A rare chance to enjoy back-to-back drives in two McLaren models arose during a unique event for the motoring media.

McLaren: The Drive 2021 provided the opportunity to compare and contrast the GT and the 720S Spider on the test tracks at Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire.

First, I got behind the wheel of the McLaren GT - a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 machine with bags of appeal

Shane Harman, Product Planning Manager at McLaren, explained that the GT was the entry point to the McLaren range, describing it as a “mid-engined supercar” that offered enough practicality for everyday use.

And there’s no question that the designers have used the space wisely to allow a lot more luggage space than you’d expect when you first set eyes on the vehicle.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The McLaren GT

But it was the performance of this grand tourer that left the biggest impression, with the GT simply devouring Millbrook’s undulating and twisty Alpine circuit.

Great poise, balance and agility through the corners is matched by blistering acceleration when the road straightens.

The power and torque feels to be available instantly, regardless of where you are in the rev range, with substantial throttle inputs accompanied by an awesome engine note.

With 620PS on offer and weight of just 1,530kg, acceleration is blistering, with the sprint from 0-62mph taking just 3.2 seconds and 0-124mph achieved in nine seconds.

On Millbrook’s straight mile, it was interesting to see how the car felt under such heavy acceleration. With so much power being put down, I might have expected the occasional twitch, but the GT displayed reassuring straight-line stability, proving equally stable under heavy braking.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Next it was onto Millbrook’s banked oval track, where a prolonged spell of 100mph driving demonstrated the GT’s refinement at higher speeds.

Ride comfort was excellent, while the lack of wind and road noise was admirable. When you factor in the different drive modes available, the GT seems to offer a nice blend of body control and comfort. It could, perhaps, be described as a supercar with the edges rounded off.

While the GT – starting from £163,000 – would satisfy most people’s need for speed, McLaren has something even faster available in the form of the 720S Spider, starting from £245,700.

Mr Harman described the 720 as the lightest car in the range “which helps with acceleration, braking and handling.”

He said the tech on the car was “market leading” at launch in 2017 and “still is today.”

McLaren is clearly proud of the fact it was the first to roll out the carbon fibre monocoque, dubbed the Monocage II – a rigid and light-weight structure around which the rest of the car is built.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The McLaren 720S

Putting the 720S through the same tests as the more subtle GT, the best conclusion seemed to be that the former did everything the latter could do – only faster, sharper and even more sportier.

Indeed, this is without doubt a full-throttle supercar, but with the bonus of a retractable roof to allow you to enjoy the open air experience.

Active aerodynamics make for a superb driving experience in terms of handling – and you really feel the benefit of that extra downforce when cornering at speed. When slowing down with urgency, the rear wing comes up and acts as an air brake – another endearing characteristic.

In sports mode, you can't help but smile at the way the seven-speed SSG transmission blips down on the approach to corners in eager anticipation of a burst of acceleration. When you do step on the throttle, there’s 720PS on tap, meaning 0-62mph is achieved in 2.9 seconds, with 124mph reached in just 7.9 seconds.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Patrick GOSLING

Prior to the test drive, Mr Harman had stressed that the 720 was "all about the driver", so switchgear had been kept away from the steering wheel. Out on the track, I could really see the sense in this approach – the fewer complications on the steering wheel the better when cornering with such gusto.

The ability to enjoy all that performance alongside the open air experience is bound to appeal to some - and it's a simple enough process to get the roof down.

The fully electric roof can be retracted in just 11 seconds at a speed of up to 31mph, with eight motors working together to perform the task so swiftly.

The fact it's a single-piece roof means the option of a glazed roof is also available.

In terms of the steering mechanism, Mr Harman pointed out that McLaren remains "proud" of its hydraulic steering, at a time when others have chosen a different route.

From my experience at Millbrook, I'd say McLaren's decision to stick with hydraulic steering was a shrewd one. It's accurate, direct, beautifully weighted and offers excellent 'feel'.

In conclusion, McLaren has produced two gems in the form of the GT and 720S – and it was quite something to put them to the test in safe surroundings!


ENGINE: 4-litre twin turbo V8

POWER: 620PS at 7,500rpm



0-62MPH: 3.2 seconds

TOP SPEED: 203mph

STEERING: Electro hydraulic; power assisted

ECONOMY: 23.7mpg

EMISSIONS: 270g/km

PRICE: From £163,000

FACTFILE: 720S Spider

ENGINE: 4-litre twin turbo V8

POWER: 720PS at 7,500rpm



0-62MPH: 2.9 seconds

TOP SPEED: 212mph

ECONOMY: 23.3mpg combined

EMISSIONS: 276g/km

PRICE: From £245,700