The 2021 McLaren 720S is in a class of its own when you have the chance to look over some of the things that it brings to the table. It has styling that looks like it was sculpted by a choreographed team of artists and madmen with cleavers, performance this side of a Ferrari, and engineering that’s second to none. But while the 720S certainly has the goods in theory to make a solid first impression, we were curious to see if the 720S could translate some of those attributes into the real world and whether it could indeed live up to its promises of being the ultimate alternative to the Italian supercar benchmarks.
Thor Your Chariot Has Arrived
To find out, McLaren allowed us to spend a couple of days with the 720S to not only get a chance to know it better but also to see what has changed since our last in-person encounter with one back in 2015. The exterior styling of the 720S takes some of the things we liked about McLarens from back then and ratchets it up a notch, with the 720S straddling the line between functional purpose and elegant simplicity. There are numerous curves and creases scattered across the canvas, and the 720S also embodies a sense of futurism, especially when you look at its recessed headlights and the busy but spicy rear end complete with its trick spoiler, which also serves as an air brake when the car is brought down from higher speeds.
The 720S has a slightly cab-forward look to it, and this look gives the 720S a sizable amount of length. This length allows the side profile to balance out the front and rear, but it can make parking the 720S in tight parking spots very difficult sometimes. The wild styling also made our tester a very potent attention magnet, and we lost count of all the times we saw other drivers literally pull out their camera phones to snag an image of it as the car cruised through the broader Metro Detroit area. A more potent example occurred when our tester first arrived at the office with our neighbors (who were in the middle of a family dinner) literally streaming out of their house to see the otherworldly visitor after it had been dropped off.
The exterior also allows owners to show off their personality when they craft their car for purchase, but the MSO sourced options can run the price up in a hurry, with the MSO Defined-Ceramic Grey hue on our car being a $9,400 option. The 10-spoke lightweight forged alloy wheels relieve your wallet of another $3,850. Still, we highly recommend this particular add-on since it allowed our tester to look more purposeful while also drawing eyes to the exposed carbon fiber bodywork that adorned other sections of the car.
Split Personality Defines 720S Cabin
Once you have a chance to open the novel butterfly doors and slip inside, it’s a classic case of split personality disorder. On the one hand, the cabin is very modern, clean. It comes with some very impressive details, including the swaths of Alcantara and high-quality leather and carbon fiber accents splashed throughout. Visibility is very good for a supercar, thanks partly to the large swath of front glass, which gives the driver a commanding view of the road. Rear visibility is abysmal, but that also comes with the territory of owning a mid-engined supercar, so we’ll give our tester a pass in that regard.
Entering our tester does require some gymnastics to get over the large side sill, and generally, it’s best to go in legs first before inserting the rest of yourself in place into the comfortable seats. You are placed low into the car, but our tester still offered a perfect driving position, and you and your passenger are separated by a central tunnel which gives occupants plenty of room to stretch out and relax. Exiting the car is a bit more of a challenge than entering, with taller drivers or passengers having to be careful not to bump their heads on the door. Predictably, cargo space is mostly an afterthought in the 720S, with the small rear cargo area being complimented by a commendably sized frunk. We took the 720S on one of Emily’s shopping runs, and this frunk did a commendable job of hauling our Kroger sourced produce back to the office. Our tester also came with an optional 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, but here, the tunes were drowned out by the equally intoxicating roar of the V8 mounted behind your head.
But while the bulk of the interior makes a good first impression, some of its quirks do emerge when you take a closer examination of your surroundings. The latest iteration of the company’s “Iris” infotainment software is an improvement over older examples. However, the screen is still tricky to navigate, and there were times where the software either exhibited slow responses or locked up for a few moments. The various drive mode controls are also frustrating to use for those not accustomed to them.
Owners will also have to make sure they empty the door pockets of valuables before they leave. The lids for these bins have an auto-lock feature that helps keep items from falling out when the doors are open, but if you forget to do this and leave, you will have to go back in the car and close the door to make them open again before retrieving your item.
World-Class Performance For Any Occasion
With all the futuristic hardware that the exterior and the interior bring to the table, it’s refreshing to see that the 720S still relies on a familiar friend for its performance, with our tester being powered by McLaren’s 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8. The all-aluminum powerplant produces 710 hp and is capable of rocketing this spirited Brit to 60 mph in just 2.6 seconds. This is a very impressive performance, but like other encounters with this engine, you have to get past considerable turbo lag first to get to the engine’s happy place. Still, when the turbos spool up, our tester rewarded us with impressive acceleration and assertive tones from the V8.
A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission helps send power to the road with the gearbox also being equipped with an open differential and McLaren’s Brake Steer technology with eh latter helping the diff to replicate the effect of a limited-slip one. Shifts were deliberate and on point though we found that our tester’s box performed best when placed in Sport or Track mode, which helped eliminate some lingering slop and allowed us to get a better feel for its shift behavior when using the manual shift paddles.
Handling in our tester was also very sublime. Unlike other supercar entries, McLaren is one of the few to still use traditional hydraulic steering, which helps deliver laser-accurate amounts of road feel. The suspension also helps eliminate body roll, but Michigan’s horrible roads forced us to keep things in Comfort mode for most of the time, but even in this tame handling mode, our tester was still as sharp as a samurai sword. This is thanks to a front and rear double-wishbone setup and adaptive dampers, with the duo being linked to the company’s Proactive Chassis Control II system.
With the insane levels of performance and technology on hand, it should come as no surprise that the 2021 McLaren 720S comes with an equally potent price tag to match. Our tester had a base price of $299,000, but optional extras helped push the sticker up to a whopping $343,190. While this may seem like an excessive amount of coin, the 720S is still one of the best performance bargains in its bespoke segment, with the base price easily undercutting the $330,000 Ferrari 488 Pista and select flavors of the Lamborghini Huracan.
The performance on hand also allows it to go toe to toe with the Ferrari F8 Tributo. The Tributo also makes 710 hp from its own V8, but with the Ferrari using an electrically assisted rack, it does lose out in providing some of the high levels of driver involvement that one expects from a car of this high caliber.
While the 2021 McLaren 720S may enter the year with virtually no changes, it just shows how awesome of a supercar it is. While we wish the company will exorcise all of the bugs out of some of its fiddly interior controls. There’s no denying that the sheer amount of performance on hand is very impressive, and it should tide over well-heeled buyers for years to come. Buyers looking for more power can opt for the 720S’s sibling, the 765 LT, but we’re confident that the 720S in either coupe or Spider form will certainly be more than enough fun and style for most buyers to handle.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.