The McLaren 720S takes the basic formula of its 650S predecessor and tweaks the suspension, increases the aerodynamic downforce, ups the power, improves the styling and smartens the cabin. Small but incremental improvements everywhere have resulted in a markedly better car.
The headliner with the 720S is its power figure - 720PS, or 710bhp in old money. It's worth putting into some sort of frame of reference quite what that means. Many thought the performance of the old McLaren F1 would be a benchmark that might never be beaten. Then the 650S came along and made 62mph from rest in just 3s, a figure this 720S model improves to 2.8s. So it's very fast: but then you knew it would be. What you need to know if you're a potential buyer is that it's more agile than before too, thanks to an 18kg weight reduction and a lower centre of gravity.
There's double-wishbone suspension front and rear that's linked front to back and side to side by McLaren's hydraulically connected damper system, Proactive Chassis Control II. This works via three selectable damper settings - 'Comfort', 'Sport' and 'Track': 'Comfort' will be your default option most of the time. As for the engine, well McLaren says that 41% of it is new, the previous 3.8-litre twin turbocharged V8 uprated to one 4.0-litres in size this time round. That's mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch paddleshift automatic gearbox.
The 720S takes certain elements of the old 650S's frontal treatment and delivers a far more assertive face, a styling direction which McLaren say they will carry over to future models. There's no doubt that it's a more aggressive, confident piece of design work. There are no longer any visible ducts on the doors which instead feature top channels that reduce cabin width slightly. What's under the skin is mostly carbonfibre and partly aluminium. 'Super Series' McLarens like this one feature active aerodynamics and the rear wing, which acts as an air brake, is now full width across the back of the car, so it's 30% more effective than before.
The cabin is more spacious than you'd expect it to be - and easier to access thanks to re-designed doors that now hinge to all but vertical and take up a foot less width in the process. The driving position is difficult to fault and there's a pop-out instrument binnacle and a revised central stack, on which you'll find a revised touchscreen controller that's far easier to use than that of the old IRIS system. As you'd expect for the money, the materials used are lovely, with carbonfibre trimming and stitched alcantara.
The McLaren 720S is a riposte that will take a lot of answering. Of course, we realised that on paper at least, the old 650S had the measure of its key rivals, but something was perhaps missing in terms of drama. The 720S doesn't try to ape an Italian rival, instead doing its own thing, but it's certainly a potent weapon. It's super stiff in the chassis and offers a breadth of abilities that is almost unprecedented in this sector.
McLaren is sometimes portrayed as a high-handed, somewhat arrogant company that knows it knows best. The 720S proves beyond any doubt that this is just a lazy stereotype. McLaren listens - and listens to the people that count: its customers. The 720S is a combination of a wishlist of 650S improvements from buyers and the latest in mind-warping technology from Woking. It works. Beautifully.Click here to find out more about our McLaren 720S range