Mcdonalds and McLaren have three things in common. First, it is obvious. Second, they both are very famous and third importantly, both cater to the hunger pangs in you and your adrenaline rush. The only significant difference is stepping out from a McLaren anywhere, denoting another three things – Rich, Speed & Famous or else buy one, and you will be famous. I flew down to Dubai and had the McLaren 720S Spider for three consecutive nights, which can be easily classified as solo date nights. Dubai is known for its glitzy skyscrapers, buttered tarmac and swankiest cars zooming.
Still, the McLaren in the papaya spark colour got its share of admiring attention from the Sheikhs to the cabbies with a wide grin from the valet whenever I pulled up in the star hotels. It was 42 – 45 degrees centigrade, scorching hot so much that the best of camera gear would have heat strokes before it had to be given CPR and brought back to life. But rain, thunder or sunshine seldom matter when you are cranking a machine named after its horsepower – 720 and which claims 0-300 Km in 21.4 seconds. This colossal claim describes the mental state of folks working in Woking, England.
Exteriors of the McLaren 720 Spider
The first time you look at it, you realise that it’s the McLaren which is actually looking at you, and that’s when I understood the Man Vs Machine love affair. It was already in speed even when stationary and the first word which will hit you is – Aerodynamic. It’s all aero. The design is nothing short of a painting like Leonardo da Vinci painted on canvas. Then McLaren picked that and took it to the body shop, installed an F1 engine inside, attached that to the Pirelli P Zero and carbon fibre tub and gave it a name – McLaren 720S Spider. This colour is called “Papaya Spark” – and rightly so, it has sparks coming out from everywhere to ignite your design senses. The doors are double-skinned dihedral jobs that open to 80°, and the doors eat into the roof. It will take you some time to do the calculations for tight parking spots.
Opening the door is an art. Windows roll down a bit, maybe 10 cm and a gentle snug with your arm swings the door skywards and has a soft door closure. The engine isn’t just visible through the rear screen, it’s also illuminated, and that’s where the love affair gets sealed. The boot space is quite practical from a supercar perspective in the front, and the single-piece retractable hard top roof is in carbon fibre. It’s a super-stiff carbon fibre tub instead of the aluminium monocoque, which is used by almost all its Italian rivals, adding only 49 kgs to the weight gain without compromising on its strength. This is now Monocage II-S which has alterations to the hinges and sealing as the door glass is now frameless.
Stepping in & Driving off…
Once you strap the seat belt and grab the steering wheel, which does not have much going, unlike the Ferrari with the lights and knobs, Manettino switches, Lamborghinis, which is heavier and feels more engaging to hold, whereas Maclern feels a little lifeless, all hydraulic and the more you pick up speed it gets stiffer and precise. The bucket seats in Alcantara are thoughtfully crafted with myriad adjustments to suit your body contours. I spent 15 minutes in all permutations and combinations with different buttons to get it to spot on. I don’t think its competition has thrown away so many seat adjustment options. The cabin is not luxurious like the S-class, but it will still get your heart racing.
The seats hug you well, and your driving position is such that you are looking up at everything but also looking well at things downright. The coolest piece of tech is the track mode that makes you focus with the screen sliding in to show you just the minimalistic things should be. Also, the photochromatic roof, which darkened the ambience inside with the touch of a button and was a great saviour in sunny Dubai. In its cushiest setting, the 720S Spider glides over everything and speed bumps like any luxury sports car. It also has a hydraulic lift that pops the nose a few inches to avoid scraping on steep driveways or while in the basement parking lot. Low Ground clearance of 107 mm was my only concern, but gladly it’s safe to conclude that in my 500 + Km drive, the underbelly did not touch anything except raising heartbeats whoever and whatever it passed.
One little concern is that the brakes haven’t been thought of; you have to push hard for the spinning wheels to stop – you can’t blame the McLaren engineers for this; they are brought up thinking about F1 circuits all the time. Even while pulling at red lights and because it’s so aerodynamic, the car sometimes automatically stays in slow motion unless you engage the parking sign. It’s safe to say that the McLaren 720S Spider is in motion even while stationary. It’s always ready like a loose cannon, and the accelerator is the fire. Just nudge the pedal a bit, and the 720S takes off. It’s a delight and amazement to see the performance; you just begin to feel airborne, and the twin-turbo spooling of the V8 with no turbo lag is perhaps the quickest in the business. With every gear change and increase in the red line, the tachometer oscillates faster than you can digest. It’s a seriously quick car which you have to be respectfully careful about, or you know this saying speed kills, but this speed will first make you smile, giggle, laugh and if you don’t slam brakes at the right time – surely dissipate you. The exhaust note flat-plane crank V8 has never been the most tuneful and is not the best in the business, the twin-turbo V8 does rasp and howl, and they have also given you the option of having the rear glass pulled down to have the noise seep in the interior, but I guess the Italians do a better job in sound engineering of their exhaust. To make this magic work, you will have to pay additional for a louder exhaust system. There are three drive modes – Comfort, Sport and Track and with the Variable Drift Control system, you can adjust the levels of Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control.
When you drive harder, the chassis hydraulic steering all wakes up. Even the Carbon ceramic brakes deliver a lot more confidence to this rear axle-biased mid-engined disastrously fun sports car. You could very happily drive around in the 720S Spider without ever knowing its true power. It’s just amazing at going slowly: there’s no drivetrain shunt or engine histrionics at low revs. Left to its own devices, it’ll be in 6th at 45 Kmph, and the ride on the cross-linked hydraulic dampers is uncanny. This system links the diagonally opposite suspension components, negating the need for conventional anti-roll bars. Instead, hydraulic AR bars are used to limit roll but flex under compression. The system delivers an engaging and supple ride quality.
A convertible is always more liberating and engaging, and there is something about opening up the hood; watching the mechanism in itself is a treat. McLaren 720S Spider is just that treat you can give to all your senses and rejoice in the speed of things it brings. Knowing that you can zoom past anything and driving dangerously fast are two different things, McLaren 720S Spider can’t be for everyone, and that’s why it is special.
Mclaren 720S Spider
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 710 bhp
Torque: 770 Nm
Transmission: 7-Speed Seamless Shift Gearbox