This is what happens when you send a McLaren to charm school.
There are two ways to look at McLaren’s latest model, the 570GT. It’s either a brilliant marketing exercise that repackages an existing car into an “all-new,” more genteel version of the company’s base model. Or, it is a sports car company splitting a hair between models to gain new buyers—an often dangerous practice.
I had a chance to drive the 570GT recently, which I did early in the morning along the Monterey Peninsula’s 17 Mile Drive, where the curves are plentiful, the views haunting and the roads clear at 7 am.
On first inspection, the 570GT looks a whole lot like McLaren’s 570S sports car—because, essentially, it is. But in this case, the devil’s in the details, such as the reconfigured rear window, which on the 570GT now opens via side-mounted hinges—and always curbside, depending on whether it’s a left- or right-hand-drive car. The hatch offers access to the “touring deck”—a leather-bound cargo shelf. Does it provide enough room for luggage? No. My (admittedly large) purse just barely fit, but combined with the front luggage space, there’s a total of 12 cubic feet of cargo capacity—much more than the 570S’s 5.3 cubic feet.
In order to make room for the hatch, McLaren had to modify the 570S’s rear wing and tail. The result is stunning, actually—less in-your-face carbon fiber and more elegantly flowing lines.
Between my model’s sleek dark metallic blue paint and the rich ivory leather interior, I felt instantly that I was in a different sort of ride from McLaren’s other, wilder models. The GT’s panoramic glass roof lends a spacious feeling to an otherwise intimate cockpit—a detail it shares with its biggest brother, the P1 supercar.
The rest of the differences were dynamic—and surprisingly discernible. The springs were softer in normal mode and the steering was slower than in the 570S. But when in sport and track modes, the GT was as rip-snorting and powerful as a McLaren should be —ripping around corners and blurring my vision with acceleration G-force. But when play time was over and the GT was back in normal mode, it reverted to being a debonair driver.
So which is it? The 570GT is an extremely well-split hair and a successful engineering attempt to broaden the character of a pure sports car. Ironically, McLaren boss Sir Ron Dennis was recently ousted for not paying enough attention to winning in Formula 1 (despite 17 championships in 35 years) and putting too much focus on the road cars. In the U.S. alone, sales of those road cars are up 102% year to date—752 cars through October 31st—so focus isn’t such a bad thing.
Now McLaren’s going to have to figure out how to get people shopping for more traditional grand tourers to consider the 570GT—another expensive marketing task and one that will likely have to happen without Sir Dennis.