McLaren 720S — Pinnacle of performance

By Jim Meachen

A few numbers will help explain exactly what the 2019 McLaren 720S supercar is all about. Astounding but true — 0-to-60 mph, 2.7 seconds; 1/4-mile, 10.2 seconds at 145 mph; 0-to-100, 5.4 seconds; and 0-to-180 mph, 17 seconds.

These times are possible from a supercar weighing just over 3,000 pounds and propelled by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 positioned directly behind the carbon-fiber passenger cell making 710 horsepower (720PS) and 568 pound-feet of torque (770 Nm). The 720S name is derived from the 720PS metric horsepower.

The rear-drive British supercar was designed and manufactured by McLaren Automotive headquartered in Working, Surrey, England, about 25 miles from London. It's the second all-new car in the McLaren Super Series, replacing the 650S in May 2017.

Driving the beast instills an appreciation of the engineering and build quality that went into the supercar. And you no longer wonder about its base price of $297,100 and its as-tested price of $353,140 — which includes a few high-priced options.

With its seven-speed dual clutch transmission, the 720S feels as shockingly fast as its numbers would indicate. It comes with a launch control, but for my turn I simply slammed down the accelerator pedal. Sixty came so horrifically fast it raised the hair on the back of my neck, and I was at 100 mph before I realized that 60 was just a distant memory. I managed ever so briefly to hit 150, but where on public roads can you realize the true potential of this car? The answer, go to the track.

Early one evening I took the McLaren to my favorite 10 miles of rural winding road "test track" attempting on my first pass to get the feel of its cornering prowess. I retraced my steps and tried again getting increasingly bold. I was taking corners 10-to-15 mph faster than I'd ever had dared in any car before. Did I even come close to this car's limits? No way.

I had to get used to the carbon-ceramic brakes, which I quickly discovered take a lot of force to engage. Once I had it mastered, they were fine and I discovered that they are perfect for rapidly coming down from 100-plus speeds. Few cars in the world can stop as quickly as the 720S, which has been measured at an astounding 93 feet from 60-to-0. The steering is spot on as well, and the handling is just too good for anything less than a track.

The 720S’s interior is functional simplicity. Entrance is made through huge lightweight dihedral doors that hinge dramatically forward and upward as they open, taking a portion of roof in the process. Together, these features ensure a generously wide aperture for occupants entering or leaving the cabin, and the door action also facilitates easy access to the luggage area behind the seats.

The driver display folds into a "slim mode" when the car is turned off or when the driver choses it. Opening the door triggers a sequence of events that sees the driver display deploy, the operating system come to life, and the central infotainment screen fill with information. Together, these high-definition screens comprise the McLaren Driver Interface. The entire driver display behind the steering wheel turns into a backup camera when the car is placed into reverse. It offers a huge, clear picture of what's behind.

Drivers can choose from Comfort, Sport, or Track modes, accessed using the Active Dynamics Panel located within the center console. Each of the modes is focused on a different target, optimizing ride comfort, dynamic handling balance and outright cornering grip and performance. As cornering, acceleration, braking and aerodynamic forces constantly alter and the road surface continually changes, so Proactive Chassis Control II can quickly compute the perfect response. I quickly discovered that the Track mode was too aggressive for normal driving and reverted to Sport for my more spirited excursions, and to Comfort for around-town commuting.

The 720S can be paddle shifted in manual mode, but for the novice driver, this feature is definitely not needed. And there's a Launch Control button placed with the radio, climate and navigation controls. As the launch control suggests, it pushes rpm up to 3,200 and then shoots the car off the line with rear wheels smoking, or so we've heard. I didn't try it.

As in most high end vehicles, options are many and expensive. For example my test car carried $56,040 worth of options. They included a carbon fiber upgrade, $10,790; a luxury package, $11,770; sports exhaust, $5,770; and a 12-speaker audio system, $4,290.

(Lucky for me, Ted Biederman was on vacation).

Base price: $297,100; as driven: $353,140
Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 710 @ 7,500 rpm
Torque: 568 pound-feet @ 5,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 178.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,139 pounds
Turning circle: 40 feet
Luggage capacity: 13 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.9 gallons (93 octane)
EPA rating: 15 city, 22 highway, 18 combined
0-60: 2.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Quarter mile: 10.2 seconds @ 145 mph
Also consider: Ford GT, Lamborghini  Huracan, Porsche 911 Turbo S

The Good
• Mind-numbing acceleration
• Extremely capable handling
• Excellent ride quality
• Automotive technology on display

The Bad
• Stiff brake pedal

The Ugly
• Reserved for only the very wealthy