Singapore - The term ‘grand tourer’ tends to conjure up images of overweight and oversized cars that accommodate four, carry all their barang and are plushly padded to provide better cush’ for the tush’. You’re probably thinking of something like the Continental GT right now, and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
However, we’ve seen that the idea of a ‘GT’ seems to be a sliding scale depending on how each brand chooses to interpret it. With the Continental GT at the luxo-barge end of the segment, whatever’s on the other end has to be the exact opposite of everything the Bentley stands for, right?
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The McLaren GT is the sort of grand tourer you’ll get after a few months of intermittent fasting and intensive crossfit sessions several times a week.
However, unlike the average grand tourer, the McLaren doesn’t feature +2 seating in the back, so as big a fan of the brand that you might be, you’ll have to accept its vision of a grand tourer.
It isn’t hard to see why: McLaren reckons the +2 seating in the rear will seldom be occupied, but more critically, we think that any technical compromises in accommodating the additional seats are likely to affect the GT’s dynamics, as well as its overall weight and size.
Don’t forget, the GT has to offer the same level of driving engagement the brand is renowned for.
Measuring in at close to 4.7m, the GT is already longer than any of the Sports or Super Series models, so accommodating extra seats would either compromise rear stowage capacity and/or its dynamic competence.
Lean, mean and stripped away of anything superfluous except the technical fabric cladding in the ‘boot’ area, Woking’s take on the grand tourer concept is built around the brand’s legendary carbonfibre monocoque tub, designated MonoCell II-T in this application.
Considering McLaren has disavowed ever building a crossover/SUV/thingy, the GT is as close to a ‘utility’ vehicle we’ll ever get from the brand… for now at least, if not forever.
One thing’s for sure though, the sounds the GT’s tub-thumping V8 are likely to make will be a lot more evocative than the theatrical grunting and growling that echoes around your average crossfit box.
This isn’t McLaren’s first ‘GT’: we don’t know how many of you remember the 570GT, which amongst other things, was distinguished by an intriguing side-opening glass hatch that was even framed by carbonfibre for greater torsional rigidity.
The new GT shares some elements with the 570GT, such as the ‘friendlier’ dihedral-opening doors, a pliant ride for long distance comfort and glass roof, although this last item is optional on the new car. However, the new GT’s useful 570-litres total stowage capacity trumps the 570GT’s 370-litres, and it now features a full-length, rear-opening tailgate.
We love the silhouette of the new GT, thanks to its flowing musculature and design DNA that should be familiar to fans of the brand. The styling is refined rather than macho-aggressive, although this isn’t to say it’s low-key – the GT certainly turned its fair share of heads as we ventured from the heart of the Central Business District to the centre of the Heartlands.
One thing you appreciate about all McLarens is the visibility from inside out, which comes as some surprise to brand newcomers who are expecting such a car to be difficult to drive within the confines of the city.
For what it’s worth, we parked it in a HDB multi-storey carpark at lunch time for chicken rice, and this was five floors up mind you, so there were plenty of up and down ramps to navigate.
Despite being close to 5m in length, the GT was a cinch to manoeuvre in tight confines and we scarcely broke a sweat, which is a lot less than the sweat you’d typically be drenched in after a crossfit session. Even parked between cars, the dihedral doors are designed to open for easy ingress/egress, and you don’t have to be a contortionist to unfold yourself into/out of the GT.
Even with the concessions to daily use, there’s no doubt the GT is a thoroughbred sportscar, and this goes beyond the handling and steering panache. It is ‘GT’ by name, but naughty by nature, with a spicy side to its personality when roused to anger.
This driver’s car thrives under a committed hand at the helm for tarmac shredding results. Even the weighting of the controls is millimetre perfect, from paddle shifters that thunk satisfyingly as you hammer in one gear after another, to the firm, reassuring feel of the throttle and brake pedals as you work your feet in time to the music of speed.
The powerband of the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre that’s mounted in the mid-ship has also clearly been optimised for daily commutes and start-stop traffic. With the tightly ratioed gears and snappy shifts of the 7spd dual-clutch transmission, we worked it a lot less than the 720S or 600LT to achieve meaningful brisk progress.
In Sport mode, there’s a deep bassy baritone to the exhaust note, which creates an emotive sound-scape that envelopes the GT’s occupants in a fitting aural accompaniment to the drive experience – after all, every blockbuster needs a fitting soundtrack, and the GT is no straight-to-video release!
Apart from the suspension, McLaren has tweaked the GT’s NVH towards delivering a refined motoring experience, as well as to create an environment you can relax in on long drives, so the extraneous sounds you’d expect to hear due to the inherent rigidity of such sportscars have been tuned down.
There are a handful of grand tourers that tally-up to just under a million dollars, albeit mostly front-engined candidates, so the the mid-engine, rear-drive McLaren GT a cool, eclectic choice.
The GT is an intriguing and compelling proposition, because it is executed in the brand’s inimitable style to deliver a versatile two-seat package that will carry your golf bag, wakeboard or barang-barang, boasts exotic looks and packs a heavyweight performance punch as well… all at the same time!
PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals
Engine 3994cc, V8, twin-turbo
Transmission 7spd SSG dual-clutch
Top Speed 326km/h
Fuel Consumption 11.9l/100km