Most supercars live pampered lives, kept in the garage, polished and primped, only brought out when the sun shines and the traffic is light, for just a few hours of fun. Here at MotorTrend Towers, however, we believe cars are for driving. We like to think if we had the money to splash on something low-slung and mid-engine with a 200-mph top end, we’d spend as much time behind its wheel as possible. Every day, preferably. And that’s what I did my best to accomplish during a three-month long-term loan of a certified pre-owned 2020 McLaren GT.
There’s only one small problem apart from the fact low-slung, mid-engine, 200-mph supercars are expensive. They can also be difficult to live with as daily drivers or road-trip warriors, with a stiff ride, low ground clearance, and limited luggage space.
If 180 mph or so is fast enough, it’s hard to look past the Chevrolet C8 Corvette, the absolute bargain in the segment, and one of the most usable mid-engine sports cars since the original Acura NSX. But after spending three months and almost 5,000 miles behind the wheel of our McLaren GT long-term test car, we have to say this glamorous Brit—which delivers that 200-mph-plus top speed along with an engine at your shoulders, plus a decent ride and room aboard for more than a couple of soft bags—is a compelling option for those who can afford something a little more exotic.
During our time with the McLaren, we schlepped it through London traffic, cruised it on the freeway, and took it on a 2,000-mile road trip through the wilds of Scotland. Basically, we used it just as we would have used any other car or road-oriented SUV, and not once did it feel as if we were suffering for our supercar art. The 2020 McLaren GT might look extravagant (from the outside, at least; the interior looks a bit spartan compared with, say, a Bentley Continental GT), but apart from some tire noise at cruising speeds on the freeway, it’s no more challenging to live with every day than a Toyota Supra or Porsche 911.
What We Didn’t Like
McLarens have a reputation for being fragile, and for the first month of our “ownership” it appeared the GT would be true to form. Oh, nothing major went wrong: A tire-pressure warning light would appear randomly on the dash, and the clock would reset itself to 1 p.m. overnight, which made the navigation system’s destination arrival time calculations meaningless. As the sat-nav wouldn’t load with the car idling in our underground parking lot, the problem may have had something to do with the system not being able to connect with a satellite.
We were just about to take the car back to McLaren New Forest to get it checked out when the problem mysteriously resolved itself. Although it’s fussy to use, the GT’s infotainment system behaved perfectly for the rest of the car’s time with us.
Our GT came equipped with the optional panoramic glass roof. It’s not an option we’d recommend, especially in sunny climates. As there’s no blind you can pull across underneath the glass, the heat soak makes the cabin somewhat toasty when you park outside, even on mild days. Worse, you’ll need to wear a peaked cap while driving on a sunny day to shade your eyes, and the glare often renders the center infotainment screen unreadable.
From its original MP4-12C road car onward, McLaren has made drivers manually activate the switches to adjust the engine/transmission and suspension/stability-control settings. Early on, we found ourselves wondering why the GT wasn’t switching to Sport or Manual modes before realizing we hadn’t pressed the “Active” button in the center console.
It became routine to press the Active button as part of our start sequence, so the car would always be ready to switch modes when called upon. For the record, we generally switched the engine and transmission to Sport and Manual modes on two-lane country roads but left the suspension in the standard setting the whole time. The forthcoming Artura does away with the Active button concept. And good riddance, too.
The rear load space is shaped oddly, but it does swallow a lot of stuff. The adjacency of the engine and its two turbochargers to the load-space floor means it gets awfully hot in there, however: Stow chocolates, champagne, and your laptop with caution. Jackets, too, though for a completely different reason: When opened, water will cascade off the giant rear hatch and into the rear section of the load space if the car’s been parked in the rain.
What We Liked
Once you get past the styling—the GT is the most elegant of the 720-based McLarens—and the tractable yet punchy powertrain, smooth transmission, deliciously communicative steering, powerful yet easily modulated brakes, and surprisingly supple ride, it’s the little things that impress.
Like the capless fuel filler. Or the push buttons on the trailing inner edge of the driver’s door that allow you to open either the frunk or the rear hatch while standing alongside the car with the door open. Or the surprisingly comfortable seats that left us feeling remarkably fresh even after a 10-hour stint behind the wheel. And the excellent all-round visibility that made the 2020 McLaren GT easy to hustle through narrow gaps in chaotic London traffic.
