Has the typically hardcore McLaren embraced a softer side with the new GT?
Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
McLaren is probably the most masculine car brand out there: its focus has always been on hardcore performance for the driver, rather than any creature comforts for passengers. With a philosophy based entirely around stripping out weight, fripperies like cupholders have been largely banished to date.
But now this, the GT; the two letters stand for Grand Tourer, a type of car which traditionally majors on comfort and space alongside power for long-distance journeys. Can McLaren shake off its hardcore vibe to embrace a softer side?
While it bears many similarities to every other McLaren – a deep windscreen, glass roof, gullwing doors, low profile and raised exhausts – there are enough differences to make this feel like a departure for the brand, and a car that will appeal to more women, of which there are sadly precious few on the order books.
The bodywork is much more simple, with none of the massive swoops, grills and air intakes present on the rest of the range. The headlights are less aggressive, and the silhouette is pulled low over the rear wheels, elongating the lines.
Inside, although there is plenty of leather (instead of the usual smattering of carbon fibre), it still feels fairly stripped out; there are few storage areas or cushioned surfaces.
Thankfully McLaren’s infotainment system is new: the previous one was slow to load. This time, the satnav is up to date, with frequent updates and real-time traffic information. The touchscreen is still small, and the air-con graphic denoting airflow to the head is still a racing helmet, but that’s as it should be: you wouldn’t want to throw the McLaren-heritage baby out with the bathwater. You can specify front and rear parking sensors and rear camera, and we’d recommend upgrading to the Bowers and Wilkins audio system. There’s only one USB charging point though, which seems stingy for a GT.
It’s all about the luggage space in a GT, which is important for freeing up space inside a two-seater. The McLaren is impressive here: while the big play is about the fancy new luggage deck under the lifting glass tailgate, which will fit skis or one set of golf clubs plus a weekend bag, the major space is under the bonnet (the engine is behind the seats, in the middle of the car). Here there’s a really deep space, enough for two air cabin suitcases, bringing the total space to the same as that of a Ford Focus.
You can choose how loud you want the exhausts to shout: in Comfort mode they’ll be decently quiet, or you can switch to Sport to open the valves for a real crack.
The ride is still fairly hard (weirdly in Sport mode it felt more supple).
This is where it’s all at: McLaren uses a 4.0-litre, twin turbocharged V8 engine with 620 horsepower; that’s enough for 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of over 200mph. Any bloke will be seriously impressed by a woman at the helm of that, and rightly so (although, if you can keep a secret, it’s extremely docile to drive around town). It makes the McLaren one of the most dynamically gifted GTs, with razor-sharp steering. The flip side is that the ground clearance is that of a hatchback, making this also one of the most everyday-useable GTs: we went over all manner of speed humps in it and never had to use the extra lift button, which is impressive.
The GT starts at £168,000 but by the time you add such things as those much-needed parking sensors, and some nice paintwork, you’ll probably be easily heading towards £200,000. But this is a proper supercar, masquerading as a GT with the help of more space and more gentle looks, and any owner at the wheel deserves more than a nod of respect. There won’t be many on British roads; for the lucky few, it’s an extraordinary piece of metal. Fingers crossed, it will encourage more women to buy a McLaren.