by Michael Frank
GT in theory stands for grand tourer—or “gran turismo,” if you prefer the Italian translation. McLaren, though, races in Formula 1 so their version still loosely translates as “Go Time.” Driving the $198,950 570GT ahead of the Goodwood Festival of Speed (just outside McLaren’s Woking, England, headquarters) this translation makes perfect sense. This is hardly a classic 2+2 (a la the Bentley Continental GT) nor is it close to as mild-mannered as one of the longer-lived GTs in the world, the Mercedes-Benz SL. Instead, McLaren’s claiming to offer a more refined supersports machine than what they’ve sold in the past.
Mind you, it’s still a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive weapon with a 562hp, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine mounted behind the rear seats. You’ll see 100mph in just 6.6 seconds; 124mph in 9.8 seconds. And like the S, the GT is exceptionally nimble, too, because it’s still under 3,000 pounds. (In context, that’s 700 pounds heavier than a Miata—with 3.5 times the horsepower.)
Not that McLaren set out to make the GT slow, just slightly milder than the S. To that end the GT’s springs are 15% less rigid at the front, 10% softer at the rear, and the steering, while still deliciously quick and precise in tight twists is a ristretto shot less caffeinated during lane changes at 100mph. (More on said triple-digit speeds shortly.) The key distinction between the S and GT is that the suspension and steering are less fatiguing, especially if you find yourself plying brittle English country roads that, unfortunately, resemble America’s very own crumbling byways.
In this case it helps too that the stock rubber is a more complaint Pirelli P Zero instead of the more brutal Corsas. You can firm the ride considerably, should you want, because—as in the 570S—drivers get Normal, Sport and Track settings that adjust active dampers. Likewise, you can also hasten shifts from the seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission via a distinct dial to toggle through the same three modes. As with the S, there’s no clutch pedal required, since you shift via twin carbon fiber paddles that neatly bracket the squared-off steering wheel.
Or tool along in Drive and escape for the weekend because McLaren’s 570GT has two more benefits the S model doesn’t: an aft glass hatch that opens to allow anchoring soft-sided luggage, like a garment bag, and a panoramic glass roof that’s slightly domed. This gives the GT cleaner lines and makes the cockpit feel airier, so on long drives you feel less confined. (Re: luggage—note that both the 570S and GT have a front trunk just large enough to swallow a small duffel and a 20-liter roll-aboard.)
Other amenities also soften the fact that you’re still buying a carbon-fiber-tubbed, gullwinged racing dart. The 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system is astonishingly crisp; the Nappa-leather-bound cabin is very tightly constructed, and you can customize it thoroughly through McLaren’s MSO program. We do wish the navigation system was less buggy, an issue we’ve found with past McLarens, but you do get the hang of using the center-console touchpad and it’s hardly more convoluted than what even mass-market brands pawn off as thoroughly consumer tested.
So, yes, in sum this is a genuine GT of a sort. But it’s still a faster and more intuitive-handling car than almost anything else you can buy.
On the M40, headed toward the McLaren mothership in Woking, we’re pulling a cool 130mph. The speed warning system has just barked, “You are over the speed limit!” The voice is English-accented and slightly peeved—like the shushing of a librarian. We ignore the voice, blasting forward into a spitting rain, cracking off gearshifts at 8,000rpm. It’s madness, and still we’re tempted to go faster. At lunch, McLaren’s Wayne Bruce, Global Communications Director for the brand whispers, “I shouldn’t tell you this, but the M40 is very lightly policed.”
The next day England would vote to leave the EU in the dust, and who knew what foreboding might be hanging over the local constabulary. Eventually that kind of concern leads to equivocation, the librarian’s chiding gets the best of us. We ease off the throttle, returning to “grandly touring” at a mere 100mph, chasing an Audi A7 and a twin pack of Porsches into the English afternoon, very sad that such a pace will have us at Woking HQ by tea time—to return the keys.
Images by Michael Frank