Test Drive: 2020 McLaren GT

A supercar cloaked as a continent-crosser, this new model is not shy on delight

At last, after months of replaying the moment McLaren unveiled its 2020 Grand Tourer (GT), we found ourselves behind the wheel of one in southern France. From the outside, the vehicle offers plenty to be amazed by. But once inside, the joy and innovation unfolds. It’s a balancing act of sorts: the GT indulges its supercar DNA, but with a softer interior to stray from its racing roots. And as a GT it offers more storage than any McLaren to date. By all means, this is still a supercar, but it does something few other models have: please the long-haul demographic by being less racetrack- and more road trip-oriented.

Being a mid-engined vehicle, part of the sense of comfort you feel when at command comes from the uniquely middle-of-the-chassis center of gravity. As the engine begins almost directly below your seat—a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that produces 612 horsepower—turns feel simpler but not limiting. You’re able to glide into them with more speed than you’d usually want to; a front-engined car pulls the driver into turns and a rear-engined one drags but the GT feels anchored to the road, allowing you to push the envelope while feeling safely attached to the pavement. Plus at high speeds, those turns render delightful butterflies in your gut as the vehicle seemingly pivots around your hips.

The aforementioned sense of comfort applies to the interior, too. The seats are a more plush version of McLaren’s typical offerings—we drove for over four hours with zero discomfort. The rest of the interior trades gauges, meters, carbon fiber and leather for optional cashmere seats, material innovation (a NASA-developed super-fabric for the luggage area) and luxurious simplicity—milled aluminum shifters included.

This theme of staying true to the manufacturer’s sportive DNA but slightly straying reappears throughout. Peering in through the chrome-trimmed windows proves just as exciting, even if what you find is extra room for luggage (20.1 cubic feet in total, when combining both the front and rear compartments) and a far less exotic body that forms around it. But to say this is a lesser version of any of their current models would be infinitely incorrect. McLaren’s GT proves to be its most drivable, albeit most tame. Although, the engine sounds superb and its acceleration is aggressive, but balanced—like a blade so sharp its cut goes unnoticed at first.

Blasting Fischerspooner on the phenomenal Bowers & Wilkins sound system and winding through the curvaceous mountain roads of southern France in a GT passing lorries in turns reminds us of a chase scene from a Bond film. Though unlikely that any buyers will put their GTs to use evading villains through the lush countryside, we imagine their days—a lengthy leg of their cross-country trip or their morning commute—prove equally worthy of a vehicle like the GT, particularly because of its ability to equally impress in straightaways and in traffic. It does so particularly because there’s a more subtle engine noise—which differs slightly between the two modes. Wind, when the windows are down, proves manageable and the car is easy to drive slowly and no more frustrating in traffic than any other car would be.

Culling comparisons for the GT proves difficult, though. It’s unlike any other in its class for a bevy of reasons: it’s lighter, faster, easier to get up to its top speed and derived from Formula 1 lore. It also comes equipped with dihedral doors, wide-stance air intakes, and all of the performance aspects McLaren has become known for—a top speed of 203 mph included. But while the company is confident in calling it a GT, this model further muddles the category’s already loose criteria by adding a supercar cloaked as a commuter into the mix.

The 2020 McLaren GT will start at $210,000 and be available in October of this year. Inquiries can be made on the company’s site.

Images by Josh Rubin