Kelley Blue Book: Take a look at the new 2020 McLaren GT

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2020 McLaren GT First Review:

  • British auto maker’s first “Grand Tourer” model
  • Engineered for daily use, without compromising performance
  • Carbon-fiber construction with innovative hatchback storage
  • Standard 612-hp twin-turbo V8
  • On sale now, with deliveries in Fall 2019

McLaren is name synonymous with high-performance exotic sports cars. Its historical products include the legendary F1 and P1 – both revered as some of the most formidable street cars ever produced. More recent models include the 720S, 570S, and 600LT. For decades, each of McLaren’s supercars have delivered uncompromised performance on street and track, yet at the expense of cargo utility and long-distance passenger comfort – until now. For 2020, the British auto maker has introduced the new McLaren GT.

The 2020 McLaren GT is, in the auto maker’s own words, “a unique interpretation of a modern Grand Tourer that… combines competition levels of performance with continent-crossing capability.” With greater space, usability, and comfort, the GT…redefines the notion of a Grand Tourer in a way that only a McLaren could.”

We spent a full day driving the new McLaren in southern France, pushing the 2-door hard on challenging mountain roads above Nice and San Tropez.

Designed and engineered for touring

Joining McLaren’s Sport, Super, and Ultimate series models, the GT (technically part of the auto maker’s Grand Tourer series) is a fresh design sculpted to fit into the McLaren family’s sleek and elegant styling. Long and slender, the GT is unmistakably a McLaren, yet it brings new styling to the lineup. Distinctive air scoops, just aft of each dihedral-swinging door, visually break up the long side panels while simultaneously providing cooling air to feed the engine and ventilate the engine bay.

The GT is longer than most of its siblings – it is greater than 15 feet in length – and it features more aggressive front and rear overhangs with steeper approach angles. While these proportions are uncharacteristic to McLaren, both are functional traits to accommodate its increased utility and ease of driving in urban settings.

Carbon-fiber architecture

As expected, the McLaren GT utilizes a carbon-fiber tub as its primary chassis structure. Extremely strong and safe, yet remarkably lightweight, its use allows the GT to be nearly 286 pounds lighter than its closest core competitor. The architecture, known as the MonoCell II-T monocoque (the “T” stands for Touring), has been specially modified to fit a 14.8 cubic-foot luggage area above the mid-mounted engine.

The new cargo hold, which complements the front-mounted 5.3 cubic-foot trunk (or “frunk”), sits just aft of the two passenger seats beneath a glazed glass tailgate (its lift is optionally power-operated). Engineered to hold luggage, a golf bag, or two pairs of skis, it features tie-down straps to keep its contents in place during spirited maneuvers. Furthermore, McLaren offers the compartment with SuperFabric trim – an innovative fabric woven with “tiny armored guard plates” made of ceramic – for extreme abrasion resistance and effortless cleaning. 

High-performance drivetrain

McLaren customers expect brilliant mechanical engineering, and the new GT doesn’t disappoint. Mid-mounted in the chassis is a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged, V8 rated at 612 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. The engine (designated M840TE) shares block architecture with the powerplant in the 720S, but it has been fitted with specialized componentry, including new exhaust, to fit directly beneath the new luggage area. (McLaren assures us that there is generous thermal insulation to keep items in the storage cool.)

With the engine mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the rear-wheel drive McLaren blasts to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. Keep you right foot to the floor, and it will hit 124 mph in 9 seconds flat as it zooms toward a top speed of 203 mph. Those are impressive performance numbers, but so are the GT’s fuel efficiency figures (the EPA rates the McLaren at 15 mpg city, and 22 mpg highway). And, there is no gas guzzler tax – that’s a big deal in this traditionally thirsty segment.

The suspension is a double-wishbone design that incorporates Proactive Damping Control, which is McLaren’s advanced adaptive suspension. Sensors in the aluminum suspension arms “read” the road and automatically interpret damper settings in as few as two milliseconds – the driver may further refine the ride with a multi-position switch in the cockpit.

