there is a reason there is a term “everyday sports car”. That’s because, typically, purpose-built high-performance cars suffer from a lack of usability: they’re loud, uncomfortable, and require ideal driving conditions. What’s more, they’re often devoid of the accessories we’re used to, and when they’re included, they’re usually not up to par.
It may sound like a small trade-off for being able to drive a top-tier car, but try spending over $200,000 on a car that makes you miserable half the time. With advances in technology and manufacturing, the line between sport and luxury has become blurrier than ever.
Making fun cars more accessible is a good thing, but they should at least be different from your everyday commuter. Few modern sports cars stand out as much as McLaren Automotive cars, so much so that I was a little worried that their latest car, the McLaren GT, would lose those special features as the car became more agile. While some rough edges have been ironed out, for better or worse, the luxury overhaul has been slightly overdone, but McLaren’s signature charm remains.
Nuts and bolts
The McLaren GT is a rear-wheel drive, mid-engined two-seater that is McLaren Automotive’s entry-level model. It is powered by a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 engine, an engine option found in other models in the lineup equipped with smaller turbochargers. This iteration reduces the overall power output but delivers power lower in the rev range, making peak power more available sooner. It generates 612 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
With the help of the launch control system, the McLaren GT can accelerate from 0 to 60 km/h in 3.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 203 mph.
Like all McLaren vehicles, the GT is built on a carbon fiber chassis, which contributes to its light curb weight of 3,384 pounds. It is also equipped with electro-hydraulic steering, which greatly improves the driving experience. It all relies on an adaptive damping system and 20-inch front wheels and 21-inch rear wheels.
Like the GT, this McLaren is designed for extended drives, and as such, its hallmark is the 14.8-cubic-foot storage space that sits behind the driver and above the mid-mounted engine.
It also features an active dynamic panel that allows drivers to customize the car’s behavior, a 1200W Bowers & Wilkins audio system and the latest iteration of McLaren’s personalized infotainment system. This is the heart of the McLaren GT user interface, located on a 7-inch touchscreen in the center of the dashboard. Along with entertainment features, it connects to mobile devices via Bluetooth, gives you access to several vehicle settings such as ambient lighting, and has HERE-based satellite navigation.
This screen is supported by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. Some of the above information is displayed on this screen, such as turn-by-turn instructions, although its main function is to provide immediate information about the vehicle’s behavior. The typical speedometer and tachometer are of course present, but there are also tire pressure gauges and other status indicators. This screen is configurable based on driving mode to better display more important information during track or dynamic settings.
The primary mission of the McLaren GT is that it is the best balance between the driving dynamics that McLaren vehicles are known for and comfort. Each sports car manufacturer tackles this particular dish with its own recipe, and for its part, McLaren Automotive puts a lot of emphasis on performance and little user experience. The McLaren GT is supposed to be the most affordable car, but thankfully the extra luxury doesn’t overshadow the McLaren’s signature minds underneath.
Sliding under the dihedral doors into the GT reveals a very performance-oriented cockpit. The two ergonomic seats are separated by a very small armrest, while the spacious interior is dominated by a leather-and-steel steering wheel with two shift paddles. Behind it is the aforementioned 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which can be accessed via one of the few levers that protrude from the steering column. A 7-inch touchscreen sits above the active speaker panel and drive select buttons, and Bowers & Wilkins speakers look out at you from the doors like a hawk’s eye.
All this is the first sign that the McLaren GT is not going to stray too far from its sporting roots: this cabin is almost identical to that of the 570S. Naturally, there are also small differences, including additional sound puzzlement. But you can move from car to car and hardly notice them.
The next is the feeling of how purpose-built the car is. All the luxurious touches can’t hide the fact that you’re sitting in a race-ready carbon fiber monocell.
The McLaren GT is not quiet. Once the twin-turbocharged V8 engine is up and running, it will be your soundtrack for the entire trip, Bowers & Wilkins be damned. From now on, the McLaren GT requires the driver to be focused on the driving process, as none of the half-mindless lollipops we are used to in everyday traffic will work. Steering feedback is ample, the brakes require a very heavy foot, and the athletic-looking sports car rear ends obscure much of the rear view.
