McLaren's new 570GT sacrifices focus for comfort and space. Good move or a compromise too far?
So, gone soft, eh, McLaren? Giving us extra luggage space, additional soundproofing, quieter exhaust, a more compliant ride... is this the beginning of the end for the most focussed manufacturer we know?
We're talking about the 570GT, the third derivative in the Sports Series, after the entry-level 540C and the more powerful 570S. Both are highly useable, highly credible competitors to the 911, the Audi R8 and Ferrari's 488GTB. But the idea of the 570GT is for it to be even more suitable for everyday and long distance driving.
To that end, the flying buttresses, upright rear window and part-exposed mechanicals of the mid-mounted, twin-turbo V8 are gone, to be replaced with a leather-trimmed luggage area and side-hinged glass access hatch for an extra 220-litres of storage space.
Swing open the dihedral door, and note how the sill of the carbonfibre 'Monocell II' tub is cut away and lower (by 80mm) than that of other McLarens, which makes a huge difference to ease of entry and exit. Extra strengthening across the tub compensates for the cutaway, accounting for 5kg of the remarkable 75kg that the tub weighs.
The GT gets an all-leather interior, with A-pillars moved further out and slimmer B-pillars and a panoramic roof, so it immediately feels an airier, more luxurious place to be. Electric column adjustment, electrically adjusted heated seats and parking sensors are standard too, and the exhaust is more heavily silenced – except on the Ice Silver example reserved for Octane on the world launch, which has the optional Sports exhaust. Mwah-ha-ha!
So we're off, onto motorway first, and immediately it's clear how much quieter is the 570GT over the 570S. At high-speed it initially feels almost too quiet, with mechanical noise at a minimum and road noise pulled right down. That's thanks in part to the new Pirelli P-Zeros, coated on the inside with foam that reduces noise by 9dB, and currently unique to the GT within the McLaren range. Bump thump is at saloon car levels with the suspension in Normal mode.
Onto twisty, bumpy mountain roads, and the GT is admirably smooth in Normal though shudders a little in Sports (and shakes out your fillings in Track). The suspension has been retuned by the McLaren engineers (even the adaptive dampers are manufactured in-house now) to be 15% softer than the 570S at the front, 10% at the rear. It's on these more challenging roads that it shows, so that despite the flat, voracious cornering, you become aware of the mass behind you shifting around in a way that you just don't feel in the S. Less obvious is the 2% lower ratio of the hydraulic steering rack – and yes, you read that right, because as long as McLaren's engineers view hydraulic assistance as superior to electric, then that's how the steering will stay.
And the engine? Just phenomenal, a high-revving 562bhp powerhouse that pulls from nothing but thrives from 4500rpm or so, whipping through the seven speeds with near-seamless shifts whether on auto or on the paddles, ever more aggressive as you switch (separately from the suspension) from Normal, to Sport to Track. Top speed is 204mph, 0-60 is 3.3 seconds.
So, has McLaren gone soft? Well... not really, just a little more civilised. For occasional use I much prefer the £143,250 570S, but there's no question that the to the £154,000 570GT is the one to choose if you're going to rack up the motorway miles (especially on the harsh concrete freeways of the USA, where McLaren is a huge hit).
And did we mention that this is the first McLaren to have a glove box and door pockets? Gone soft, see...
Words: David Lillywhite