While most auto makers have switched to electrically assisted steering systems, which may numb feedback, the McLaren GT features a traditional hydraulic steering system. The standard brakes have iron rotors with multi-piston calipers – carbon-ceramic rotors are an optional upgrade. Tires are from Pirelli, a bespoke variant of its excellent P-ZERO series high-performance rubber. 

Premium 2-passenger cabin

The well-appointed interior is unmistakable McLaren – it boasts a driver-centric, cockpit with near-perfect ergonomics. The operator faces a button-free, three-spoke steering wheel set in front of a multifunction digital instrument display (column-mounted stalks control the panel). The center stack is dominated by another multifunction display – running new high-speed processors – that operates the HVAC, navigation, and infotainment settings. Lastly, engine, suspension, and driving dynamics are controlled with physical buttons and dials on the low console between the occupants. 

Standard sport-bucket seats are comfortable and supportive, but they feature seat controls that are located, awkwardly, on the inboard side of the bottom cushion. (Hint: The controls are logically oriented, so lean over and peer at them before fumbling around.) There is generous head and shoulder room, and enough legroom to keep 6-footers comfortable for extended road trips. Storage for personal belongings is good – we put backpacks in the “frunk” and tossed larger items behind the seats into the new trunk. Vision outward is impressive – most unlike other supercars – thanks to thin pillars and well-placed mirrors. 

Driving dynamics for everyday use

We spent a full day driving the new McLaren in southern France, pushing the 2-door hard on challenging mountain roads above Nice and San Tropez.

Like every McLaren we’ve ever tested, there is no shortage of power once the accelerator is fully depressed. While there is a momentary lag if the twin-turbocharged engine is caught on the low side of the tachometer, the rush of head-snapping horsepower and torque comes on strong once the boost arrives – passing slower vehicles in the canyons was effortless, even on the shortest straightaway.

The column-mounted paddle shifter is configured to teeter-totter (allowing the driver to push or pull either side for shifts), which is a brilliant design. While we found the dual-clutch gearbox a bit slow to react in automatic mode, it was instantaneously responsive when commanded by the metal paddles (McLaren engineers went out of their way to engineer an extremely tactile feel to the backside of the metal paddles – arguably the best we’ve ever experienced).

Engaging yet compliant suspension

The 3,300-pound GT feels light as it effortlessly dances over the French 2-lane roads. Suspension compliance for its grand touring mission is excellent, and the suspension delivers an exceptionally comfortable ride despite countless irregularities in the pavement. While body roll is minimal in the corners, the suspension is notably more compliant than that on the 720- and 600-series models (even in the GT’s firmest “Track” setting). The ride is exceptionally good – McLaren engineers have done a wondrous job.

That said, there is a bit of compromise. Initial turn-in is a bit slower (“less sharp” is the best way to describe it) as the vehicle momentarily reacts to the driver’s steering inputs. We also noted that it took some time to get used to the brakes. Initial pedal travel was soft, which was then followed by a very hard pedal. We never questioned the capacity, heat resistance, or stopping power of the brakes – all flawless – but the pedal feel required acclimation.

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Despite being slightly softer, and with a more friendly demeanor, the good news is that McLaren hasn’t lost its charisma, charm, or appeal as it pursues this new “Grand Tourismo” character – the new GT is tremendously fun and thoroughly engaging. And, based on the smiles, waves, and thumbs-up from the local French population, it is a genuine head-turner.    

What does the McLaren GT compete against?

McLaren suggests that the Porsche 911 Turbo S, Ferrari Portofino, and Aston Martin DB11 are the GT’s primary competitors – all impressive sports cars that have been properly tuned with the grand touring customer in mind. Of the four, the new McLaren GT is the lightest and stiffest – credit the innovative carbon-fiber tub – and it reeks of pure engineering prowess. While it may not be the most mission-focused “Grand Tourer” among its rivals, it is the driver’s choice among the group.

How much does the 2020 McLaren GT cost, and when does it go on sale?

The 2020 McLaren GT has a base price of $210,000 (plus a $3,195 destination fee). The sports car is on sale now, with first customer deliveries in October 2019.

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