Lo and behold, another McLaren finally moved into the P1 spot (pun intended) when the newer and less powerful 720S dismissed the 402.3 metres in 10.29 seconds at the Gerotek test track last week. It’s the slimmest of margins between them, but when we’re talking about the fastest cars in the world, every hundredth of a second counts, and at this end of the scale those fractions are hard to come by.
Wait, did you say less powerful? Yip, the 720S makes only 427kW and 770Nm to the P1’s 673 and 900. But remember, that was a hybrid hypercar and with all its complex batteries and electric motors it pays a 215kg weight penalty over 1283kg model on test here.
Still, McLaren hasn’t exactly been stingy with luxury features in the 720S and while an ultra-light carbon chassis and superformed aluminium body shell do well to offset the weight added by soft-close doors, a suspension lift system, up to 12 speakers and a motorised instrument panel which cleverly flips around depending on drive mode, we can’t help but wonder if one extra USB port would have meant the difference between first and second place in our list. For what it’s worth, our test car was fitted with R80 000 optional Superlight alloy wheels. Responsible for .02 seconds? Possibly.
Getting back to the power, the 720S dishes up its hardly insignificant outputs with gut-twisting thrusts in all seven gears. The mid-mounted four-litre V8’s two turbochargers spin up quickly, and when they do the peripheral scenery blurs like warp speed in the Starship Enterprise. Full throttle will take your breath away, and you’ll have to fight hard against the G-forces pulling your hands from the wheel and foot from the gas pedal.
Launch control is a simple process, and from any of its many drive modes (we used full Track) a simple press of a button engages the system. Floor the throttle and brake, note the digital cluster’s readout “Building Boost”, release brake, and hold on for dear life as the mid-engined, rear-drive machine heaves itself off the line. The 720S also scooped our fastest ever 0-100km/h test with a time of 2.85 seconds.
Its exhaust note might be a bit short on character, but you can’t blame McLaren’s engineers for focussing more on performance than superficial growls and gurgles. It’s strictly business back there. There are some nice chirps from the wastegates though, and with each throttle lift you get some faint giggles emanating from behind your head, reminiscent of old-era Group B rally cars. Lovely.
The 720S is McLaren’s flagship supercar until the P15 Senna arrives late this year, but where that car will undoubtedly be a pure road-legal race car hell bent on lap times, the 720S is relatively speaking quite a comfy place to spend time in. Sure, with its settings cranked up to full attack it’ll pull your eyelids back, but set to Comfort it hovers along relatively well on its 19 inch front and 20 inch rear low profile rubber. I also happened to glance at the rev-counter at 140-ish on the highway, and in seventh gear it ticks along calmly at around 1500rpm.
McLaren’s interior quality has progressed immensely from the first MP4-12C, and instead of jiggly door frames, questionable switchgear and fidgety infotainment, you get a very upmarket cabin swathed in quality leathers, racy alcantara and exposed carbonfibre. Iridium silver window switches and door pulls click with precision, there’s a rainbow of subtle mood light choices, and the latest generation Iris multimedia panel with navigation is fairly simple to use.
It’s also far easier to get into and out of, thanks to its swanwing-style doors which offer a huge boarding aperture, and all round visibility from behind the wheel is excellent. Both of these come compliments of the abovementioned carbon Monocage chassis which allows for thinner A-pillars and a central structural spine where the doors hinge.
The 720S starts at the R5.8-million mark, but get carried away with options and this can rocket past seven bar. Our conservatively-specced test car was priced at R6.8-million, including those Superlight wheels. Which are a must have if you’re planning to dice any P1s.