T he new McLaren 720S is simply sensational, the most complete supercar on the market today. Sure, there were those £1m hypercars from Ferrari, Porsche and, yes, McLaren, but you can’t buy those any more.
Even the forthcoming McLaren ‘Ultimate Series’, due in a couple of years, has sold out three times over. That costs £2m – and no one has even seen it yet.
Getting back to some kind of reality, if you have a spare quarter of a million, a nicely specified 720S can be yours, assuming you have the patience to wait until 2018.
I flew to the Cavalier Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Rome, where McLaren had appropriately craned its new car into the roof garden. We walk around it in subdued evening light, champagne in hand and views of the Coliseum in the middle distance.
This is an auspicious media launch, and one that cements the new position McLaren has forged for itself alongside Ferrari and Lamborghini – and a step above Porsche.
So many deep-pocketed entrepreneurs have dreamed of this kind of success, and so many have failed to realise that achieving it requires not millions, but hundreds of millions. That, and a brand name that actually has some credibility.
The 720S is McLaren’s new Super Series, replacing the 650 and the original MP4-12C (the company certainly isn’t spending its money generating snappy names for its cars) from 2011.
It’s genuinely all-new, with an even more impressive composite chassis that now extends right over the passenger compartment. That allows the show-stopping dihedral doors to swing open like a demented gull wing.
They help access to the seats, although you need a good reach and strong biceps to pull them closed. No power doors here, for McLaren is weight-focused; unnecessary electric motors would go against the grain.
The interior is a definite step up, with finely crafted aluminium switchgear and comfortable seats if you veer towards the luxury options. McLaren has established itself as a master of suspension design, too. In the Comfort setting, the ride is as smooth as many executive cars.
That proved helpful when threading around scooters and taxis in the Rome rush-hour. What also helps is unprecedented visibility, thanks to the engine being tucked behind the front seats.
Thin carbon fibre pillars frame the glass and the dashboard is super-low, so the view out is great in all directions. There are even ‘birds eye’ cameras that give a surround-view of the car on the road to aid parking.
And, of course, the McLaren goes like the wind – a hurricane, even. There’s a top speed of 212mph, while it will accelerate to 124 mph in the time it takes a Golf GTI to reach half that speed.
Simple numerics can’t convey the utter violence of the acceleration. On the other hand, it’s not difficult to drive, with a fully automatic mode for gear changes and a docile manner at lower speeds.
Being McLaren, though, our Italian adventure incorporated a racetrack north of Rome, with the opportunity to explore that 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 and every one of its 720hp. So technically advanced is the chassis, even I could do that at least some of the time. This car is an engineering paragon.
You might question, as I do, the value of cars that go this fast, that contradict the mores of today. The answer, I think, is that owning a car this finely engineered and well-crafted, this stunning to simply gaze at, is a pleasure in its own right.