Is McLaren’s GT a sports car, a tourer, or the best of both?
The McLaren GT is a capable all-rounder dressed up in svelte supercar clothes. It might also be the last of its type
The first thing you need to know about the McLaren GT is that it is patently not a GT car. By McLaren standards, which you’ll soon discover are rather different to everyone else’s, the GT offers a soupçon more practicality than its sibling super sports cars. But to this writer at least, the ‘GT’ appellation still evokes long distances, lazy power, supreme comfort, and style, all packaged up in a discreet excess of the norm.
This is a McLaren, so discretion is out of the question for starters.
From the bark of the engine to the dramatic dihedral doors, to the long, low bodywork that feels like it’s been dictated by the scoops and ducts and aero, rather than the other way around, the GT is certain to draw attention wherever you go.
Despite the carbon-fibre wizardry that goes into the McLaren GT’s manufacture – all in the cause of lightness and strength – this is ultimately a V8-powered sports car with no hint of hybridisation.
The GT is far from uncomfortable, but it fits around you like a glove, rather than enveloping you like a blanket. Instead, the focus is always on the road ahead, not the scenery or the sumptuousness of the seats.
Being a McLaren, the car rides superbly and is effortlessly easy to drive, with McLaren’s 4.0-litre 600hp V8 putting it firmly in the bracket of ultra-high performers.
Effortless cruising rarely calls for a 3.2 second sprint to 62mph, let alone a 204mph top speed, but if you rein in the revs and ration the power, the GT can achieve 30mpg on motorway runs.
The McLaren GT quickly establishes itself as an expensive and entertaining toy, a device that defines you and your values wherever you decide to show up.
Should you happen across a set of open, empty and exhilarating roads on the way, then there aren’t many other cars you’d rather be in.
In any other reality, the McLaren GT is simply a very high-end sports car. It’s only when you compare it to the company’s other creations – the exceptional McLaren 720S – that it feels a little less hardcore.
In fact, the only real concession to touring of any kind is the additional luggage space you get beneath the glass liftback section above the engine. Naturally, there’s optional luggage on hand that’s been tailored to fit the slightly unconventional space.
McLaren’s next machine is the upcoming Artura, a more ‘conventional’ sports car that also marks the arrival of a hybridised V6, a system that’ll power all McLarens for the foreseeable future. With a purer ‘mission’, the Artura feels slightly less compromised than the GT. The latter car’s higher ride and upturned nose make it the ugly duckling of the range.
To be fair, McLaren rarely bangs on about qualities like beauty and grace, preferring to let its aesthetics speak for themselves. Like all luxury manufacturers, the company makes the occasional striking lapse of taste – the McLaren Sabre, the one-off X-1, the carbon-fibre encrusted Senna – but its core products have always been aesthetically solid.
McLaren is at a crossroads. While its rivals have given a better indication of their future direction, the British company’s next steps are still opaque. The newly installed CEO, Michael Leiters, has experience at Porsche and Ferrari, both brands that bit the bullet and ventured into SUVs as a way of supplementing the slim margins of sports car building.
In Porsche’s case, it was a masterstroke, making the company vastly more profitable and powerful. Ferrari has yet to reveal its much-vaunted Purosangue crossover, but the very fact of its existence demonstrates how economic expediency will always overcome ‘brand values’. The Italian company swore blind for years that it would never make such a machine.
So, might the next generation McLaren GT be a high-riding hybrid crossover – or even a pure EV? Good as it is, the current car is hardly future-proofed against the wave of electrified change. Smart money says that McLaren is already quite far down the road of developing a credible high-riding EV.
However, the company set its own bar pretty high, and even the very best of current electric drive tech struggles to tick every box. Balancing weight, range, and performance is the current obsession of electric car design. Throw in the desire for supercar handling and looks, and that equation gets even more complicated.
By this time in 2023, the first supercar crossovers will have arrived to reshape our definition of sporting design. McLaren badly needs to be one of the key players. §