Geneva Motor Show - The McLaren 720S, making its global debut this week at Palexpo, is important because it’s the first of Woking’s second-generation Super Series models, introducing a new Monocage carbon-fibre body shell and a comprehensively revised biturbo V8.
The name, indeed, is derived from the new M480T engine; boosted to a full four litres from the 3.8 of its predecessor, which will continue in production in the Sports Series, it has about 40 percent new parts and is rated for 537kW (720 horsepower) at a screaming 7500 revs, backed up by 770Nm at 5500rpm.
It drives the rear wheels through a seven-speed SSG transmission, with revised double-wishbone suspension and independent adaptive damping all round, and carbon-ceramic disc brakes behind 19 inch front and 20 inch rear rims shod with 245/35 front and 305/30 rear gumballs.
The new Monocage II body-shell is built around two big carbon-fibre mouldings - the tub and the upper structure - which makes it more than likely there is a 720S Spyder somewhere in McLaren’s future plans. It’s reinforced at stress points with gussets and brackets in a variety of aluminium alloys. McLaren has also taken what seems like a step backwards, using aircraft-grade aluminium sheet for some of the body panels, where the resulting components came out either lighter or stiffer than the carbon-fibre equivalent.
Stroke of genius
The shape of of those body panels is undeniably McLaren, but with a sleek, shark-like re-interpretation of the earlier design language. Look again; there are no side air intakes for the mid-mounted radiators. Cooling air is channeled from the front air intakes through the double-skinned dihedral doors, and out over the diffusers for a little extra rear downforce.
It’s likely to be a bit noisy under some conditions and it’s probably not a good idea to run the engine for long with the doors open but, as a solution to a longstanding aerodynamic problem (ask Lamborghini!) it’s a stroke of genius.
It also helps keep the shape simple and the weight down; the whole car weighs just 1419kg ready to rock ‘n roll, with the fuel tank 90 percent full, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 378kW per ton. Claimed performance is startling: 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds, 0-200 in 7.8s, 0-300 in 21.4s and a top speed of 341km/h. If McLaren is to be believed, it’s very nearly a 10-second car out of the box, disposing of the standing quarter-mile in 10.3 seconds.
As befits a car of this stature, the cabin is trimmed in fine leather and machined aluminium, with a folding driver display in place of the usual instrument cluster, and an infotainment display at the top of the centre stack.
You had to ask
The McLaren 720S is available to order now, with the first customers scheduled to take delivery in May. Pricing starts at £208 600 (R3.3 million) ex works for the basic car, but you’ll pay more for the Performance or Luxury trim specifications, depending on which of a range of option packs you go for.