McLaren 765LT: for those days when a 720S isn't fast enough

Published: 26 September 2020

► McLaren's hardcore 765LT
► Woking's latest Longtail
► Did the 720S need more power?

The excellent McLaren 720S needs more performance and driver entertainment like Alton Towers needs a scarier rollercoaster, but here comes the 765LT to take one of the world’s most extreme supercars to the next level – and take on Ferrari’s 488 Pista.

The headlines are 755bhp and 590lb ft (up 45bhp/22lb ft on a 720S), 80kg less weight for as little as 1229kg dry, sharper handling, faster lap times and a promise of all that tingly driver-focussed fizz that the Longtails do so brilliantly.

Why Longtail? The name’s inspired by McLaren’s 1990s F1 GTR Longtail racer with its lengthier rear end for higher top speeds at Le Mans. This is the third road car, after 2015’s 675LT and 2018’s 600LT. Glad we cleared that one up early.

765LT exhausts

The 765LT smashes 0-124mph in 7.2sec, slashing 0.6sec from the 720S’s madness. But it’s the 614bhp power-to-(dry)weight ratio (61bhp up on a 720S, 101bhp over a Pista) and the 2.5 seconds that programme manager Andreas Bareis says they’ve found round the 2.6-mile Castelloli race circuit that’s more representative of the holistic package of improvements.

How close is it to a Senna? They won’t say! Though Bareis will hint that it’s really close, if not quite there simply because the 765LT can’t match the Senna’s aero loads.

2.5 seconds over two miles!? That’s huge!

Certainly is – the fastest and slowest F1 cars at the slightly longer Austrian GP circuit were separated by 2.1 seconds in Q1 last year, so they’ve basically turned a Williams into a, erm, Ferrari, then found a faster driver. Kind of.

If you’ve ever driven a 720S on track you’ll know the extra power is probably a relatively small part of that gain, especially on a technical circuit like Castelloli – the 720 is awesome fun, if quite traction limited.

Nonetheless the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 gets forged aluminium pistons, triple-layer head gasket, extra fuel pump and tweaked ECU, plus there are stiffer engine mounts (more tingles through the chassis, sharper handling) and a distinctive quad-exit titanium exhaust.

765LT interior

The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also upgraded, with closer ratios, exotic 20NiCh nickel-chrome normally found in F1 for the final drive’s crown wheel and pinion, and a new downshift feature that’ll let you call for a downshift before the engine can actually give it, and then provide it as soon as it can without you clicking away at the left paddle. Top speed drops from 217mph to 205mph due to the shorter gearing, but you get there faster.

Crucially, though, there’s a sharper, grippier chassis to help deploy that extra go. The nose is dropped 5mm, the front track is 6mm wider (the rear is unchanged) and single-rate springs replace the 720’s dual-rate items, plus there are new dampers too.

Elsewhere you get the six-piston Monobloc calipers from the Senna – more feelsome pedal – and ‘regular’ carbon-ceramic as standard, though you can upgrade to the Senna’s CCMR discs too, which are 60 per cent stronger and shed heat four times faster. Finally and very importantly, super-aggressive Senna-style Pirelli Trofeo R tyres are standard. Slap these on a 720S and it’d gain a huge chunk of lap time.

Bareis tells us the 675LT’s electro-hydraulic helm remains a benchmark for steering feel for McLaren (and us), and they’ve done their utmost to reproduce that sparkle here – the 765 gets a quicker ratio, and a stiffer torsion bar for purer feedback.

How did they save 80kg?

The 720S is already lightest in its class with its carbonfibre tub, so shaving 80kg from that is no mean feat, and as ever there’s a little sleight of hand to the headline, with options and deleted equipment that you’d be mad not to add back in.

So the air-con system (10kg) and stereo (1.5kg) are no-cost extras, and you’ll need to spec the bonnet, front and rear wings and doors in carbonfibre to unlock the full 80kg, which are normally in aluminium. You’ll also want the trick, 12kg lighter carbonfibre Senna seats.

765LT static

But there are significant savings as standard, even if McLaren is shy at quoting exact figures for all of them. The stock carbon-shelled seats save 18kg, the forged wheels 22kg, plus there are no carpets, Alcantara for the interior, the titanium exhaust is 40 per cent lighter than steel, single-rate springs save 1.5kg, the lithium-ion battery is 3kg lighter, and there’s lighter glass too – thinner windscreen, thinner side windows (an LT first), and polycarbonate for the glazed C-pillars and rear screen.

Let’s say your typical 765LT will actually shed around 50kg, which is like removing two of the heaviest suitcases BA will let you put on a plane from an already very light car. Significant.

Is it actually longer?

Oh come now, not this question again, Longtail is more a state of mind, not a literal thing. But yes the Longtail is a bit longer, especially at the… front. The front splitter is some 40mm juttier, and there’s a new active rear spoiler that’s 10mm longer and with a 20 per cent greater surface area. McLaren also draws our attention to the rest of the aero package, including the front bumper, front under floor, sideskirts, and rear bumper/diffuser, the lot in carbonfibre.

Add it all together and McLaren claims a 25 per cent increase in downforce, but won’t reveal what that figure is. And no, they didn’t quote for a 720S, we’ve checked. Doesn’t hurt that the 765LT also looks exactly 25 per cent better.

765LT drift

When can I buy one? How much?

You can order your 765LT now and while the price isn’t confirmed, we’re bracing to expect a 30 per cent premium. That equates to £280k or so versus the 720S, though we’d bet on better residuals – go easy on the speculating, if only because the 675LT predecessor shot up to £500k before falling back to the high 100s to 200s more recently.

And more will be built this time. The sell-out success of the 675LT means 765 units will be produced, up from the 675’s 500-unit run. And once again, they’ll make a Spider too – bank on 40kg, another 765 units, and a circa £30k premium for that.

The first examples of the 765LT are being handbuilt now, including those made by McLaren's bespoke MSO division. McLaren has therefore shared an example of the 765LT finished in the 'Strata' theme; a three-colour paint job straight from the Fast & Furious franchise. McLaren says MSO technicians spent a total of 390 hours hand painting the design, which uses Azores orange, Memphis red and Cherry black. The brake calipers are finished in Volcano red, to finish the car off. 

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator