Anton WattsCar and Driver
During our first few days with the 2020 McLaren GT, only one passerby asked, “Is that the new Corvette?” It was dark, and the gas station was lit with flickering florescent lights. But once we looked back at the GT, we couldn’t unsee its resemblance to Chevrolet’s new mid-engine sports car. Then a neighbor made the same observation. And then another.
It’s mostly the similarities in the two cars’ front ends that trigger this reaction. Viewed head on, McLaren’s most civilized model and the C8 Corvette do almost look like twins. “No, it’s a McLaren,” we’d say. Which was usually met with a response that included, “Is it faster than the new Corvette?”
You’re probably wondering the same thing, so let’s just cut to the acceleration numbers. Despite the 612-hp GT’s considerable power advantage over the 490-hp Corvette, both cars hit 60 mph in the same 2.8 seconds. Then the Brit leaves the Chevy in the dust. The GT covers the quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds at 133 mph, which is a half-second and 10 mph ahead of the Corvette. By 150 mph, the gap is more than five seconds. Considering you can buy several C8s for the $256,125 as-tested price of our Namaka Blue GT test car, the drag-race comparison is fun but doesn’t mean much. If you can afford this McLaren, chances are you can also afford a Corvette to park next to it.
Bits and Pieces
At its $213,195 base price, the GT lands near the bottom of McLaren’s price hierarchy. Only the brand’s 570 S and the now-discontinued 570 GT models cost less. The three models also share a great deal of hardware, including a coil-spring suspension with anti-roll bars and adaptive dampers. That suspension hardware has been retuned for the GT to provide more travel, and McLaren has backed off the GT’s spring and damping rates to soften its ride a little. Although the high-tech hydropneumatic suspension that underpins the more expensive McLaren 720S has the potential to dance over the road with even more compliance, it wasn’t used on the GT in order to save cost.
Every McLaren is constructed using a carbon-fiber tub and a roughly 105-inch wheelbase, give or take. The GT is the brand’s heaviest model at 3464 pounds, which in part is the result of its bodywork being made of mostly aluminum rather than carbon fiber. The GT employs a detuned version of the same flat-crank, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that powers the 720S.
In the GT, lower-inertia turbos and a higher compression ratio (compared to that of the 720S) broaden its torque curve a bit and produce more tractable power delivery, although some initial lag remains. Output is still a heady 612 horsepower at 7500 rpm and 465 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm. Floor the GT through a couple of gears, and any sane passenger will ask you to slow down. Traction isn’t just a problem off the line. At full throttle, this supercar’s rear tires will bark as the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission snatches second gear.
Unfortunately, McLaren’s launch-control system proved finicky on our test car, often refusing to activate and illuminating a “Launch Control Unavailable” message in the instrument cluster. “The car is programmed to protect itself,” a McLaren engineer told us. “It’s always monitoring temperatures of various components, including the clutch pack.”
Fuel economy is better than you’d expect for such a powerful machine. The EPA estimates the GT at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. We averaged 18 mpg over 400 miles.
Refined Yet Raw
The GT’s softer engine mounts help quell more of the V-8’s vibrations than other models, and its exhaust system exits under the rear bumper to help make room for a real cargo area under the rear hatch. You can both hear and feel the engine, but most of the time it stays in the background. The 4.0-liter’s stop-start system is smooth enough so as not to be annoying, and the model-specific clutch pack in the GT’s transmission makes for easy part-throttle takeoffs around town.
Put the hammer down and play with the GT’s paddle shifters and its V-8 comes alive, filling the cabin with 87 decibels of wail at wide-open throttle. But the engine is surprisingly mellow considering the forward motion provides. Highway cruising is rather subdued except for a considerable amount of road noise penetrating the cabin, which is largely due to how the McLaren’s carbon tub reverberates noise like a drum.
We also take umbrage with the McLaren’s seats. They’re heated and supportive, yet they lack enough padding to be comfortable over an entire tank of fuel. The GT’s tight pedal box becomes another issue after hours behind the wheel, and it’s easier to get in and out of a dorm-room refrigerator. For a grand tourer, the GT’s ride is quite busy. Knobs on the console allow you to choose between four suspension modes, but changes in the road surface are more noticeable than they should be even in the softest Comfort setting.
Large impacts are, however, soaked up quite well, and the grip from the staggered Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires is solid. With rubber measuring 225/35R-20 in front and 295/30R-21 in back, our test car averaged 1.01 g of stick around the skidpad. This is still a McLaren, and it can cover a twisty two-lane at a serious pace, understeering mildly at its limit and with a slight bit of body roll to keep you informed of its grip and balance. The lost art of steering feel is alive and well at McLaren. But the GT’s brakes offer a hard, artificial pedal. Stopping power isn’t a problem once you push through the numbness—we came to halt from 70 mph in a decent 151 feet—but we’ve sampled more natural-feeling brakes in a simulator.
More Sports Car Than GT
McLaren says the GT “meets the demands of high-performance driving and comfort and refinement in equal measure.” We disagree. With its tempered powertrain, expanded cargo space, and relatively decent rear visibility, the GT is as close to a daily driver as McLaren offers. But there’s still a hard-core supercar hiding beneath the GT’s leather-lined interior and sophisticated shape. It’s still more about speed than it is about comfort or refinement.
The McLaren GT becomes more impressive as you rack up miles, and it’s moderately priced compared to many of McLaren’s other models. But a true grand tourer isn’t just a car you can drive across several states in a day. It’s a car that makes you want to climb in it and head for the horizon. McLaren has created yet another exceptional supercar in the GT, but it’s a grand tourer in name only.