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New McLaren GT: Woking's Grand Tourer revealed

Published: 14 May 2019

► Elegant, refined and very fast
► Shares Speedtail DNA

► World debut today

McLaren’s range has grown rapidly since 2011, with each new model rationalised into the Woking filing system: Sports Series, Super Series and Ultimate Series. But now they’re gonna need a bigger filing cabinet, because there’s a new one that doesn’t fit any of those categories at all. Instead, it overlaps with both Sports and Super Series models, positioned as a more road-biased and practical GT. It’s called the GT and it’s on sale now for £165k – comparable money to a 570S Spider, aka the convertible Sports Series. With it, McLaren hopes to conquest Ferrari Portofino, Aston Martin DB11 and Porsche 911 Turbo S sales.

Doesn’t the 570GT do that job?

It did. That car took the 570S Sports Series recipe, then made it more useable with a side-opening glass hatch and dynamics softened a little for extra comfort. It accounted for 10-15 per cent of Sports Series sales, but McLaren says the GTreplaces it, and was developed in line with 570GT customer feedback. ‘Customers told us they wanted more differentiation, more power, and more luggage space, luxury and refinement,’ says Ian Digman, head of product management. 

The front of the new McLaren GT

Does it get an all-new architecture, new engines, a new 2+2 layout?

Actually no, it’s business as usual with essentially the same carbonfibre tub, mid-mounted twin-turbo V8 engine, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and rear-wheel drive/two-seater layout offered on every McLaren since 2011. As such, there’s a whiff of 2006 Lotus Europa here – a Lotus that basically borrowed from the Elise, Exige and VX220 parts bin, but added a more luxurious and useable twist. ‘Business class by Lotus’ went the tag, but no-one wanted a softer Lotus and it sold poorly.

Anyway… all the McLaren’s familiar hardware has been adapted for the GT. The tub is dubbed MonoCell II-T, which means it’s most directly comparable to Sports Series models, but features a new rear upper structure to accommodate extra luggage.

The McLaren GT from the top down

The M840TE engine shares its displacement with the 720S Super Series and pricier McLarens (Sports Series stick with 3.8 litres), but there are new low-inertia turbochargers to reduce lag, a flatter torque curve from 2500-7000rpm and a higher compression ratio. Gear shifts are also tuned for more refinement. 

It’s all aimed at making the GT more driveable at saner speeds, but it’s still no slouch, with 612bhp and 465lb ft, a predicted 0-62mph dash in 3.2 seconds, 0-124mph in 9.5 and over 200mph flat out. Those figures slot it between Sports Series and Super Series models, and beyond the benchmarked Portofino, DB11 and 911 Turbo S. It’s pretty light too, thanks to aluminium bodywork – 1530kg means it’s 65kg lighter than a 911 Turbo S, and just 32kg heavier than a 570GT

What about the suspension?

The GT gets the familiar double-wishbone layout, with coil springs and Proactive dampers (like 720S), which basically means the dampers learn from previous scenarios and predict when the same thing’s about to recur.

Expect, generally, a more comfort-focussed approach: a plush ride, braking and steering tuned for low-speed manoeuvring – read lighter and less responsive feeling – and that the hydraulic steering will have more on-centre feel to suit high-speed cruising. 20-inch front and 21-inch rear alloys are shod with bespoke P Zero tyres, developed for pliancy and reduced road noise. But McLaren still promises its trademark high-level dynamics and driver engagement. Wonder if they’ll offer a Sport Pack, as they did on the 570GT, which made the softer Sports Series harder like other Sports Series, but with a sleeker rear tailgate?

It looks… longer and higher

It is – 15cm longer than a Sports Series, but also 14cm longer than a Super Series to be precise, and there’s a more upright, horizontal look to the profile, particularly the higher bonnet line, and significantly longer overhangs. The payback comes with luggage space: a magician’s assistant could easily fold into the front boot, which is already pretty large at 150 litres. There’s also a further 420 litres in the rear, squeezed in by the longer silhouette and also an engine lowered 120mm versus a Sports Series.

The Grand Tourer is higher and longer than Woking's 570S

You won’t be tossing suitcases back there like you might a Focus, though, because it’s a bit of an awkward space owing to the mid-engined layout with a big hump in the middle. McLaren says you’ll get two sets of skis and boots in there, or a full set of golf clubs. This layout is probably why there won’t be a convertible, which is surely an omission in this segment.

There’s also more ground clearance – 110mm as standard, up to 130mm with the nose-lift raised – and an approach angle on par with a Porsche 911, so speed bumps and steep driveways won’t be such teeth-gritting moments. The market will decide if it looks good or not, but to me it looks like a clunkier Sports Series.

What’s the interior like?

It’s an evolution of 570S with a bit more class – dihedral doors still lift up, there’s still a tapering wedge of carpeted carbonfibre sill to step over, and you snuggle down into a very racy driving position on highly comfortable seats. The dashboard looks much the same, including the ‘floating’ portrait infotainment screen, digital instrument binnacle and cluster of controls between the seats.

Here's the interior of the new McLaren GT. Plush meets supercar

But trim including shift paddles, air vents and rotary controls is milled from solid aluminium billet, and there’s new infotainment said to be five times faster than the underwhelming current system, with HERE mapping and real-time traffic info.

There’s also an option of cashmere alongside the usual leather and alcantara, and a glass roof is optional, darkening with a touch of a capacitive button. Laminated glass and an extra focus on suppressing NVH should improve refinement to match the more luxurious feel.

Why is McLaren doing this?

McLaren sold 4806 cars in 2018, and has a target of approximately 6000 cars annually by 2025. Apparently 12,000 cars are currently sold each year in the GT category, making it twice as large as the supercar segment, so tapping that market opens up far more potential customers.

The new McLaren GT from the front

The question is whether buyers want a softer mid-engined sports car with extra luggage capacity. The reliance on legacy components leaves the GT between two stools: not as aggressive as a true mid-engined sports car, not as rounded as more conventional GTs with front engines, +2 rear seats, convertible options and a regular boot. We’ll build a better picture after a drive later this year, and only the market can give the definitive verdict, but first impressions suggest it doesn’t quite compute.

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By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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