McLaren 720S Spider (2019)

The new McLaren 720S Spider is more than just a 720S minus a roof. It seeks to broaden the appeal of McLaren’s new Super Series model by doing everything that the excellent 720S Coupe can do – all the sportiness, all the speed – and adding the thrill of open-top driving. It expands an already amazingly broad envelope of supercar capabilities.

Most roadsters are big on sensuality but sacrifice performance and handling. This one has all the wind-in-the-hair appeal of a droptop but mixes it with the performance of a track star. Plus, McLaren’s excellent active hydraulic suspension promises greater ride comfort than rival supercars, let alone fast roadsters.

McLaren’s signature technology – a super stiff and light carbon fibre tub – needs no reinforcement to meet the demands of a convertible. Steel- and aluminum-based Spiders need buttressing to offer acceptable rigidity, and those reinforcements pile on the pounds, while still failing to offer the torsional strength of a good hardtop coupé.

OK, so how much slower is it than the Coupé?

It isn’t. The weight penalty is only 49kg – blame the folding roof and its new electric mechanism – and everything else is identical to the Spider: same power, same suspension settings, same aerodynamics with roof up. 0-62mph is the same – an incredible 2.9sec. So is top speed – 212mph roof up, 202 with it down. Only when accelerating to very high speeds does the stopwatch show any difference (0.1 sec slower to 125mph from rest, and the same margin over the standing quarter). Blame that tiny increase in weight. And that accelerative difference is so infinitesimal that not even Fernando Alonso at his sharpest would notice.

Performance is sensational. The latest twin-turbo version of McLaren’s fine Ricardo-built V8 has been enhanced in capacity to 4.0 litres (from the 650S Spider’s 3.8 litres) and 41 percent of parts are new. Maximum power jumps from 641bhp (650PS) to 710bhp (720PS), and just as important maximum torque blossoms from 500 to 568lb ft. So much power, in so little mass (1468kg with fluids and fuel), gives astonishing acceleration. To 60 from rest, it’s as quick as a P1 or a new Senna. To 125mph, it’s just over a second slower (7.9sec v 6.8). Put simply, it’s one of the world’s fastest supercars. And it happens to be a convertible.

What are the major changes from the 650S Spider?

The carbon tub has been revised: McLaren now calls it the Monocage II-S (S for Spider) and it helps to make the new car stronger and lighter than the old 650S Spider. Very similar to the 720S Coupe’s chassis, it’s the first McLaren Spider whose tub includes a carbon upper structure. It allows for the Coupe’s ultra-slim A-pillars to be retained. New glazed flying buttresses also aid all-round visibility. The new rollover protection system is now mostly carbon, not steel, and more compact in design.

Also new is the folding roof, with a one-piece carbon fibre roof panel. Roof up, it looks just like the Coupe and has the same profile and aero performance. The folding mechanism now works electrically, not hydraulically, and retracts faster (11 sec, up or down – six seconds faster than before) and at a higher speed (up to 31mph rather than 18). It’s also noticeably quieter in operation.

Other big changes include a much better infotainment system – not hard, because the old one was hopeless – and revised instrumentation, including a main instrument binnacle that can rotate from a conventional display to a minimalist track-oriented strip dominated by a bar-graph tacho, just like the hardtop. As before, steering is electro-hydraulic. McLaren (rightly) thinks pure electric systems are still insufficiently feelsome.

As always, McLaren is obsessed with weight: the 720S Spider is the lightest Spider in the class and 9kg less than the 650S Spider.

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