When McLaren first unveiled the 720S in 2017, it was instantly crowned the world’s greatest supercar. It was the culmination of McLaren Automotive’s fast-track production development journey that only began in 2010, but after the ever-improving and increasingly successful launches of the 570S, 675LT, and P1, it was the release of the 720S that would leave the competition staring slack-jawed at the drop-dead gorgeous silhouette and other-worldly mechanical mastery created by the wizards of Woking.
That it was the best-looking McLaren ever made was obvious. A combination of schoolboy doodle and aerodynamic architecture, it had the stance of a jetfighter (complete with an all-glass cockpit), the sleek, flowing lines of a great white, and the poise of a side-winder missile in-flight. The 4.0-litre V8 engine produced over 700 brake, delivering a 0-62mph time of less than 3 seconds and a top speed of 212mph. It was also lightweight, everyday driveable, and ergonomically elegant.
More than just a replacement for the 650S, the 720S brought not just new architecture but an all-new design language for the brand. When it came to building it, McLaren claimed that 91 per cent of the car was brand new. Unlike other manufacturers, McLaren are unencumbered by tradition and old-school reputation. Instead, they are empowered and emboldened by creative freedom and engineering brilliance.
“What makes McLaren unique is that the story starts with a unique process,” explains McLaren Automotive’s Design Director Robert Melville. “We work hand in hand with design and engineering. There's nothing on there which is decoration. Our design philosophy is to do everything for a reason. We take only what you need and make it beautiful. We’re not about trends.”
It was so good in fact that, in a quest to find fault, motoring journalists took to complaining that the 720S lacked a little soul. It was too easy to drive, they muttered. Too pretty for its own good. And actually, it might just be too… perfect. One scribe was so desperate to nit-pick he found fault with the brake pedal. Apparently, it was a bit stiff.
McLaren listened to all those “criticisms” and did what any true carmaker at the top of its game would do… they disregarded the gossamer-thin grumbles and poured all their efforts into creating a newer, even cleverer version: the 720S Spider, aka the world’s most complete convertible supercar. How do you improve on perfection? When you’re McLaren, you blow the bloody roof off, or course.
For a start, McLaren made the car’s carbon-fibre core even better. Upgrading to the Monocage II-S was necessary to accommodate the retractable lightweight hard-top roof, and at a cost of just 49kg more than the coupe, worth every gram. The Spider is the lightest car in its rather exclusive division.
Of course, there is a speed price to be paid for owning the 720S convertible. With the roof up, you can still get to 62mph in 2.8 seconds, and keep going all the way to 212… but the 0-124mph split takes 7.9 seconds – a tenth of a second slower than the coupe. That’s right, a whole 0.1 of a second. Cancel your order now!
Taking the unique triple-patented roof down takes just eleven seconds and can be lowered at a speed of up to 31mph, and once stowed the topless 720S will still be capable of travelling at over 200mph. And because of McLaren’s attention to detail, you will also notice that the Bowers & Wilkins audio system has been adjusted so that you can hear your Dave download just as clearly as in a closed cab. You might prefer to listen to that blood-curdling brumble, especially when in “Track” mode (“Comfort” and “Sport” sound pretty good too), but it’s nice to know you have the option.
The real joy of the 720S, though, is the pure driving pleasure it elicits… no matter what the speed. Find yourself stuck in traffic and it will glide along with the gentility and patience of a Crufts show-pup. Find yourself with an open road or a racetrack, however, and it will defy the laws of physics (McLaren calls it Variable Drift Control, correcting any carelessness on the driver’s part with witchcraft and wonder) and delight the senses in equally outrageous measure.
“It’s about drama, it’s about theatre, but it’s also about engagement and fun,” says Melville, with a knowing smile.