When allowed to gallop, the GT accelerates enthusiastically and the feeling between all the systems working to keep the McLaren on course is palpable. Its electro-hydraulic steering responds smoothly to road conditions, and its weight gives drivers something substantial. This combination of systems feels more responsive to the all-electronic power steering we’re used to, it’s bulkier and heavier, but mechanically rather than just pre-programmed with motorized drag. The same goes for the suspension and active dampers, as it’s easy to feel how every detail of the McLaren GT is doing its job.
How it performs its task is also determined by the active dynamics settings. The two control and power knobs each have three settings: Normal, Sport and Track. Normal is the most compliant setting, giving the car the most comfortable ride with all the usual driving aids and the most manual engine. Sport makes the overall handling of the car more aggressive and loosens the stability control a bit, as well as increasing throttle response as well as the transmission’s proximity to lower gears. Track is McLaren’s most aggressive setting: Handling? Hard. Traction control? Turned off. Engine and transmission? Rampant.
One of the most remarkable attributes of the McLaren GT, which it shares with its 570S super sibling, is that it has very little electronic control. This lack of a computerized safety system requires a higher level of driver skill and thus makes precise maneuvers very rewarding, as well as making misses nerve-wracking. Think of the experience as somewhere between a Lotus Evora and an Audi R8 V10.
Live La Vida Macca
As exciting as it is to live on the razor’s edge with the McLaren GT, the intermediate parts give way to the usual supercar unfriendliness towards the user. A range of parking sensors and a reversing camera make positioning the precious GT much easier, as does the push-button nose up function, which is a huge relief.
It alleviates some of the usual daily frustrations of sports cars, but the true heart of the GT’s problems lies in the automotive interface.
Although the machine is good mechanically, its own developed operating system is a particularly obvious weak point. McLaren knows this. To be honest, it used to be worse.
The “Infotainment System II” based on a 10-core processor is faster and faster than the units found in previous McLaren vehicles. Familiar swipe and zoom functions make the touchpad easy to use, though finding the right menu is another matter entirely. More often than not, a co-pilot on the passenger side is required to give it the attention it needs, or have the driver pull off the road to sort it out. It might be something as simple as trying to select a music source, but it’s the most frustrating when it comes to navigation.
Despite the update, the embedded system still feels much less intuitive and limited by current standards. Enter an address and if it finds it, there are limited routes to choose from if there are alternatives. Deviate from the route, and he will stubbornly insist that you find your way back long before he decides to change the route himself. There have also been instances where we have been nudged by inaccurate road data, forcing us to turn onto roads that weren’t there, or sometimes failing to recognize ones that were.
Since the GT is not compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, drivers are out of luck when it comes to alternative navigation systems like Google Maps or Waze. Indeed, the large bezel touchscreen is sized and oriented to match a smartphone, and many times we felt like just sticking our own phone on it to find our way home.
That doesn’t bode well for a long-distance car, and the 14.8 cubic feet of storage space doesn’t work well. The extra space above the engine means everything on top of it is exposed to a lot of heat. It’s great for a couple of pairs of skis, but not as good for cargo like electronics.
The McLaren GT is a true sports car, and none of its low settings or bland details will ruin that. In fact, one could argue that they didn’t go far enough to significantly differentiate this car from others in the lineup or live up to its Grand Tourer moniker. This is definitely the case when it comes to his technology.
McLaren could keep everything mechanically identical to its sibling cars, and the GT could stand out with a more robust, user-friendly ride-focused interface, simpler mapping, larger screens for easier access, and 360-degree parking cameras. , and compatibility with more modern mobile devices, just to name a few of the features we’d like to have. In its current form, the $205,000 McLaren GT is a true entry-level sports car that sticks to the classics.
It provides a complete experience, but in terms of technology, it’s a step aside.
Credit: techcrunch.com /