Who makes the best Grand Tourer? There used to be an easy answer to that particular question. Aston Martin, Maserati and Bentley have dominated the segment with their elegant, front-engined models, designed to effortlessly cross continents with their passengers cocooned in total comfort — but things are changing. Of all the carmakers out there, McLaren is joining in with a GT of its own. Yes, McLaren, the Formula 1 constructor. If nothing else, the new 570GT will be fast. However, there is so much more than just sheer pace about this model.
The third and last of the Super Series is based on the 570S and that one has blistering performance and incredible handling. It’s perfect for the track but it’s also fit for the road. However, you may not want to take overly long trips in it for it lacks a bit of refinement. The entry-level and softer 540C rectifies that a little but this 570GT has a very specific purpose, that being to deliver you wherever it is you’re going in comfort and serenity. That is only half of the story.
McLaren has made quite a few changes to the 570S to create the newbie, though don’t be fooled into thinking this is a cosy little GT; it retains the mid-engined supercar format of the wilder brother and is as thrilling to drive when you put the pedal to the metal. The major differences between the two are that the GT does away with the glass engine cover for a new parcel shelf (aka the Touring Deck; it’s wrapped in the finest leather and lightweight noise-absorbing and damping materials) which adds an extra 220 litres of cargo space. That — along with the 150 litres already had under the front bonnet — means it has extra room for you to store luggage (small bags only...) when you hit the road. It also boasts a glass roof that bathes the cabin with light and it’s this facet that really differentiates the two. It helps to give the GT a totally different persona — even though it shares the same 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8, seven-speed automatic and 562bhp output. Because of the glass roof and new hatch, the flying buttresses of the 570S are no more; instead, rear downforce is created by a wider lip spoiler. That’s really it for the exterior — along with the new soft-close doors.
There are a few more changes in the interior to make it more liveable; the carbon fibre tub features lower side sills that are supposed to make ingress and egress a little easier — but you still tend to fall into the cabin rather than make a graceful entry. Getting out is another story altogether. Basically, if you aren’t wafer thin, you’ll have trouble. The cabin has more storage space (aside from the glovebox, it has a small central lidded box and a pair of hidden storage spaces inside the doors) and it packs an upgraded AC and this is a vital inclusion; the new glass roof doesn’t have a retractable cover, meaning if the Macca has been parked outside all day and under the beating sun, the cabin will be piping hot. It’s a good job that the new AC is able to cool the interior down briskly but the fact McLaren doesn’t offer a blind for the roof is mystifying.
McLaren has made quite a few changes to the 570S to create the newbie — though don’t be fooled into thinking this is a cosy little GT.
Other than that, the cockpit is wrapped in lavish, twin-stitched leather with lots of carbon fibre and metal trim, which all point to a crafted look and feel and add a bit of grandeur to proceedings. This one, I’m told, also gets a better Bowers & Wilkins sound system with eight-speakers, but with a glorious exhaust note keeping you company, you won’t be needing it. You also get front and rear parking sensors along with a reversing camera to make parking that bit easier. That’s all fine and dandy but what have they done to the internals to make this one a proper GT? I mean, nobody buys a McLaren for its interior appointments.
Well, they’ve done quite a lot. The suspension has been modified — as has the steering and the brakes and as a result it isn’t as dynamic as the 570S — although that is not a complaint, it’s a back-handed compliment. Remember, a more usable model was what McLaren set out to achieve and it has. The springs are 15 per cent softer in the front and 10 per cent in the back (the dampers have been retuned too, and this is prevalent especially when negotiating speed bumps; when the 570S rolls over them at 1kph, the front end doesn’t bounce at all but the GT does a little before settling) and I wouldn’t say the different ratio for the steering makes it less focused, but it is less edgy. As for the anchors, out go the carbon ceramics (standard on the 570S) and in come steel stoppers, but they’re plenty good and you don’t need to push the brake pedal as hard for them to bring proceedings to a halt. The ride is smoother but that isn’t just down to the new suspension — the GT rides on a set of specially developed and quieter Pirelli P Zero tyres, wrapped around 19in front and 20in rear alloys. It has a more relaxed character and you’re probably thinking that the boys from Woking have lost the plot and a car like this isn’t like them. Ah, but you’ll have been lulled into a trap, for this GT may have cushier springs, a new roof and hatch and some extra storage space — but remember, its heart hasn’t changed.
What we have here is still a proper sportscar — albeit one that’ll allow you to pack your lunch. It still has the same 562bhp and 600Nm of torque of the wilder sibling along with the same warp-like top speed of 328kph, and it’s only down in the 0-100kph sprint by 0.2 seconds. It does it in 3.4... Well, it is 37kg heavier. Nobody is going to complain for that is still exceptionally quick. When you floor it and those turbos spool up, you’ll be thanking the headrest for preventing you from whiplash. And that is just when the handling and powertain settings are set in Normal mode, which is more compliant for long-distance drives. Twist both dials to Track and mash the throttle, the sensation you get is the same as the 570S when it’s been provoked. The latter alters the GT’s throttle response, steering, shift points, dampers and even the dash display. Basically its whole character changes. A GT? Please. This is a racecar that’s just been dressed up as one.
It is unconventional, but it is easier to live with than the other two in the Sport Series and though it was developed alongside the S, it’s a far better option overall given its dual personality.
It is ever so responsive and engaging (in Sport mode, too) and when you fancy swapping the cogs yourself, push the ‘manual’ button and flick the large paddle shifters and the gearbox slams home the changes with a mighty blow and the torque just seems as if it’s endless. Some might argue it’s a 570S with a comprehensive option package added on and that is one way of looking at it. Whatever, this is a fantastic car to drive, it still corners ever so sharply in spite of the softer springs in all four corners and it gives you the confidence to keep on pushing way beyond your own limitations.
The same applies to the other two in the Sports Series and McLaren has clearly used all its nouse and know-how from competing in Formula 1 to make these three feel as if they’re glued to the tarmac. Nothing seems to unsettle them, they’re ever so agile and balanced; the GT’s electrically assisted hydraulic steering has a slower ratio but it is still very responsive to your inputs, perfectly weighted and offers exceptional feedback, meaning you can place this one everywhere with precision. The revised suspension works in its favour too; where the S can become tiresome after a few hours of spirited driving, you can keep on going in the GT. The eight-way electrically adjustable sports seats help in that regard; they not only look great but are very comfortable and make highway cruising that much more pleasurable.
Even though it has more room and is a tad more practical, it’s no Bentayga, but what McLaren has created here is a unique take on the Grand Tourer and it has a chance to occupy its own spot in the market. It is unconventional, but it is easier to live with than the other two in the Sport Series and even though it was developed alongside the S, it is a far better option overall given its dual personality.
Does it do everything you would want your GT to do? Yes, and in a totally different way; this is a compact, mid-engine interpretation of the traditional, long-distance grand tourer. The initial rumours that it would feature a 2+2 seating configuration were wide of the mark, but if McLaren ever does sell a four-seat sportscar (anything is possible these days, just look at Porsche...) there’s no reason to doubt that it won’t be good.
Until then, you can add this one to the list of best GTs out there; it’s been billed as McLaren’s most refined and luxurious model yet — but by heck, it isn’t lacking in firepower either. That it has lost none of the hard wired-like connection with the driver that the brand is renowned for makes this one of its best efforts yet.