After a months-long strip tease, McLaren has put the motoring world out of its misery and fully unveiled the 720S in Geneva and, although the aggressive new styling is likely to set tongues wagging, the real progress hides under the skin. Along with a completely new chassis, the car debuts a new engine and some seriously clever aerodynamic touches.
There's more than enough exciting details scattered around the 720S to make any car nerd weak at the knees, but the heart of any good supercar is the engine, so that's where we're going to start. Gone is the turbocharged M838T V8 that has powered the McLaren range since the MP4-12C launched in 2011, and in its place is a new turbocharged M480T 4.0-liter V8 with 710 hp (529 kW) of power and a whopping 770 Nm (568 lb.ft) of torque. McLaren says the engine is made up of 41 percent new parts compared to the engine in the 650S.
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With just 1,283 kg (2,829 lb) to shift, those figures are enough to hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in 2.9 seconds and 200 km/h (124 mph) in just 7.8 seconds. By way of comparison, the Ferrari 488 GTB is a tenth slower to 100 km/h and five-tenths slower to 200 km/h, as is the outgoing 650S. To say the new 720S is fast would be putting it mildly: those are hypercar numbers. When it comes time to stop, the car will pull up from 200 km/h in just 117 meters (384 feet). Although that might seem like overkill, it's nice to know the brakes are up to scratch when top speed is north of 340 km/h (211 mph).
Keeping a car on the ground at that sort of speed is no mean feat, forcing McLaren to delve deep into its bag of aerodynamic tricks. The active rear wing from past Super Series cars still features, but the shape is all-new and, to our eyes, far prettier than anything else to spring from the MTC in Woking. Every surface is doing a job, from the air intakes surrounding the headlights to the Formula 1-style barge boards on the door panels, while the new rear diffuser could have been stolen from the P1 – such is the level of detail and complexity of its shape.
At the center of it all is the latest iteration of the MonoCage carbon tub. Not only is the new tub lighter and stiffer than before, but it allows for a wider cabin and lower door sills. That means a more comfortable ride for both driver and passenger, better all-round visibility and an easier time getting into/out of the seats. Although visibility has never been an issue in McLaren cabins, anyone who's tried to slide gracefully into one of the Super Series cars will undoubtedly appreciate any effort to make it easier.
If the carbon-tubbed adaptive chassis has proven one of McLaren's greatest strengths, it has also come under fire for making them feel a bit aloof. Turning off the traction control was always a finicky process, with knobs to twist, buttons to push and a long, complex song to be sung before the boffins in Woking finally relinquish control. That's all set to change with Variable Drift Control, which lets drivers fine-tune the amount of stability control intervention using a new interface on the central touchscreen.
The adaptive chassis also benefits from a revised take on the clever adaptive suspension system. It now uses 12 more sensors than before, feeding even more information about which individual wheel is doing what through a central Optimal Controller Algorithim, which then adjusts the suspension setup accordingly. As a result, the car can deliver a pliant ride on rough roads, before stiffening up when the driver demands more performance.
Drivers sit in a cabin absolutely loaded with technology. Changeable instrument binnacles are nothing new, but the 720S takes the tech a step further with a rotating display. In normal mode, it's a regular-sized screen with information about speed, revs and navigation, but swapping into track mode makes the whole binnacle rotate, revealing a slimline race-style readout with the bare minimum of information. It's entirely unnecessary, but very cool.
Pricing for the 720S will start at £208,600 (about US$254,300) and deliveries will being in May. The car is on show in Geneva, but you can also check it out in the McLaren video below.