With the car industry mired in Brexit malaise, McLaren’s remarkable, zero-to-hero success story is cause for celebration. Since the company’s formation in 2010, its clinically clean factory in Woking, Surrey has assembled nearly 20,000 cars. And all without bowing to inevitable pressure to build an SUV.
McLaren may be a young car manufacturer, but it trades on the longstanding achievements of its racing team. Since 1966, it has won eight F1 constructors’ titles, plus trophies in Can-Am, IndyCar and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Motorsport is part of McLaren Automotive’s mindset; from the 570S GT4 to the Senna GTR, all its cars are available in lightweight, track-focused guise.
The 720S Track Pack seen here isn’t the full-house GT3 racer. Nor is it the rumoured LT (Long Tail) version, a limited-run special with more horsepower and less weight. Instead, its suite of upgrades, like the Weissach Package offered by Porsche, is pitched at amateur enthusiasts who enjoy the occasional track day. So, what do you get for an extra £28,360?
Most obviously, there’s a new active rear spoiler, finished in exquisite naked carbon fibre. A throatier sports exhaust and 10-spoke forged alloy wheels – shod with super-sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres – complete the exterior makeover. Inside, you’ll find carbon racing seats, a harness bar on the rear shelf and a track telemetry system. The latter uses three cameras to log driving data, including lap times and sector splits. Quoted performance figures are unchanged (0-62mph in 2.9sec, 212mph), although the Track Pack shaves 24kg from the car’s 1,419kg kerb weight.
I’ll level with you: the closest I got to a circuit during my week with the McLaren was a late-night lap of Croydon’s one-way system. And on track-ready rubber in deepest January, it would require road-test reflexes more finely honed than mine to detect any real differences versus the ‘standard’ 720S. Fortunately, that hardly matters: both are ballistically brilliant to drive.
A splash of V-Power for the 720S.
Two years on, this car remains absurdly, apocalyptically quick. I’m still slightly over-awed by it. pic.twitter.com/BkwMcbp0rE
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) January 14, 2019
Lifting the dihedral door, I lower myself into the canopy-style cockpit. The Track Pack seats are thinly-padded and, frankly, a tad uncomfortable, but the view ahead over the plunging bonnet is pure race car. Press a button and the TFT instrument display flips down, hiding all but the raw driving essentials: revs, gear ratio and speed. All three can escalate rather quickly…
The first time I flatten my right foot, the haymaker punch of the 4.0-litre V8 fairly knocks the breath from my lungs. Acceleration feels unabatingly savage – even from motorway speeds – gathering pace with licence-losing ferocity. The 720S has been criticised for its soulless soundtrack, but I loved the industrial whooshes and gasps of its twin turbos. True to McLaren’s ethos, it’s fabulously functional.
Any car with seven times the power of a Ford Fiesta demands respect: doubly so on damp roads. Yet the McLaren’s ‘semi-active’ suspension is so supple, its steering so lucid, it rarely feels intimidating. The way it breathes with the road, tightly hugging the topography like a guided missile, is genuinely awe-inspiring. Ironically, the same traits – combined with that panoramic visibility – also make it comfortable and easy to drive around town.
Should you buy a McLaren 720S? Probably, yes. It’s the most multi-talented supercar on sale. Should you upgrade to the Track Pack? Probably not. It’s a niche offering, only likely to account for 10 percent of sales. Some buyers, though, will simply want the ultimate, money-no-object 720S, and that’s exactly what the Track Pack represents. For now, at least.
Top speed: 212mph
CO2 G/KM: 249
MPG combined: 26.4