Has the McLaren GT got its name wrong?

Shivaum Punjabi test drives the 2021 McLaren GT.

McLaren a name that turns every petrolheads head. A name that once made one of the most iconic cars ever made by man, the McLaren F1. A brand that is fighting and gaining points in Formula 1. A brand whose cars are taking the fight to the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.

McLarens as a car brand are easy to understand. They have one purpose and one purpose only track precision and speed. Call them street-legal go-karts. But then comes the McLaren GT, which is McLaren’s take on a GT car.

GT cars are usually front-engined cars that send power to the rear wheels. They have luggage space, can carry at least two adults comfortably, are relaxing and easy to drive, have modern driver aids and creature comforts, have brand pedigree and most importantly, are devastatingly quick. With the essential ingredients of a GT car summed up, let us see if the McLaren GT lives up to its name.

Let’s talk the looks

The McLaren GT looks phenomenal. It does not look like a GT car from any angle, but more like a supercar. The doors, the sound, everything add a lot of drama.

The look is very clean and minimalistic, with aerodynamic functionality inbuilt in the design of the car. The look is very McLaren and cannot be mistaken for anything else. The front overhang is short due to the engine being in the back. The rear is longer than the Sport series McLarens, and the back has a ducktail spoiler inbuilt in the bodywork.

All said and done; it is a good-looking car with a lot of road presence. More fighter jet-like than a car.

Let’s talk performance & handling

The McLaren GT is powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 that produces 612 HP. The engine sends power to the rear wheels via a 7-speed gearbox. It does the 0-100 kph dash in 3.2 seconds.

McLaren has really put a lot of thought into engineering this car. The engine sits behind the driver and is extremely low to keep the CG low. This configuration has two benefits: it frees up space above the engine bay to convert into storage, and secondly, it gives a perfect 50:50 weight distribution.

The GT clinically demolishes straights fast and precise. At all times, you feel you are in control. The above description is how a performance car should be. Anytime a vehicle feels too fast or too artificial is a vehicle that you do not want to drive fast.

For the GT to feel alive, you need to keep it above 2500 RPM—anything below that the car feels jerky due to the turbo lag. When on the move, the gearbox works like a charm, but in city traffic or slower driving situations, it gets confused easily, not understanding which gear to give you. But find an open road and floor the throttle; the gearbox will happily hold the gears all the way to 8200 RPM and let the engine sing. The best way to drive this car is to move it to manual and use the solid metal paddles to find the right gear.

One of the critical things a potential buyer needs to know about is the brakes. Most modern cars have brakes that are assisted, which means you need to put minimal or almost no effort into braking the vehicle even in an emergency. In the McLaren GT, the level of artificial assistance in braking is minimal, which means every time you push the brake, it has to be a proper calculative move with an appropriate amount of heft from your right foot—involving the driver more in the driving experience.

Let us talk about handling now. The steering is clutter-free. There are no buttons or switchgear here except for the shiny bit aluminium on the steering wheel, which looks good. The other unique characteristic of the McLaren GT is that the steering feel. The weight is off-centre, and the initial bit has a little steering play to it. The steering during turn-in weighs progressively, letting you be decisive, accurate and confident with your inputs. The good thing about the steering is that it is not hypersensitive like some performance brands out there.

This setup lets you cruise motorways and highways easily and comfortably. Coming to grips levels and steering accuracy, the McLaren GT is spot on. The car communicates all the road surface details to you via the steering wheel, including grip levels. The McLaren GT does a splendid job in being communicative about handling, grip levels, road surfaces and anything else that may be going on with the car, making it a good drivers’ car. The negative thing about this rack is that the car tends to tramline when road surfaces become uneven.

Find yourself a nice twisty piece of tarmac, and the McLaren GT comes alive in your hands, dancing around the bends. The power delivery feels seamless, and turns feel near perfect. It transforms into another car.

Let’s discuss interiors

The McLaren GT sits on a brand new recycled carbon fibre monocoque tub. Everything related to do the interiors is designed around this tub.

The GT has a lot of drama going on for it. It sounds good, and the entry is the most dramatic via its dihedral doors. Every time you get in and out, it is an occasion, and people stop to take a peek. Once inside, you are sat in a sporty bucket seat which holds your tightly. If you are broad on the shoulders, you will find it cramped. Still, the seating position is good, and you have decent front and side visibility. Rear visibility is poor and can become worse due to luggage stored at the back.

The GT, since it is a more luxurious interpretation of the sportscars by McLaren, is appointed with more lavish materials such as leather, wool and cashmere, depending on how you spec it. The quality of materials used is top-notch.

One of the unique options is the panoramic glass roof which is monochromatic. That means you can adjust the transparency of the glass via a touch of a button.

The test car, I had the brilliant lightweight Bowers & Wilkins audio system, which not only looked good but sounded excellent as well.

Unlike other manufacturers who produce GT cars and have the 2+2 seating option, the rear seats are useless for anyone to sit in. McLaren has done the smart thing of ditching them altogether.er.

The infotainment is managed by a vertical touch screen and is easy to use and navigate. The centre console is also very minimalist and has only those buttons that are mandatory to be there.

The McLaren GT also has storage space like no other car. It has two significant storage spaces, and that is mainly due to where the engine is positioned. Since it is a mid-rear engined car, the GT has a frunk. It has this sloping storage area on top of the engine, which can fit various flat luggage bags, golf bags, etc. The luxury luggage brand Tumi even designed special luggage for this car.

The rear luggage area is situated on top of the engine. To avoid heat from the engine escaping into the luggage area and cabin area, McLaren covered the entire rear storage area with heat shielding material sourced from the military. McLaren claims that due to this technique, the rear cabin storage area temperature never exceeds 40 Celsius.

Should I buy it?

Very evidently, missing in the GT are drivers aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, etc. Due to the way the GT is designed, it is not a Grand Tourer in the original sense, but McLaren’s take on a GT car. It is a car not for everyone. If you want massage seats and cooled seats, you should look elsewhere. However, if you want an engaging driving experience in a car that looks phenomenal, then go right ahead with the McLaren, and you will not be disappointed.

Text & Images by Shivaum Punjabi.

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