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Behind the Wheel: 2021 McLaren 720S

Behind the Wheel: 2021 McLaren 720S

McLaren, as a brand, has held a tight grip on the hearts of many true blue auto enthusiasts for decades. Hopefully, your life journey has led you from posters of the iconic McLaren F1 on your bedroom wall, and saving digital credits in Forza to buy a pixel-rich MP4-12C; to being lucky enough to have one in your actual garage. If this is the fortunate position you’re in, then chances are, the keys you’re holding, will fire up the glorious 720S Spider.

As the retractable-roof version of the popular 720S, this topless temptress brings an open-air element to a design that was always begging for a clear blue sky and yellow sun overhead. The retractable hard top will tuck back in whisper quiet fashion with the simple press of a button. Will only make you wait 11 seconds, and can be operated while on the move. As long as speeds are under 50 km/h. 

The top may be chopped, but the rest of the design remains virtually unchanged in all its glorious form. In fact, thanks to being built on an incredibly strong and lightweight carbon-fiber platform, no additional strengthening elements needed to be designed to accommodate the retractable roof at all. As such, the same organic-design and high-flow exterior features that made the 720S the absolute stunner it is, remain with the Spider. A design that found its form through painstaking aerodynamic testing. Sculpted by the movement of the air itself, to keep drag at all speeds, but especially very high ones, as low as possible.

Image via McLaren.

On the inside, A strong platform like carbon fiber also means narrow A-pillars and compact buttresses, which results in great visibility out front, from behind, and even over your shoulders at those pesky blind spots. Here’s the part that will really cause a moment of cognitive dissonance. The McLaren 720S Spider offers seats that are both comfortable and supportive, and that can be adjusted across a wide range of driving positions to fit almost all human sizes. Not just for the short and thin. Over 6’2” and a little wide in the rear? Not a problem, there’s still a comfortable seating position for you, and head room to spare with the roof in place. To sum up this impossible statement, the McLaren 720S is a supercar. With good visibility and comfortable seating for almost all! You read that right. The impossible made possible.

In its interior design, McLaren takes a more minimalistic approach. Especially when compared to the wilder directions found in exotics like Lamborghini or Pagani. Though minimal, it’s also undoubtedly elegant and luxurious. Surprising touches are poised to impress, like a folding driver display that looks to have been lifted straight from a 90’s British spy movie. The leather is of the finest grade. Every piece of trim, button and knob is made of machined aluminum. Light and highly tactile, with a soft, luxurious luster. 

The very best material claims the most real-estate though, and that’s the same carbon-fiber used to make up the whole tub and frame of the 720S. On the door, around central console controls, in thick chunks on the A-pillars, hinting at the incredibly designed mono-cage chassis you’re perched on top of. Plenty of polished carbon-fiber pieces make their way to the exterior. Finding homes in rear fender and hood intakes, side mirrors and more. Try if you can to imagine all of that, with the stunning Belize Blue paint, that rear extruded aluminum subframe and diffuser, front splitter and gorgeous cast alloy wheels wrapped in sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber. The sum product will leave you weak in the knees. A thousand, carefully selected words still couldn’t fully paint the picture. But an actual picture can, so just see for yourself. 

Image via McLaren.

It’s clear that the McLaren 720S Spider looks every bit the part of a supercar. Does its arresting design pair with equally gripping performance? In short, yes. Yes it does. A 4.0L twin turbo V8 churns out a staggering 720PS. Both impressing and revealing the source of the car’s name. I learned early on to keep the revs up, as the twin turbos take a little bit to spool if you’re too low in the rpm range. Throwing so much power at a car that’s as small and light as the 720S, and it’s no wonder performance is blistering. The real surprise comes when one realizes that it’s also incredibly balanced. This is due, in large part, to a sophisticated algorithm that the 720S employs. Developed as part of a PhD study conducted at Cambridge University, the system is fed live data from numerous points around the car. Continuously monitoring the car’s dynamics, instead of driver inputs. Allowing it to always be a step ahead.

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In addition to this, we have three dramatically different modes that add to the driving variety and balance. Comfort will deliver a behind-the-wheel experience more akin to a luxurious grand tourer. While Track mode will unlock engineering tricks like Inertia Push technology. Which employs built-up kinetic energy to deliver a burst of torque as the next forward gear is engaged. Resulting in linear, uninterrupted acceleration. From relatively comfortable and compliant, to tight and razor sharp, the McLaren 720S Spider lets you have it both ways. 

The 2021 McLaren 720S is every bit as good on paper as it is in reality. Boasting excellent visibility, relative comfort, a jaw-dropping design and sophisticated interior. Mixed in with a driving mode for every mood and performance that will have every nerve-ending in your body singing. It just might be the best offering from the famed manufacturer yet.

Price as tested: $362.960.00

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