First Drive: McLaren 720S Spider

by Michael Satterfield

Sliding behind the wheel of the McLaren 720S Spider is an event, with its futuristic gauge cluster, electrochromic roof, the panel of switches and screens it makes it feel like you just climbed into something closer to a fighter jet than a car. A push of the start button brings the 710-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 screaming to life, as I lower the top, the sound gets even better. It isn't the loud burble you would expect from a V8 or the high pitch whine of some supercars, but more of a smooth rumble.

According to McLaren, the 720S will do 0-60 in 2.9, with a top speed of 212 mph, while those numbers sound brutal, the 720S Spider manages to feel relatively normal to drive, the power builds smoothly until you realize that you need to slow down and take it to the track. The momentum is reigned in by a set of massive carbon ceramic brakes and sticky Pirelli P Zero tires.

In today's world of 1,000+ horsepower muscle Dodges, McLaren has decided to focus more on weight and balance than just building more horsepower into their cars. Thanks to their carbon fiber chassis the 720S Spider comes in just 2,937 pounds dry, making it 83 pounds lighter than the 650S Spider and just 109 pounds heavier than 720S Coupe. Because of this focus on weight reduction, a fully equipped McLaren Spider is still lighter than the stripped-down versions of Italian supercars.

It was cloudy when I left, but now it was starting to rain, I pulled over to put the top up, it took just a few seconds. Once in place, a quick touch of a button turned the roof from a blackout tint to almost completely clear, making the 720S Spider feel open a bright even with the top up.

After a quick stop in the mountains for lunch, it was time to head back down towards Scottsdale, the rain and stopped but the roads were still wet, even so, the car was stable, fun, and easy to control. Pushing it in the mountains you really feel how well balanced the car is. Returning to civilization means, traffic, potholes, and parking lots, but the 720S Spider settles down and becomes as driveable as any other car. In comfort mode, it's quiet, smooth, and with the 360-degree backup camera, you don't have to worry about navigating parking spots.

It's the normalcy that makes the 720S Spider so good, it's easy to drive, the controls are intuitive, it is easy to get in and out of, the trunk space is surprisingly large, and the dihedral doors open in less space than most normal cars. But with a flick of the switch the instrument cluster lowers, the car tightens, and over fifty years of racing heritage are unleashed and just like that you are behind the wheel of a truly amazing supercar.

The 720S Spider also has one other thing going for it, something that McLaren hasn't been known for, it is actually pretty. While function always trumps form for McLaren the 720S is one of the most elegant yet to come out of Woking, and taking the top off only makes it better.

Starting at $317,000 the 720S Spider is delivering a lot of value in the topless supercar space with the new Lamborghini Aventador coming in at over $463,700 with just an additional 19 horsepower, with a Ferrari 488 Pista Spider will set you back $350,000, making the McLaren the best deal in the group.

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