without conventional anti-roll bars. Front springs rates are said to be 3 per cent softer than in its predecessor, and 4 per cent firmer at the back. The tuning of the semi-active dampers has been revised, too, and alongside a quicker steering ratio and new power assistance pump, the firm reckons it has achieved a ‘more neutral mid-corner balance’.
The suspicion that McLaren has actively sought a more oversteery brand of supercar beyond the limits of this superior balance was gently batted away by the team behind it. While the emphasis was on improving the new car’s ‘feel and feedback’, no little amount of effort was expended on retaining the 720S’s admirable usability as well. Even with greater LT-like agility and better turn-in implicit in the chassis alterations, the 750S is said to have exceeded its predecessor’s knack for ‘breathing’ over long-wave undulations, and time was apparently also spent trying to mitigate some of the bump steer occasionally encountered, as well. Precisely the sort of stuff that makes for improved driver confidence across the board.
Speaking privately, the engineers reckoned the difference between generations ought to be recognisable almost from the get-go. A better and more intimate relationship with the mechanical essence of the car is promised; partly through the enhanced control surfaces (there’s a new brake booster, too) and revamped chassis, but also via the more visceral presence of the flat-plane crank V8. The raw performance meted out by the engine has hardly ever been in question (the fact it now exceeds the 737hp and 531lb ft afforded to the P1 is staggering enough) yet its soundtrack and all-round aura has rarely met with universal approval.
In the 750S, they’ve had another go at the elusive formula. The engine mounts have been revised to better channel that inimitable sensation of being physically connected to a large capacity motor, but you get the feeling that much is expected of the new stainless steel, central-exit exhaust system. This knocks an additional 2.2kg off the scales, although it’s the clearer tone, rising to ‘a greater crescendo at high engine speeds’, that is said to be the more noticeable pay-off. Sadly, there was no opportunity to hear the 750S running during this preview, but when McLaren talks about outdoing itself on comparative ‘thrill’ levels, it has clearly targeted a purer engine note than 720S owners were originally treated to.
In case any of them were moved to gripe about how the 720S got up the road, the tweaks made to the powertrain ought to do the job. The M840T-spec V8 earns a higher boost pressure alongside an additional high-flow fuel pump, with the engine management system given a corresponding tickle. The result is 750hp at 7,500rpm (though it will rev to 8,500rpm) and 590lb ft of torque at 5,500rpm, although we’d be willing to bet that a 15 per cent shorter final drive ratio on the seven-speed SSG is very much doing its bit in the marginally quicker 2.8-seconds-to-62mph time. As ever, the difference between coupe and Spider (the latter just 49kg heavier than the former) is non-existent up to the national limit, and negligible thereafter.
Inevitably, McLaren has traded some top speed (206mph versus 220mph in the 720S) for superior acceleration, but that hardly seems relevant these days - even with the suggestion that maybe 20 per cent of buyers are track users. You will likely need to be among this super-keen cohort to appreciate the difference rendered by a new extended front splitter and enlarged (yet 1.6kg lighter) rear spoiler, but McLaren assured us the aerodynamic balance of the 750S - not to mention its extensive cooling requirements - are enhanced over the outgoing car. For what it’s worth, the front bumper, sills and rear deck are in fact subtly different, too, and (to these eyes, at any rate) the car seems to have visually benefitted from the fact that its active rear spoiler is mounted 60mm higher to account for the new exhaust.
Where it has benefitted most, though, is on the inside. McLaren hardly needed a focus group to tell it where the issues were here; many were self-evident. Accordingly, some of the most obvious ones have been fixed. Most notably, there’s a new driver-centric, column-mounted (and 1.8kg lighter) instrument display, flanked by impressively large rocker switches providing you with immediate access to the suspension and powertrain settings - so no more hunting around the cabin for the most crucial drive modes. Additionally, a new McLaren Control Launcher will let you store your favourite combination of settings so that they can be accessed at the push of single button, rather than laboriously programmed in every time you sit down.
Elsewhere, there’s a new Central Information Screen with an improved interface, and (mercifully) Apple CarPlay compatibility (though not, for now, Android Auto). McLaren claims a 17.5kg saving versus the standard 720S seats with a brace of carbon fibre-shelled racing buckets, and says the rear and surround view cameras have been upgraded, too. A new vehicle-lift system (attributed to its own button rather than the nightmarish column stalks) is said to raise the nose of the 750S in four seconds rather than the interminable 10 seconds the 720S took.
Again, detailed changes - but potentially significant ones when rolled up together. Moreover, while the thought of the 750S being lighter, quicker, and more exciting is appealing in a comparative sense, there is also the underlying fact (cagily alluded to by McLaren at the time) that formidably powerful, combustion-only new-issue supercars are now rather thin on the ground. On the one hand, this will mean eventually fending off hybrid models equipped with additional bells and whistles and much shoutier outputs (the 750S was benchmarked against the Ferrari 296 GTB) - but, by the same token, the 750S stands a good chance of retaining its ‘segment-leading’ power-to-weight ratio, not to mention the purity of an unaided V8.
Frankly, that does not feel like a bad place for the company to be. And while it is likely true that further development of the model is ultimately limited by a need to allocate resources elsewhere, it is also true that McLaren has now taken the concept of a V8-powered, series production supercar about as far down the road as it’s ever likely to go. Seen in this light, its apparent determination to maximise the fun factor before time is finally called on the concept is about as welcome a statement of intent as we’ve heard this year. The proof, as ever, will be in the pudding (especially in light of what is expected to be a 10 per cent uplift in asking price) but given where the 720S benchmark was, there’s a fair chance you’re looking at one of the last truly great old-school supercars. How’s that for mental baggage?
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