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McLaren GT
Click to view picture gallery“McLaren and GT. Two words
  evocative of high performance.
  And they come together with
  sublime harmony in this sizzling
  British supercar...”


GREAT. I'm at Millbrook Testing Ground to drive the latest McLaren range and there's snow on the ground. OK, the snow is lurking to the sides of the track — mercifully the tarmac itself is clear. But you get the picture: the road surfaces are cold, damp, and greasy — either the worst conditions for a test or, as I'm quickly coming to realise, the best.

After all, this is the real world that many owners of a McLaren GT will be facing. The GT, you see, is McLaren's 'practical' model, a grand tourer that begs you to put in the miles all year round, whatever the weather. While in most supercars I'd balk at the thought of an icy winter test, the McLaren instantly puts me at ease.

Perhaps that's because today I'm certainly not going to trouble Track mode, the most extreme of the three driving settings you can select using the Active Dynamics Panel on the centre console.

The GT is McLaren’s
‘practical’ model, a grand tourer that begs you to put in the miles all year round, whatever the weather. While in most supercars I’d balk at the thought of an icy winter test, the 203mph, 620bhp McLaren instantly puts me at ease...”
Instead I waft off in Comfort mode, which keeps things, well, comfortable and surprisingly refined. Even in this mode, the GT feels like a pukka McLaren around the tight, twisty corners of Millbrook's Alpine track. I'm driving the GT back-to-back with a 720S Spider, which is a tough act to follow as the latter is possibly my favourite road- going supercar, full stop (I drove one a couple of summers ago and it was absolutely sublime on hot tarmac).

Yet the GT holds its own, biting into bends like a snapping terrier, its steering (thankfully hydraulic hats off to McLaren) offering all the feel you need. There's almost no body roll and the rear-end faithfully follows the line you choose. The GT only feels remotely 'soft' on Millbrook's high-speed bowl, where the more supple action of the suspension makes the car float a little more than the 720S. However, the welcome flipside is a level of ride comfort that's unparalleled among supercars (well, this side of a Maserati MC20, at least I drove one the week before the McLaren and it's the only rival that in this department has the GT licked).

Sport mode changes the exhaust sound to something a bit more visceral, but it's never antisocial. After all, this is a GT and it's intended to be liveable on a daily basis. That said, I'd personally like something that gets the adrenaline flowing a tad more, as the exhaust doesn't really excite aurally.

The shifts in McLaren's seven-speed 'Seamless Shift Gearbox' an automatic, of course also become sharper in Sport mode. As always when there are paddle-shifters to play with (I find myself changing gear manually pretty much all the time), it just makes you feel more engaged in the driving experience.

That said, I suspect that most GT drivers will defer to automaton mode, as it's not only easy to drive but very smooth too. That's because day-to-day comfort is deliberately dialled into this car. And the GT is easier to climb aboard than most supercars, although still not straightforward. The scissor doors open up pretty easily, you don't have to stoop so low as you do for the 720S, and the seats are surprisingly comfortable and offer plenty of headroom for my 5ft 8 frame (although I suspect very tall passengers might struggle). The driving position is well-judged and visibility the bugbear of the supercar genre is much better than you have any right to expect.

The GT uses basically
the same 4.0-litre twin-
turbo V8 engine as its big
brother, the 720S.
Peak power is 620hp
and the GT’s torque
curve is tuned for
flexibility rather than
outright punch.
That’s far from a downer
on driveability though
because in a car
weighing 1,530kg
that 620hp serves up
some exceedingly
feisty figures: standstill
to 62mph takes just 3.2
while 0-124mph is
clocked in a mere nine
seconds...”
There are other aspects in which the GT shines in terms of just how usable it is. The boot space is tremendous by mid-engined car standards: 570 litres (420 behind the engine; an extra 150 up front). By contrast, the Maserati MC20 manages just 150 litres in total. Topping all that, the GT's cabin is ergonomically designed with a comfortable ambience; not perhaps to the same levels of quality as, say, Bentley, but still very habitable.

So, what about performance? The first thing to say about the GT is that it uses basically the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine as its big brother, the 720S, although peak power of 620hp is 100hp less at and the GT's torque curve is tuned for flexibility rather than outright punch. That's far from a downer on driveability though because in a car weighing 1,530kg that 620hp serves up some exceedingly feisty figures: standstill to 62mph takes just 3.2 while 0-124mph is clocked in a mere nine seconds.

McLaren has lined up Millbrook's mile-long straight for me to tackle, and despite the light drizzle and greasy tarmac the GT proves to be far easier to get off the line than the 720S, and is grippier as I move up the gears but yes, there's still wheelspin at 100mph…

There's no way I'm going to savour the claimed top speed of 203mph today, but I do spot the speedometer approaching 150mph before the looming barriers at the end of the straight force me to do some hard braking. Wow! This car really comes to a halt in a reassuring manner, with huge stopping power from the carbon discs and a very feelsome pedal.

Overall, the 203mph McLaren GT is probably the most chilled and relaxed supercar there is, the sort of car you could happily contemplate using regularly, year-round, and over long distances. It's not quite an everyday machine but if you're looking for comfort and usability to go alongside blistering pace, the GT is a tremendously appealing package. Priced at £163,000, it's also great value the closest rival to the GT is Maserati's MC20 and that costs around £24K more. ~ Chris Rees
.
McLaren GT
| £163,000
Maximum speed: 203mph | 0-62mph: 3.2 seconds | Test Average: 23.7mpg
Power: 620bhp | Torque: 465lb ft | CO2: 270g/km

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