Why the new McLaren GT is unlike any other McLaren on the market

Fast cars are fun and sleek but often so compromised that the whole entertainment thing loses its lustre when you settle in for a few hours behind the wheel.

Enter the GT, or grand tourer, a vehicle type that trades some of the go-fast litheness for everyday comfort. The sort of car you can take for a spirited drive yet just as easily cruise from Melbourne to Sydney.

Some of the great modern GTs include the Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari GTC4 Lusso and Aston Martin DB11. You could even throw some versions of Porsche's 911 into the mix.

Renewed GT focus

But McLaren thinks modern GTs have missed the traditional GT point.

The British brand best known for its success on the race tracks – it has won 12 Formula 1 world driver's championships – says modern GTs sway too much to the comfort side while compromising driving excitement.

Enter the McLaren GT, a car that doesn't look wildly different from other McLarens; it still has scissor doors, it still uses a carbon fibre structure and it still plonks a twin-turbo V8 behind the occupants. 

Same, same…

Except McLaren insists the GT is very different to the likes of the 570S and 720S.

The GT's body has been lengthened and raised, the latter to reduce the chances of scuffing the nose on speed humps or driveways.

The engine has been tuned for GT duties ahead of race track thrashes. And improvements have been made to in-cabin comfort, with better sound-deadening and softer suspension.

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It's to the point where McLaren says two-thirds of the GT is different to other McLarens. 

Back to the future

Product manager Tom Taylor says that while space, comfort and performance were important for GTs, he believes other manufacturers have overlooked the driving excitement expected of a GT.

"The thrills at the end of the journey were what started the thinking of this project," he said. "We felt that no car in the current segment was capable of achieving that."

Hence the change of thinking.

"We felt this philosophy actually brought the McLaren GT back to the origins of the grand tourer. Back in the 1960s grand tourers were cars that were fast, agile and luxurious and made for long journeys."

McLaren regularly refers to the "last part of the journey".

"We felt that our McLaren brand DNA … would lead to a new approach to grand touring." 

Strictly for two

One area the GT didn't step up was with space for small people.

Most GTs include back seats, albeit ones best left to kids. While typically not used regularly, they at least accommodate additional bodies when required.

While McLaren considered it, the company instead decided to focus on luggage space, restricting its GT to two seats. Instead, there's a full 420 litres of luggage space.

Suiting up

But it's a very odd-shaped space, one that you can't reach from the bag of the car – unless you feel like getting on all fours to venture inside.

And because there's an engine underneath it's got some odd lumps and a shallow, broad spread.

Best to option the optional tailored McLaren luggage set, then. With four pieces, they're designed to fit into those slender spaces and strange shapes where normal bags probably won't fit.

Not that it's cheap. The four-piece set – which includes a trolley bag, a slim "garment carrier", a golf bag and a "weekend holdall" – is upwards of $20K.

As well as being able to trim the entire luggage area in matching leather it can also be trimmed in SuperFabric, a material used in shoes and clothing and approved for use by NASA.

Staying cool

One reason those side air vents are so large is to keep your luggage cool. Seriously!

Sure, some of the air is diverted to the engine's cooling and intake systems, but some is also sent over the engine and exhaust to keep the luggage cool. A "sandwich layer of heat resistant material" takes it a step further, promising to keep your bags below 40 degrees.

Soft at heart

The suspension has also been tempered to make it more comfortable. It's the most supple suspension tune McLaren has employed for any of its road cars, something that pays off with terrific bump absorption and an elegance that belies its pace.

It's a car that deals nicely with all manner of road detritus.

Additional sound deadening materials have been added to the cabin to reduce noise levels – in turn making those freeway cruises more enjoyable – although it's the engine and turbo noises that often take over, diminishing some of those efforts.

A glass roof and decent windows make for an airy cabin feel and the front seats – unique to the GT – tread a nice line between comfort and support. 

Hard stop

Less impressive are the brakes. They arrest the car brilliantly, but there's a super firm pedal feel which is more for a race track than cruising.

Effective, yes, but hardly in keeping with the relaxed nature of the rest of the car.

But wait

All of which adds up to a GT that's a tad confused – at least if everyday comfort is your thing. It's not as relaxed or practical as what we now know as a more traditional grand tourer.

But it is fast and fun, comfortably trumping most in that regard.

Provided you're prepared to make those concessions the McLaren GT adds to the broad church of GT cars trying to be more things to more people.

The writer travelled to France as a guest of McLaren.

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