Lots of carmakers claim they use motorsports to develop bits and pieces of their vehicles.
But in the case of McLaren, the boutique manufacturer of racers and exotic supercars, the claim rings true thanks to the company’s impressive history of building vehicles used for Formula One. While most car makers want to build more than a handful of vehicles for a handful of customers, McLaren’s focus is dramatically different — and it shows.
The McLaren GT is designed specifically to attract customers, looking for a vehicle they can drive beyond the confines of a racetrack, and it works.
It’s quick, of course, thanks to a big V-8 engine. However, it is also nimble, handling nicely even on a wet, slippery road where the visibility has been reduced we discovered. In short, it is a terrific car for cruising and for the pleasure driving a powerful, well-designed machine.
The cockpit is well designed and surprisingly comfortable for a vehicle bred out of race cars, where space is limited. The big engine delivers an exhaust note, which I found surprising soothing on a long drive.
The outside of the McLaren GT is a far cry from the pedestrian utility vehicles, pickup trucks and sedans now ruling roads everywhere. The McLaren GT is sleek from the tip of nose to the raked windshield back over the clear hatchback that covers the car’s engine and a small space for luggage. A piece of luggage also can be stored under the front hood.
The overall impression from front to back is ultra modern, showing off the car’s unique structure. The door aren’t exactly gull wings but the slide upwards, extending well over the roofline. The McLaren GT can’t help but make an impression if it’s standing, parked in a driveway or In motion on the highway.
The McLaren GT is a two-seater. If you have a significant other know the two of you will likely need to share a modest piece of luggage if you are going to take the car somewhere overnight or for a long weekend.
Aside from a lack of cargo space, the cockpit isn’t exactly roomy either. While I found the footwell to be a bit cramped, I did have the space needed to operate the brake and the gas pedal. The clear roof panels didn’t leave much head room, although they felt comforting on a rainy day. Our test model had two screens in the cockpit: one for entertainment, navigation and the HVAC system; and a second screen — the instrument cluster — carries the digital speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, odometer and trip odometer. It also signals when the parking brake is engaged and when the car’s nose goes down for better aerodynamics once the car hits 37 miles per hour.
The overall design of the instrument cluster is most impressive right down to the paddle shifters. Although the McLaren GT sits low to the ground, the visibility and the mirrors were well positioned to cover the blind spots.
The 2021 McLaren GT’s powertrain might represent one of the last stands of the big V-8 engine. The car is powered by a 4.0-liter V-8 engine with 620 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque with the help of dual overhead camshafts and twin turbochargers. It is matched up with 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, which are very effective. Since the engine is tuned for speed and power, the fuel economy isn’t great, but I did see 26 mpg as I cruised the freeway northward between Detroit and Flint.
Safety and Technology
The McLaren GT I drove was equipped with driver and passenger airbags, knee airbags and side head airbags as well as features such as hill-hold control for starting the car on an incline and emergency fuel shut off should the car be involved in a wreck.
It also is equipped with a satellite radio, Bluetooth for mobile phone connections and an impressive Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which seem to work nicely with the exhaust notes from the engine, which sits just behind the passenger compartment. The McLaren GT is built on the carbon fiber, MonoCell body structure with an extruded aluminum subframe, which is fully enclosed and full LED headlights.
Even on a bad day for motoring, the 2021 McLaren GT is a lot of fun to drive. It’s unbelievably fast a fully capable of going from zero to 60 in 3.1 seconds. The top speed is rated at 203 miles per hour, but I didn’t go anywhere that fast given the weather and a regular stream of everyday traffic on the freeway
That said, it easily reached the upper 90s with so little effort, I don’t think the tach moved. I also found the brakes to be excellent and the steering is taut in the car, which doesn’t seem to have any weight at all. The overall ride was quite comfortable thanks to an adaptive chassis. Drivers can choose the chassis control, ranging from sport to comfort, they want.
2021 McLaren GT specifications:
|L: 184.4 inches/W: 80.5 inches/H: 47.8 inches/Wheelbase: 105.3 inches
|4.0-liter turbocharged twin turbocharged V-8; 7-speed automatic transmission
|15 mpg city/22 mpg highway/18 mpg combined
|620 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque
|As tested: $217,155, including $3,195 destination and delivery charge
The McLaren GT undoubtedly seems like a toy for people with a lot of money or enthusiasts who want to make a big impression. But underneath the big price tag and limited volume is a clever, well-built machine that captures some of the best of the carmaker’s century-old art. It also looks like it belongs in the future even though its days could well be numbered as the world turns to electric vehicles — even for racing.
2021 McLaren GT — Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take a McLaren GT to get to 60 mph?
As you’d expect from a vehicle wearing the McLaren nameplate, the GT counts swift acceleration among its strengths. The company claims that the coupe sprints from zero to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds.
What kind of car is the McLaren grand tourer?
This is McLaren’s grand tourer, built to go head to head with cars from brands such as Bentley and Aston Martin. From behind the wheel, this McLaren coupe blends enthusiast-friendly performance with a level of comfort shoppers expect in this class.
What are the specs of a McLaren GT?
The McLaren GT made its debut for the 2020 model year. McLaren sells the GT in a single trim level with enough amenities to please the typical buyer in this class. The car boasts a staggered wheel layout, with 20-inch rims in the front and 21-inch rims in the rear. All models are equipped with LED headlamps.