Drive: McLaren GT

Looking out of the window, you see a strange mixture. Every year nature offers a seemingly incongruous spectacle. On the one hand, the sky turns into all shades of grey, and every now and then clouds of mist fall to the ground. On the other hand, the trees and shrubs show themselves in a beautiful play of colors from green, red, yellow and orange, before the leaves finally lie brown on the ground. So in addition to depressing weather, there are always beautiful sights. And it was precisely at this time that a supercar rolled onto our editorial parking lot, reflecting exactly this color scheme. From the outside, the “Storm Grey” paint job ensured that it blended in perfectly with the surrounding weather. On the inside, however, the car was finished in the leather color “Barolo”, a rich dark red. This prevented any gloomy thoughts from arising in the first place.

Supercar with a comfortable touch

What kind of vehicle it was is already clear from our headline. In McLaren’s now quite broad model range, this one occupies a certain special position. While the new Artura will be the entry-level sports car from next year on and the 720S is the spearhead of the non-limited portfolio, the GT is aimed at a different clientele. With a more comfortable basic design, it is intended to live up to the meaning of its model abbreviation. In order to offer sufficient storage space for long journeys (grand tours), McLaren developed the GT with a second trunk above and behind the mid-engine. For this purpose, the body was given an electrically operated tailgate that also integrates the rear window. The trunk extends the fill length behind the seats to the rear end. Added to this is the front trunk, giving a combined volume of 570 liters – more than in many mid-sized cars.

620 hp V8 biturbo engine

McLaren chose the Top Marques 2019 in Monaco for the world premiere of the GT. The new model had previously been announced at the Geneva Motor Show. It is based on the same carbon monocoque that is also used in the 720S and the limited-edition 765LT. At the rear, a completely new subframe extends to accomodate the engine while also providing sufficient stability and insulation for the trunk above. As a power source, McLaren uses the four-liter V8 biturbo engine that fans also know from the 720S. However, the power rating here is throttled back to 456 kW/620 hp and 630 Nm of torque due to smaller turbochargers. This power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The GT accelerates to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds and to 124 mph (200 kph) in nine seconds. McLaren states a topspeed of 203 mph. Due to the current fall weather, we refrained from an evaluation.

Active suspension provides comfort

We were able to make good use of the McLaren’s active systems on the other hand. As in all models, the GT has two rotary switches that can be used to adjust the handling and the powertrain. The handling switch changes the spring and damper rates of the active suspension called “ProActive Chassis Control II”, in which the individual wheels are hydraulically connected to each other. The “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Track” modes are available for this purpose. A total of 21 sensors measure data such as wheel acceleration, tire contact area and road conditions. This allows fine adjustments to be made to the dampers in milliseconds. It works so well that the GT undoubtedly qualifies for long distance cruises. New comfort seats with improved back support and comfortable padding in the shoulder are are also installed.

Illuminated McLaren lettering

The second rotary switch is used to influence the throttle response and shift times of the transmission. Here, too, there is a choice between “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Track”, or in other words between a punch, a kick or a powerful kick in the rear as soon as you step on the gas. There’s also a pushbutton on the rotary switch for manual shifting via the aluminium paddles behind the steering wheel, if desired. The two rotary switches are located on the center tunnel together with the start-stop button, the control buttons for the transmission and a few other buttons. Above them, centered on the dashboard, sits a seven-inch touchscreen display for operating all comfort and infotainment functions, including the navigation system. The 12.3-inch digital display installed behind the steering wheel doesn’t fold down at the touch of a button as in the 720S. Above the glove box is an aluminium strip that in “Pioneer” or “Luxe” equipment shows an illuminated McLaren lettering. It is part of the color-adjustable ambient lighting.

Acoustically restrained to powerful

It may seem odd, but the restrained sound of the McLaren GT in automatic mode certainly suits the targeted buyer group. When traveling across Germany or even across Europe in a vehicle, one is quite happy not to have to endure a roaring exhaust. On the other hand, the V8 engine is clearly audible when needed and during powerful acceleration maneuvers, as are the pressurizing turbochargers. Due to the transmission shifting up early in automatic mode, McLaren has to put up with the question why fuel consumption values below 10 liters per 100 kilometers can’t be realized even with restrained rolling at around 130 kph (81 mph). Some competitors with similar power values can do better. However, they may not conjure such a broad grin on the driver’s face on narrow, winding country roads.

198,500 € base price in Germany

Thanks to the “Pioneer” equipment package installed in the test car, not only the seats and door panels but also the entire dashboard shone in the dark red shade “Barolo” leather. On sunnier days, this unfortunately leads to unsightly reflections in the windshield and thus possibly disturbs concentration on the traffic. Our recommendation here is to both McLaren and potential buyers: choose a black dashboard. In addition, the package also brings Alcantara areas in the same color, black contrasting areas and piping on the electrically adjustable and heated seats, an electrically adjustable steering column and the ambient lighting already mentioned. Thus the vehicle base price of 198,500 € (in Germany) climbs by 12,500 €. Added to this were further optional extras in this car, such as the 21-inch wheels painted in “Tungsten” or the electrochromatically darkenable glass roof, which raised the total value to 228,860 €.

Wide grin guaranteed – even in autumn

Surprisingly, McLaren doesn’t charge extra for the excellent Bowers & Wilkins audio system. With its 12 speakers, it provides acoustic delights, whether you’re a fan of classical music, pop songs or hard rock. But actually, the McLaren GT always invites you to enjoy driving with all your senses. It doesn’t matter whether you’re accelerating on the German Autobahn after a temporarily speed reduced zone, on narrow country roads with serpentines or maybe even on a short trip to a race track. Even in the dreary autumn weather, we could rarely stifle a broad smile to a grin. On the contrary, we wore it proudly. Maybe McLaren has a long-term test car to spare someday – we’ll gladly offer it asylum.

Images: Matthias Kierse