Caveats about the heat soak into the rear load space aside, the McLaren GT’s luggage capacity is real and usable. The car easily swallowed enough stuff for our week-long road trip through Scotland, including bulky coats and cross-country walking boots, the deep frunk devouring a big cooler bag for food as well as thermoses of hot coffee.
The real delight of this McLaren, though, is how light and agile it feels, even when driven at normal speeds. Despite its name, the GT is in fact a proper sports car, a car with performance and handling that’s the result of its low weight and low center of gravity but with the suspension travel and ground clearance to effortlessly cope with any paved road you point it down. It’s not as frenetic as most modern supercars, and it’s not as reliant on electronic aids to compensate for fundamental dynamic flaws as many modern GTs are.
No matter whether you’ve just carved it down a winding two-lane or driven downtown for a Sunday morning coffee, you’ll climb out of the McLaren GT and, as you walk away, look back and smile. It’s that sort of car.
Dollars and Sense
Like we said, supercars are expensive. As tested, our Storm Grey over Jet Black McLaren GT, with the P22 Luxe specification interior that’s standard on U.S.-spec cars would have retailed for $232,195 when sold new in early 2020. Fitted options included the MSO Bright package ($5,500), the panoramic roof ($950), the luggage retention strap ($550), and the carbon-ceramic brakes (a $6,500 option for the 2020 model year but standard on 2021 cars).
Our car, however, was a McLaren Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle, one year old with 4,341 miles on the clock when we were handed the keys.
CPO programs, which offer late-model, low-mileage used cars that have been checked and certified by franchised dealers and are sold with a warranty, allow automakers to better control resale values, and, more important, give buyers peace of mind. They’ve been commonplace across premium and some mainstream brands for years, but now even exotic brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini offer CPO used cars.
Available on cars up to 10 years old with less than 75,000 miles on the clock and a full, up-to-date service history, McLaren’s CPO program offers a minimum one-year warranty—upgradeable to two years—that includes roadside assistance. There is no mileage limit, and the warranty covers the cost of parts and labor for eligible repairs done at McLaren dealers and service centers by McLaren-trained technicians. The warranty covers all factory-fitted components, with no limit to the number of claims.
A CPO program’s other big advantage is that it allows you to buy a nearly new car at what is effectively a discount price. At the time of writing, McLaren’s CPO website lists a 2020 GT with a similar spec to ours and just 3,660 miles on the clock for $209,887.
If you’re worried about running costs, you’re not going to buy a supercar. But just for the record, the GT averaged 19.5 mpg during its time with us. The best mileage the McLaren returned was 23.7 mpg over 295 miles while cruising back into London from Scotland at a steady 75 mph; the worst was 16.7 mpg after some quality cut-and-thrust time on quiet back roads in the south of England. That suggests the EPA’s 15/22/18-mpg city/highway/combined numbers are pretty much on the money. And, crucially for a GT, the McLaren’s 19-gallon fuel tank gives it a realistic highway cruising range of more than 300 miles.
Could You Live With the McLaren GT?
Well, we could. But let’s be clear: Even if you have the money, the 2020 McLaren GT isn’t for everyone. The modern luxury gran turismo market is dominated by Bentley’s Continental GT V8, a heavy, fast, and glitteringly opulent battlecruiser. Others in the segment include Ferrari’s staggeringly accomplished Roma and Aston Martin’s achingly gorgeous DB11 V8.
Apart from the fact that, like the McLaren GT, all are powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, each one offers a strikingly different experience from the other. And the McLaren GT experience is the most different of the lot. It looks like a supercar and drives like a sports car, rivalled only by the Ferrari for the clarity and precision of its responses. But it will never be quite as relaxed as the Roma with its electronic nannies switched to cruise mode, much less the more softly resolved Aston or the hushed Bentley.
The 2021 McLaren GT is the most overtly sporty, most extroverted of these GTs. Embrace that and you’ll love it.
Read More About Our Long-Term 2020 Mclaren GT:
- Update 1: No Problems So Far With the Everyday Supercar
- Update 2: The 2020 McLaren GT Reminds Us of a Bygone Era
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