Geneva Motor Show: McLaren’s Ferrari Slayer

The McLaren 650S raised the bar, now its replacement, the 720S, has the unnerving task of setting the bar even higher.

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First there was the MP4-12C, then the 650S and now the 720S, Woking’s latest Ferrari headache.

Since the company was brought back into the mainstream production car business eight years ago, McLaren has gone from strength to strength. It now stands toe to toe against its fiercest competitor, Ferrari, with each trying to outdo each other. The new 720S is McLarens answer to the Ferrari 488 GTB so let battle commence.

Let’s start with the looks and I want to say this straight away. I don’t think McLaren has made a good looking car. Perhaps slightly controversial but said it good faith. They aren’t ugly cars but they fail to catch my attention, instead they prefer to put function meaning some excellent handling cars but pretty, nope. However not every Ferrari is a looker either; I am still not sold on the current 488 while the 430 looked too plain. (The 458 is one of the best looking Ferraris of all time on the plus side). This matter of looks leads me to the 720S. First impressions are that the front looks like an extra from Doctor Who with its missing headlights. They aren’t missing; they have just been replaced with LED lights but create this odd look. Just avoid ordering your 720S in white to avoid panda eyes. The rear is vastly improved over previous McLarens; the 12C was often compared to a fax machine with all its slats. The glass engine bay has been illuminated for an extra bit of theatre. It may not be the prettiest supercar ever but it is definitely the best looking McLaren and will still have the ability to turn heads in the street.

The 720S focuses a lot on aerodynamics and air flow. Up front is a new front spoiler and bonnet vents while at the rear there is an active rear wing that spans the full width of the car and can automatically adjust itself to give the best aerodynamics at any given speed. It also acts as an airbrake and can help in needs of hard braking and can be deployed in less than half a second. Just in case you get a little too cocky with the accelerator.  If you look at the side of the 720S then you will see that the whole fuselage is uninterrupted so you can get a picture of how the air pressure in front of the wheel arches is split up and utilised. There is a panel in front of the which evacuates the rough high pressure air and smooths it out while a channel at the top of the doors ducts high-velocity cooling air into the radiators in the engine bay. (Those doors open at an 80° angle). Even those strange headlights have air ducts below the LED lights to help the air flow. Compared to the old 650S, the 720S develops 50 per cent more downforce, has twice the aerodynamic efficiency and cools 15 per cent better.

The 720S is lighter than the old 650S; its dry weight is 1,283kg which is 18kg less than the old car. This is helped by the use of a new carbon tub called Monocage II. It means that the chassis now includes a roof and windscreen surround. This all creates a much more rigid car and a lower centre of gravity. The engine is mounted 120mm lower and every little helps. The engine itself is a 4.0 litre Twinturbo which makes 710bhp and is good for a top speed of 212mph.

Inside, the 720S is more luxurious before as it attempts to combine racecar ergonomics with GT comfort. The steering wheel has been left free of thousands of buttons (paying attention Ferrari?) and it has a moveable instrument binnacle. The display folds away into the dash to improve drivers focus and visibility.

Do you think the 720S is enough to take down the mighty 488? Leave your thoughts below…


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