McLaren 720S Spider: A fleeting love affair with the Spider
My first experience of a McLaren was looking at the legendary F1 in the flesh. Fixating at the F1 through the showroom window is a fond memory. I have been fascinated by McLaren road cars ever since. A car company that is still quite young, but produces some of the most sophisticated sports cars. Sorry, supercars!
Over the years McLaren have continued to push the boundaries of what a car can achieve; the 720S Spider is their latest offering. The 720S coupé is already reaching legendary status, and now the Spider version has arrived. I had the privilege to sample the car ever so briefly, but however so briefly it was, the experience will be everlasting.
The 720S looks stunning; every single aspect of its design is fully functional and has a purpose, channeling airflow for maximum cooling, feeding the engine, increasing down-force etc.
The 720S Spider looks even more beautiful with its roof retracted. Electric motors quietly fold away the roof in just 11 seconds and put it back up in the same amount of time. It can also do so while driving at up to 50kmph.
The chassis is made up of a carbon fibre tub, which is super stiff and super strong, also making it super light with a curb weight of just under 1.5 tonnes. The 4.0lt V8 engine uses twin scroll turbochargers to produce 710bhp @ 7,500rpm and 770Nm of torque @ 5,500rpm.
The super quick seamless shift seven-speed gear box transmits all the power to the rear wheels and does so in a manner that has to be experienced to be believed. A mere 2.9 seconds from standstill to 100kmph and 7.9 seconds from 0-200kmph! Top speed with the roof up is 341kmph, roofless, 325kmph. Take that in for a moment - 325kmph with the roof down! Speechless and impressed, even though I do not think much of us will want to try it.
Even here McLaren have engineered the heck out of the airflow in the cabin with the roof down. Top down does not mean hurricane conditions in the cabin while going at speed. You get the right amount of open air feel without ripping your ‘khuma’ off. It is quite amazing how the 720S Spider does this and if you want the roof fixed and desire to have a more intimate sound from the wonderful exhaust note then just drop the electric rear glass. The Spider we tested had a glass roof which, with the touch of a button, can darken and reduce light penetration by 90 per cent
All-round visibility in this 720S is astonishing, seats are set very low down to the ground and does initially feel a bit uneasy. But it feels very snug after driving for a few kilometres. The rear view is very unobstructed.
If assistance is necessary then a real-time, full-view parking camera system is on hand to guide you to your spot. Driving position is perfect, the steering wheel fits the driver like a glove and is beautifully weighted, offering precise responses to manoeuvre the car smoothly.
Witnessing the famous rotating dash was quite a spectacle. Only when selecting the more serious Track mode is the dash activated and is just fantastic to watch. It also gives a good hint of what this car is truly capable of doing.
When you first drive the 720S, it feels very calm and well-behaved, without showing its great supercar performance. It’s very easy to drive slowly in this car with no fuss and no engine growls - 50kmph in the sixth gear was uneventful. This makes the 720S very special for, it has so much to offer but can also achieve normal everyday chores with ease.
Are we seeing an everyday supercar? Call it a bit of a supercar oxymoron.
Ride is low and flat yet comfortably supple and also good at communicating the differing road surfaces. But none of the harshness had a sporty suspension set-up. Instead, well-designed cross-linked hydraulic dampers work wonders for normal driving conditions.
First for me to test were those carbon ceramic brakes, aided by the rear spoiler for added braking performance. It means that 100kmph to standstill is done in an amazing 30m! I was driving at around half that speed and slammed on the brakes to experience some face stretching. I am sure the rear wing did deploy, but I was just busy being held by the seat belt. It stopped so well and offered very precise bite. Being carbon ceramic, it can perform this all day long with no fade.
Next for me to dabble in was the throttle. We were in Comfort mode for our test drive so I tried to see how well the response was going to be if I just put my foot down a bit more urgently. I was pleasantly surprised by how quick power was instantly available with a simple push of the right foot. Mind you, I only put my foot down by another 70 per cent, not daring to do any crazy driving on public roads.
This 720S is a seriously fast McLaren and goes round corners with a minute body roll. It feels planted to the ground - so easy to drive fast and so easy to stop fast.
McLaren have made the 720S Spider drive in all kind of conditions - with the roof up or down, slow or fast, track days or everyday enjoyment on normal, everyday driving. It even has a 150lt nose bay for grocery shopping. It has lots of space in the cabin for your phone, wallet, keys and cup space.
A very practical supercar that has a dual character so well-blended, so well thought, so well-engineered that it feels like McLaren have gifted us an everyday supercar that also happens to be a Spider.