McLaren GT 4.0 V8 Review
McLaren For The Everyday

Text by James Wong; Photos by James Wong and Clifford Chow
16 Oct 2020
 

"The GT utilises a bespoke MonoCell II-T monocoque carbon fibre cell made specially for it, the T denoting ‘Touring’..."

Ever craved for a more refined and comfortable McLaren? Apparently you’re not alone. This group of potential customers was sizable enough that McLaren produced the McLaren GT, a model that delivers ‘supple’ ride quality and is McLaren’s most fuel-efficient car. Although the McLaren range may appear confusing at times, the GT occupies a clear niche that it is the easiest to live with every day. 

It wasn’t an empty claim. The GT utilises a bespoke MonoCell II-T monocoque carbon fibre cell made specially for it, the T denoting ‘Touring’. This is key in giving the GT looks that are inspired by the McLaren Speedtail, the GT being longer than any Sports or Super Series model. Its teardrop shape has been elongated, allowing the creation of a new 420-litre luggage area below the full-length glazed automatic tailgate. Its 10-degree front approach angle (13-degree with lift) and underbody clearance of 110mm (130mm with lift) also gives unprecedented drivability in urban situations. A highly thoughtful modification to the MonoCell II-T is also a downward-sweeping sill that allows easy ingress and egress. 

Besides practicality reasons, the GT to my eyes is the most elegant McLaren on sale today. It presents a cohesive, flowing shape that is in sharp contrast to the wind-cheating extrusions of its sportier sibling, the 720S. The front is clean, almost petite. The side profile is free from unnecessary detail and the rear has minimalist tail lights, an integrated fixed rear wing and twin exhaust pipes. The surprise-and-delight feature has to be the dihedral doors that open upwards gracefully; they have been engineered to open with less effort. It lends the car an air of a supercar which would otherwise look a bit plain without it, but because of this vanity one has to be a little pickier about parking spots. 

A weak point of the looks? Some consider the rims a little too tame, but to me they fit the GT brief well. Interestingly, the rear 21-inch wheels are the largest ever fitted to a McLaren and they are shod with bespoke Pirelli tyres to reduce vibration and minimise noise. 

Inside

McLaren has paid painstaking attention to a perfect seating position with great forward visibility. The pedals and steering are not even an inch off where they are supposed to be, and the view out is so good even passengers commented on having a very airy, open atmosphere. 

Unlike other monocoque structures which can be intrusive to interior space, the MonoCell II-T was designed specifically to maximise it. The rear luggage area is one example of this, however it was admittedly more difficult to utilise than one may expect with its long and shallow shape. Your items also need to be lashed down, otherwise they will easily fly to the passenger cabin given the way the GT can be driven. 

However, interior space is generous for two. Together with unique seats that are optimised for long-distance comfort and support with extra padding, the GT is a very comfortable place from which to enjoy motoring. The drivers’ seat also has a thoughtful pouch just below the steering wheel to put items requiring easy access like your phone. Don’t expect the level of luxury of a Bentley, though - it’s still very austere in here, more like a high-end BMW or Mercedes. That said, if your wallet allows, I am certain McLaren Special Operations (MSO) can present to you a very bespoke interior, which this car definitely deserves. 

It would complement the 12-speaker 1200W Bowers & Wilkins audio system very well, which this example was optioned with. Although visually attractive with carbon-fibre sub-bass woofers and Kevlar mid-range drive units, the sound quality was more impressive than mind-blowing.

With an expensive audio system, it is a pity that the infotainment system is still a step behind the best the competition has to offer. There is at time of writing still no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, and there is still a hint of lag despite a new speedy processor. It is easy enough to connect a smartphone via Bluetooth or a wire, but one cannot help but feel McLaren should just outsource its development as it is not its strong suit. 

Another weak point is the car’s patchy build quality. The application of leather can be charitably described as handmade, while an intermittent fault with the passenger seatbelt warning and a near constant buzzing sound from the steering rack (apparently normal) doesn’t quite inspire confidence. 

The Drive

The GT uses a 4-litre twin-turbo M840TE V8 related to the one in the 720S, but modified specifically for the GT with low-inertia turbochargers and higher compression ratio. It produces 620 PS and 630 Nm, with McLaren claiming that the latter is distributed evenly across the rev range.

There is no doubt that all 630 Nm is present and correct, but what I am not so convinced about is how it is delivered. Yes, there is decent low-end pull and if you used it for the Takashimaya run, you would never describe the car as underpowered. However, when you utilise the full rev range, you realise just how much more turbo boost there is waiting further down the line. When it comes, it gushes in a surge and easily overwhelms the rear wheels eliciting a rabid instability. Yet, it takes a good 2-3 seconds delay before the boost really reaches its peak. Before then, there is a palatable, almost pregnant wait. This is quite surprising and is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is thrilling and gives a chance for the driver to feel the limits of the car. On the other, it could be easily misjudged and missing overtaking opportunities is an actual problem. This old-school power delivery is unusual and not what one would associate with an effortless GT.

Thankfully, you can have full confidence in braking when you need to reign in all that boosted power. Although initially feeling unnervingly unservoed, it increasingly educates the driver that it is actually the natural brake pedal feel that is missing now in most new sports cars out there. It allows easy modulation and is a joy to use hard. The steering also remains hydraulic, a standout today in a sea of electric steering options, and it feels exceptionally unfiltered.

The superlative ability of the GT though is its Proactive Damping Control (PDC) suspension. Using the most sophisticated version of the Optimal Control Theory software found in the 720S, the PDC can read the road ahead with sensors and react predictively in just two milliseconds. The car therefore rides genuinely like a luxury sedan in its most comfortable setting, while body control is hardly compromised thanks to the superior MonoCell II-T structure which allows reduced spring rates as well. Coupled with a reverse camera, great all-round visibility and ample ground clearance, the GT can be used every day without fear. 

Our Thoughts

This is a McLaren with a very different flavour. Its character slants towards something like a Bentley or an Aston Martin, yet it gives a level of performance that any cars from those brands can’t hope to match. The GT is for someone who isn’t that particular about handmade, bespoke luxury and prizes race-bred technology tamed for everyday road use. 

In Summary

We Like

Awesome handling; carbon cell is truly terrific and pays dividends everywhere. Car is a show stopper with its dihedral doors. Storage space is surprisingly good for a supercar as long as you tie down your items properly and if they aren’t bulky.

We Don't

After the expensive carbon cell it seemed McLaren paid less attention to the things that went on top of it - build quality is a little patchy, the infotainment still is a step behind and the engine lacks an effortless delivery and more character wouldn’t hurt.

Verdict

The ingredients are there for a bona fide supercar, yet it is as easy to live with as a cushy luxury coupe. It’s an enticing mix that could be even more attractive with a revised power delivery, more creature comforts and better overall build quality for something approaching S$1 million including options and COE.

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Engine

Engine Capacity 3994cc
Engine Type V 8
Power 612bhp @ 7500rpm
Torque 630Nm @ 5500rpm
Power to Weight 400 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 3.2s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 326 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 8.4 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 7 -speed SSG
Drive Type MR
Steering Electric

Measurements

Body Type Supercar
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(4683 x 2095 x 1213) mm
Wheelbase 2675 mm
Kerb Weight 1530 kg

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Ventilated Discs