Is the McLaren GT a sports car, a touring car or the best of both?
The McLaren GT is a capable all-rounder, donned in sleek supercar garb. It may also be the last of its kind
The first thing to know about the McLaren GT is that it is clearly not a GT car. By McLaren standards, which you will soon discover are quite different from all the others, the GT offers a soupçon that is more practical than its sibling super sports cars. But at least for this writer, the ‘GT’ designation still evokes long distances, laziness, ultimate comfort and style, all wrapped up in a discreet overstepping of the norm.
This is a McLaren, so discretion is out of the question for starters.
From the barking of the engine to the dramatic two-panel doors, to the long, low body that feels like it’s dictated by the scoops and ducts and aero, rather than the other way around, the GT is sure to turn heads wherever you go.
Despite the carbon fiber wizardry used in the manufacture of the McLaren GT – all with a view to lightness and strength – this is ultimately a V8-powered sports car without a trace of hybridisation.
The GT is far from uncomfortable, but it fits around you like a glove, rather than enveloping you like a blanket. Instead, the focus is always on the road ahead, not the scenery or the lushness of the seats.
Being a McLaren, the car drives superbly and is effortlessly easy to drive, with McLaren’s 4.0-litre 600hp V8 putting it firmly in the bracket of ultra-high performers.
Effortless cruising rarely calls for a 3.2-second sprint to 100kph, let alone a top speed of 200mph, but if you control the revs and ration the power, the GT can Getting 30 mpg on highway rides.
The McLaren GT quickly becomes an expensive and entertaining toy, a device that defines you and your values wherever you decide to appear.
Should you come across some open, empty and exciting roads along the way, there aren’t many other cars you’d rather be in.
In any other reality, the McLaren GT is simply a very high-end sports car. Only when you compare it to the company’s other creations – the exceptional McLaren 720S – does it feel a little less hardcore.
In fact, the only real concession to touring of any kind is the extra luggage space you get under the glass liftback section above the engine. Of course, there is optional luggage on hand that is tailored to the somewhat unconventional space.
McLaren’s next machine is the upcoming Artura, a more ‘conventional’ sports car that also marks the arrival of a hybridized V6, a system that will power all McLarens for the foreseeable future. With a purer ‘mission’, the Artura feels a little less compromised than the GT. The higher handling and upward nose of the last car make it the ugly duckling of the series.
To be fair, McLaren rarely talks about qualities like beauty and grace, preferring to let the aesthetics speak for themselves. Like all luxury manufacturers, the company occasionally makes a notable taste deviation – the McLaren Saber, the one-off X-1, the carbon fiber-inlaid Senna – but its core products have always been aesthetically solid.
McLaren is at a crossroads. While its rivals have given a better indication of their future direction, the British company’s next moves are still opaque. The newly installed CEO, Michael Leiters, has experience at Porsche and Ferrari, both brands that took the plunge and ventured into SUVs as a way to complement the narrow margins of sports car construction.
In Porsche’s case, it was a masterstroke, making the company much more profitable and powerful. Ferrari has yet to unveil its much-vaunted Purosangue crossover, but the fact of its existence shows how economic expediency will always triumph over ‘brand values’. The Italian company swore blindly for years that it would never make such a machine.
So, could the next-generation McLaren GT be a high-riding hybrid crossover – or even a pure EV? Good as it is, the current car is hardly future-proof against the wave of electrified change. Smart money says McLaren is already well on its way to developing a credible high-riding EV.
However, the company set the bar pretty high, and even the very best of current electric drive technologies struggle to check every box. Balancing weight, range and performance is the current obsession of electric car design. Add to that the desire for supercar handling and looks, and that equation gets even more complicated.
By 2023, the first supercar crossovers will have arrived to reshape our definition of sporty design. McLaren urgently needs to be one of the key players. I