Much like the dating pool, the sports car world has room for all different shapes, sizes and types to fit different tastes. For every person who lusts after a stripped-down, racecourse-ready speed machine, there’s somebody else whose hearts is set aflutter by an open-topped canyon carver or a sleek, luxurious ride designed to cross continents in record time.
So with a portfolio already filled with track attackers like the Senna and the 570S Spider, British sports car manufacturer McLaren is turning towards the grand touring segment for its latest debut. Meet: the all-new McLaren GT. (Yes, that’s the whole name.)
What makes the McLaren GT so good for those long trips that define the gran turismo class? Well, like the best of the type, it balances comfort with performance with impeccable grace. For starters, the two-seat interior has been designed to keep its occupants cosseted on long journeys. Cushy heated seats designed specifically for the GT’s mission come clad in standard Nappa leather, with softer leather or Alcantara faux suede available as options. (Cashmere will become an interior trim option later this year, in a move certain to please George Costanza.)
A digital instrument panel with aircraft-inspired displays serves up all the relevant driving data, while a revised smartphone-inspired infotainment screen between driver and passenger handles most secondary controls. Knurled and machined aluminum controls sit ready for your fingertips’ touch all around the interior, including the drive mode selector knobs and the shift paddles behind the wheel. If you take pride in your road trip mixes, opt for the optional 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo; likewise, if you like to let the sun shine in, check the box for the electrochromic glass roof, which can switch from opaque to translucent with the pulse of a current.
A great road trip car needs to offer plenty of room for your gear, of course — and it’s here that the McLaren GT excels in unexpected ways. The cargo bay behind the cockpit is large enough to fit a sets of golf clubs or two sets of skis. And between that area and the frunk in the nose, the car offers a total cargo capacity of 20.1 cubic feet — 3.4 cubic feet more than the commodious Honda Accord.
And thanks to a maximum approach angle of 13 degrees and a maximum ground clearance of 5.1 inches (both with the on-board vehicle lifter engaged), the GT is a veritable overlander compared to most mid-engined cars on the market, hopping over potholes and speed bumps with the greatest of ease.
But GTs aren’t just about excelling on long trips; they’re about excelling on long trips at very high speed. To that end, the new McLaren comes with its own version of the twin-turbo V-8 shared amongst the carmaker’s whole lineup — in this case, a unit tuned to make 612 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, all of which travels to the 21-inch rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Sure, that’s less than in the likes of the lighter 720S supercar, but that doesn’t mean the new Macca will be anything resembling slow; the company claims a 3.1-second 0-60 mph time, with the 0-124 mph dash being dispatched in nine seconds flat. Top speed is 203 miles per hour, which would be fast enough to knock out the 2,813.7-mile Cannonball Run route across America in just under 14 hours if you could magically keep the gas tank full the whole way without stopping.
To keep things buttoned up in the corners, the McLaren GT uses a new version of Proactive Damping Control, the nigh-miraculous active anti-roll control setup that replaces traditional anti-roll bars with hydraulic dampers that adjust to counter body flop without delivering a tooth-shattering ride for an ideal balance of grip and comfort. McLaren says the latest version of its advanced suspension system can react in just two milliseconds. (For comparison: A .45-caliber bullet travels a mere 20 inches in that length of time.) And unlike most new cars nowadays, the McLaren GT still uses hydraulically-assisted power steering, often noted for its greater feedback versus more-efficient electrically-boosted systems.
Want one? Well, so do we, but there are two pieces of bad news we have to deliver regarding that. First off, the new McLaren GT starts at $210,000…which isn’t actually that bonkers, given the prices of competitors like the Bentley Continental GT and the Ferrari GTC4 LussoT. The second one hurts a little more, though, especially if you’ve been reading this story and dreaming of hitting the road for this year’s summer road trip in this Macca: While order books are open now, units won’t reach driveways until almost the end of the year. Guess there’s always next summer.