Senna, P1, F1, 675LT, 720S. These are the hardcore, attention-grabbing members of McLaren’s past and present catalogues. Each one is a finely honed driving tool with a reputation to match. So where does that leave the 570GT? In simple terms, it’s the do-everything, softer-focused member of the family. That description, following on from the list of Woking’s greatest hits, doesn’t even try to hide the damning with any faint praise.
However, just as it’s absurd to dismiss the Portofino (or California T) as not a real Ferrari, it would be foolish in the extreme to sneer at the McLaren 570GT. Closely related to the brilliant 570S (see next month for our local drive of the 570S Spider), the 570GT is powered by the same twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 (a 397kW version is also used in the entry-level 540C). Here in the 570GT, as in the 570S, there’s 419kW at 7500rpm and 600Nm from 5000 to 6000rpm. Like most McLaren engines, it’s not especially musical, but the industrial growl hints at real menace. Unlike many modern turbocharged engines, the McLaren’s V8 isn’t a torque monster from just off idle, as it requires 3000rpm on board before it feels supercar potent. However, if you keep the engine on the bubble – made easier and more fun by selecting Sport or even Track mode for the drivetrain – use the dual-clutch gearbox to full effect, and the 570GT cannot hide its supercar traits.
What’s more, the 570GT is properly, outrageously fast. McLaren claims a 3.4-second sprint to 100km/h for the 570GT, a surprising two-tenths of a second slower than the 570S. While most people would never pick a two-tenths difference to 100km/h, when you’ve been performance testing cars for 20 years, your seat-of-the-pants meter becomes finely tuned and it can often split the hairs between a low-three and a mid-three. But having jumped from the 570S coupe almost immediately into the GT, I cannot gauge a genuine difference in performance. McLaren also claims a 9.8-second 0-200km/h time and a 328km/h top speed. As I said, outrageously fast.
But the speed is delivered in a linear and measured way, instantly putting you at ease. In fact, the 570GT would be the perfect car for a story idea I’ve been mulling over for nearly a decade. The premise is simple: take two cars, one extreme (say a P1), and one merely very fast (the 570GT). Take both cars to a quick and challenging circuit (Phillip Island would be perfect), and let loose three drivers (rank amateur, enthusiast and pro). My bet is that the two lower tiers of driver would get the most out of the 570GT and in percentage terms would get closer to the times of the pro. I’d also not be surprised if they actually recorded faster outright lap times in the slower car. The friendlier nature of the 570GT would allow most drivers to build into the unfamiliar speed, while the always-on P1 is likely to intimidate most drivers back into their shell.
The ease with which the 570GT’s performance can be tapped into is both a blessing and a curse. Unlike a truly unhinged performance car (Ferrari’s 488 GTB or McLaren’s 720S are prime examples), the 570GT can be poked and provoked. While it builds speed effortlessly and relentlessly, you don’t really need to tip toe up to the edge of the envelope. Instead, assuming of course that you’ve some familiarity with speed and the behaviour of mid-engined cars, you can largely skip the getting-to-know-you phase and go straight for the jugular.
In an effort to ensure that the 570GT fulfils the GT part of the brief, the front spring rates have been wound off by 15 per cent, while the rears are 10 per cent softer. The dampers have been recalibrated to suit. I never had an issue with the ride of the 570S (or any McLaren for that matter), so like the powertrain, I prefer to pre-tension the 570GT’s chassis by selecting Sport or Track modes on the Active Dynamics panel. Even in Track mode, there’s enough pliancy in the chassis to deal with Sydney roads. On a fast back-road blast, Track delivers tight control of body movements and gives you something to lean against when pushing hard. As with the acceleration, it’s very difficult to split the dynamic difference between the GT and the 55kg lighter 570S. Left in Normal mode, the GT doesn’t feel as sharp as the S (there’s noticeably more dive under braking for example), but in Sport or Track, any gap shrinks almost to zero.
That it’s marginally more practical (thanks to the additional luggage space above the engine), and a bit more refined and luxurious compared to the sportier intent of the 570S, will certainly sway some first-time supercar buyers. But the clarity of its performance and dynamics ensures its evo-ness. Jesse Taylor
Engine 3799cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Power 419kW @ 7500rpm
Torque 600Nm @ 5000-6500rpm
0-100km/h 3.4sec (claimed)
Top speed 328km/h (claimed)
Weight (dry) 1495kg (280kW/tonne)
Basic price $415,000