By definition, a Grand Tourer (GT) is the amalgamation of speed, luxury and comfort—a sports car with enough storage space to support multi-day road trips. Fans of McLaren will recall 2016’s 570GT release, the third installment of the model’s iterations—with the 570S and 570S Spider predating it. The new McLaren GT, presented in motion for the first time last week at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, was designed and engineered to be a true GT and, in turn, it opens the door to a customer segment outside the typical speed-loving, track-driving McLaren owner.
For the automaker, “The mission of that car, the 570GT, was to see if customers would understand McLaren stretching itself into the GT segment. [It was] lightweight and had great aerodynamics. Where we had constructive feedback was in regard to the usable luggage area and the ease of access to that area,” McLaren Design Director, Robert Melville says. The 570GT release was impressive for its ambition, but a true McLaren GT model could go even further.
The new McLaren GT is undoubtedly a GT from the start. A lightweight body made from carbon fiber structuring is topped with aluminum panels. There’s abundant storage space for a car of this stature. The interior forgoes racing-influenced ergonomics for greater comfort. Inside, a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged McLaren V8 flexes 465 pounds of torque. And it’s simply gorgeous—a balanced design that is clearly McLaren, yet less outrageous.
Melville continues, “We’ve made this car its own sort of category. It has its own clearly defined character and visual look. We’ve dropped the engine 100 millimeters to massively increase the luggage space, the ride and handling, and it’s ultra-refined. We really listened to the feedback, and we’ve gone out and created all those points.”
McLaren, as it does with each release, applied painstaking precision to its construction and performance testing—though this model is their most everyday, driver-friendly. “The modern-day products that call themselves GT are typically fairly heavy cars, which doesn’t go well with dynamic driving. The original recipe is that lightweight body, lots of power, two seats, streamlined design, engaging and fun. We [the auto industry] kind of lost sight of it. GT cars are going heavier, bulkier—and weight’s the enemy of any dynamic driving experience. If you’re going along mountain passes or driving down the coast, that engagement, that emotional connection, is what it’s really about.”
Of course, the GT isn’t reserved for cross-continental journeys; it can be a daily driver too. “It can go under the radar a bit more,” he explains. “It is not as exotic and it’s incredibly elegant. And that elegance versus exoticness allows it to fit in as a day-to-day car.” And yes, you can still take it to the track if you so wish.
Though the GT resembles the Speedtail, this release is embedded with new DNA. There are 20.1 cubic feet of rear luggage space, which can be accessed through a front-hinged, full-length rear tailgate (with optional electric-powered motors). For visual reference, there’s plenty of room for bags, golf clubs or skis. The nose storage space (aka “frunk”) is big enough to hold a pair of roll-aboard bags. Inside there’s a revamped infotainment system—McLaren’s most advanced and accessible yet—that affords a suite of entertainment amenities, seamless navigation tools and real-time traffic updates. On the outside, there’s ample room from the ground to allow drivers to traverse urban environments without worry—though on an open road, it can still get to 124mph in just nine seconds.
“It’s important for us to have strong brand recognition behind it all,” the company’s Head of Product Management, Ian Digman, tells us. “You’re buying into the McLaren brand. You’re buying into the technology, you’re buying into the fact that we’re a young company, buying into the racing heritage. You’re buying into the fact that we’re a little bit entrepreneurial and off the mainstream.”
It’s very important to make sure we have all the McLaren-ness within that product, but in a very, very different product type than one we’ve done before
Regarding the current GT model being launched, he says, “It’s very important to make sure we have all the McLaren-ness within that product, but in a very, very different product type than one we’ve done before. Hopefully, in people’s minds, when they think about McLaren GT, they’re already half the way to understanding what the product is because they know what McLaren stands for.”
Even those who are well-versed in McLaren vehicles may not entirely understand the other half of the equation. Digman says many people are still unaware of what a GT truly is. “That is exactly why McLaren has come in and done this. We’ve looked at the Grand Tourers that are on the market and where Grand Touring originally came from. The vehicles have evolved to a position that is very different from that original ethos. If you go all the way back to the 1950s, 1960s, they were continent-crossing. They were beautiful. They were competition levels of performance. And over time, they’ve gotten a bit bigger, a bit heavier, bit slower, less agile. The McLaren GT is actually going back to what Grand Tours originally stood for.” Instances of this include optional cashmere seats, paneling and door pockets and a NASA-developed super-fabric for the luggage area that’s luxurious, contemporary and durable.
McLaren approached their GT with a reductionist lens. “Within the design team itself, we all closely followed this kind of design philosophy of ‘everything for a reason,'” McLaren Head of Color and Material, Jo Lewis says. “Within the product, whether it be development of a material or design, it has to have a meaning or a function.” But, that doesn’t mean that the design team was dissuaded from taking risks—ultimately, doing so is what makes their GT so dually authentic and unique. “Being brave and being bold is something that Rob [Melville] always pushes us to do. Don’t be scared about presenting ideas. Nothing’s a bad idea. Let’s try to do something different and challenge them all.”
The 2019 McLaren GT (which starts at $210,000) is available for pre-order now and vehicles will ship later this year.