About 125,000 years ago, ancestors of today’s humans moved through an area in the middle of Europe. Many millenia later, the area was called either ‘das Gesteins’, ‘das Hundsklipp’ or ‘das Klipp’. In memory of the famous German hymn composer Joachim Neander, who liked to go hiking in this area, it was renamed ‘Neanderthal’ at the end of the 19th century. Due to the spelling reform for the German language in 1901, the ‘h’ was dropped. Already in August 1856 quarry workers discovered the first bones of the above mentioned early humans. After their scientific classification this grouping received the Latin name ‘Homo neanderthalensis’. In the vernacular they were simply baptized as Neandert(h)als (with and without h).
Off to Neandertal with 720 horsepower
125,000 years after our ancestors, I sat in my office in April 2021 and received an offer to test drive a McLaren 720S Spider. In the past few years, I have already been able to experience quite a bit together with McLaren. Trips through the Munich countryside in the 12C. Transfer drives from and to the factory in Woking, England, west of London. Or a beautiful tour with three cars across the picturesque Eifel to the Ardennes. This time the car was ready, but there was no fixed route. No reason to mope, because the aforementioned Neandertal is actually only a few minutes away from my home office. And blue paint in front of spring-green plants is always atmospheric.
Supercar suitable for everyday use
Despite typical German April weather, there were fortunately enough dry spells to warm up to the car. The seating position, feel and look are still filed away in the depths of memory. After all, I was allowed to drive a Coupé brother to this Spider to the UK two and a half years ago. As a nice contrast to the paint in ‘Burton Blue’, the open two-seater inside wears black leather with accents in McLaren orange. My hands run over black Alcantara on the steering wheel and the aluminium shift paddles behind it as I drive. It may be amazing to outsiders, but this car is fully capable of everyday driving. Higher curbs or speed bumps can be negotiated with relative ease thanks to a nose-lift system. The usual small purchase fit in the front trunk. Should you need a little more, you can also use the soft top compartment behind the seats when the top is closed.
If necessary, 124 mph is reached in 7.9 seconds
In normal everyday operation, all driving systems are left in automatic mode. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts into seventh gear at just over 31 mph and thus keeps noise and consumption pleasantly low. In general, the flaps of the optional sports exhaust installed here only open at higher revs. Annoyed reactions from neighbors and passersby are therefore limited. Of course, it’s always impressive when the 720 hp from the V8 biturbo engine kicks in. To put it in words: On dry asphalt, it accelerates to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds and to 124 mph in 7.9 seconds. Many a passenger rightly compares this experience to a ride on a roller coaster. Compared with the Coupé, the additional weight of around 50 kilograms for the folding, one-piece hardtop is hardly noticeable on the road. The British company also manages to keep annoying squeaking and creaking noises out of the cockpit. This is where the high-strength and torsionally stiff carbon monocoque pays off.
Extras worth a mid-range car
Visually, it’s only noticeable at second glance that you’re not standing in front of a full-fledged Coupé here, but rather a Spider. The test car has an optional glass roof, of which the transparent part can be darkened at the touch of a button. This allows plenty of light into the interior, even in bad weather. While we’re on the subject of this optional extra, let’s take a look at the rest of the equipment list. The basic version of the 720S Spider currently costs € 285,500 including German VAT. This car also has the Performance Pack (visible carbon and palladium accents on the outside), the aforementioned sports exhaust, the electrochromatic glass roof, carbon elements in the interior, the Alcantara steering wheel, an audio system from Bowers & Wilkins with 12 speakers, and parking sensors including a 360-degree camera system. Plus other little extras, the price adds up to € 345,780.
Pleased looks from all generations
Before discussions start that you can easily put a well-equipped family car in the driveway for that € 60,000: Yes, a typical McLaren customer probably already has one anyway. Buyers of a classic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL aren’t told what else they could buy for it. You simply rejoice with the respective owner and take pleasure in the sight of these automotive gems. This spark in the eye appears very quickly with the McLaren, especially with children – regardless of gender. In contrast to many an Italian brand, however, the Briton also collects plus points among the older generation – perhaps because it isn’t yet associated with too many C-list celebrities. During the entire time that the 720S Spider was at my disposal, there was only one negative opinion. However, this would probably have been towards any other car as well. It came from a cyclist who had to steer around the car during photo shoots.
Rear window serves as wind deflector
There is one refinement of the 720S Spider that I haven’t even mentioned yet. Should the weather not be good enough to open the top, you can still let plenty of fresh air into the cockpit. No, not through the side windows. The vertical rear window can be lowered individually at the touch of a button. This also allows you to listen to the four-liter V8 much more directly than in the Coupé. This makes every burst of gas, every gear change and especially tunnel driving a real pleasure. In return, it can also be raised as a wind deflector when the roof is open. The hair on the top of the head blows in the wind, but there is hardly any annoying draft on the back of the neck. If you lower all the windows, there is of course a draught. As a convertible lover, this is perhaps exactly what you want.
Would the Neanderthals buy a McLaren?
Let’s get back to the beautiful surroundings. Would the Neanderthals have bought a McLaren? Probably not, since the money system that is common today didn’t exist at all back then. The sheer power of the British sports car combined with its sound and looks would probably have driven our ancestors into flight. They would never have even guessed where the Homo sapiens race would end up one day. It looks at digital displays and is currently divided into the camps of car lovers and car haters. For the former, the McLaren is a dream that some can even fulfill. For the latter, it’s a nuisance like any other vehicle with four wheels. Since I belong to the first group, the last trip before returning the car was to a special kind of sports car meeting. For once, the McLaren actually represented the bottom end of the food chain here – so there are still dreams left.
Images: Niklas Emmerich, Katrin Kierse, Matthias Kierse