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McLaren 720S brings 530kW to the supercar battleground

BEN BARRY

A FEW minutes before McLaren’s 650S successor is unveiled, product development boss Mark Vinnels still won’t tell Wheels how much power it’s packing.

The old 3.8-litre V8 has made way for a 4.0-litre with new pistons and crank, new cylinder heads and new turbos with quick-to-spool titanium-aluminide turbines.

But Vinnels won’t let up on the suspense. “How much do you think?” he teases. I guess 500-515kW, a chunk more than the 650S and Ferrari 488 GTB; a small stretch beyond the 675LT.

Then the new Super Series bursts into the hangar we’re freezing in, driven by test driver Chris Goodwin.

You notice that it’s dramatically low-slung, even for a supercar, that someone appears to have forgotten the side intakes, and that the numberplate reads 720S.

In McLaren logic, that means this car has 720PS… 530kW!

Vinnels grins. “You have to recalibrate your understanding of performance,” he says, “particularly of road-car performance on track.” The figures underline that: 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds, 200km/h in 7.8 and a 341km/h top end.

“Power is one thing, but it’s the way the torque is delivered; it’s a massively impressive part of the car,” adds Goodwin. “The 12C mule we had was pretty lively!”

Since then, of course, the chassis has been updated to cope: 16kglighter wishbones and uprights, new geometry, new brain to control the familiar hydraulically interlinked dampers, new Pirelli P Zero rubber claimed to bring six percent more mechanical traction, even variable drift control.

Aerodynamics complement the uprated chassis and – along with cooling – help define the stunning super-formed aluminium bodywork.

“We’re inspired by nature, not trends, with everything here for a reason,” says chief designer Rob Melville.

“We wanted to take a step in our design language, deciding early on to have no visible side intakes, and we knew from P1, 570S and Can-Am cars that taking air from over the shoulder is most efficient.”

A double-skinned door provided the solution. It works like this: at the front of the 720S, the ‘eye socket’ combines headlights with an intake that flows air to the low-temperature radiators, before it’s evacuated down the scalloped door, a design inspired by F1 sidepods.

Air also flows around the A-pillars and carves down a hidden channel at the top of the doors, which also conceals the door handles.

The air flows along this centre

Dry weight 1283kg

0-200km/h time 7.8s

Peak torque 770Nm

A world of possibility

Modular design of McLaren’s Monocage II carbonfibre tub for the 720S has the brand considering additional body styles, including a 2+2 seater to rival the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso and even a single-seat track special.

section of the doors, slipping either side of the glazed C-pillar to intakes flanking the engine, cooling high-temperature radiators.

At the rear there’s a full-width airbrake and pencil-thin LED lights that free up space to vent hot air, much like the P1.

It’s a design that stops you in your tracks just as much as the power output. We’ll find out by May if that translates to a similarly giant leap from behind the wheel, and also debate the value equation of the $489,900 price tag. ipping d ngine, ators. n ent ps ch d lue ag. th fla tem airbrak fr you pow Ma gi a

They shoot horses

McLaren is also already plotting an even angrier, lighter and faster ‘long tail’ version of the 720S for a proper dust-up with the upcoming Ferrari 488 Speciale.

FLASH POINT

What caused controversy this month

Lambo’s ’Ring blinder

Lamborghini grabbed headlines last month with claims its new Huracan Perfomante lapped the Nurburgring in a Porsche 918 beating 6:52.01. However, shortly after releasing video of the lap, ’Ring experts Bridge to Gantry claimed foul play. Lamborghini returned serve releasing data from the lap. Here’s our take:

Alex Inwood

Editor “I’ll admit I was a sceptic, until Lambo took the extraordinary step of publishing the GPS data from the controversial lap. Now I’m a believer.”

Nathan Ponchard

Senior Journalist “I’ll start caring about tit-for-tat Nurburgring times once I have the ownership papers for a manual battleship-grey Murcielago LP640 in my hot little hands.”

Tony O’Kane

Senior Journalist “Fake news? Alternative facts? I don’t care.

The incredibly clever aero tech that Lambo’s boffins have cooked up for the Performante is the real story here.”

Cameron Kirby

Staff Journalist “Fellas, how about you come to Mount Panorama and smash the AMG GT R’s lap record? You bring the weaponised Lambo, we’ll bring the stopwatch.”