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Friday
Mar102017

McLaren 720S Making Things Simpler, for Now

The launch of a new “Super Series” McLaren road car should be a cause for celebration, but does anybody care? Look past the technology and performance, the heritage and the history, the capability and the image, and you find a dizzying array of very similar vehicles that began with the MP4-12C. All are powered by variants of the same twin-turbocharged V8, with the Ultimate Series model, the P1, adding hybrid technology to the mix. But as the MP4-12C morphed into the 650S and 675S, and then the 540 and 570 models replaced the 12C as the Sport Series, things became very confused.

Perhaps the introduction of the McLaren 720S will help. It launches as the only model in the second-generation Super Series, and brings with it a number of advancements. These included the Monocage II  carbon fiber and aluminum chassis that now includes the roof structure (previous cars had the separate roof structure bonded in place), wider door openings, and greater interior room. The V8 has been increased to 4.0-liters capacity with 720 PS (hence the name) and 770 Nm of torque (710 hp and 568 lb.-ft.), and the latest generation of McLaren’s chassis control system. Just don’t expect it to last. As improvements are made, models will be added, numbers changed, and confusion will return.

With Frank Stephenson moving over to head advanced design at McLaren, the design job fell to new chief designer Robert Melville, who borrowed design language from the P1, and mixed with an almost brutal adherence to aerodynamic principles. Compact LED headlights fit into the upper section of the headlight sockets, with the section below the daytime running lights used to channel air to the air conditioning condenser and oil cooler. The doors have F1-like “barge boards”on their outer surface to pull air out of the wheel arches, increase downforce and reduce drag. What’s missing, however, are external ducts to draw air into the radiators. Melville and the aero team at McLaren designed the doors with distinct inner and outer skins that surround a void on three sides. This channel creates an internal passageway through the door, along the body side, and into the ducting for the radiator located alongside the engine compartment. The lack of external ducting cuts drag significantly, and air is drawn over the front of the car, around the greenhouse, and into the channel. With the top section of the door open, Melville also took the opportunity to clean up the body sides even more by placing the door handles in this area.

Also helping on the aero front is an engine that is internally larger, but nearly five inches lower than the 3.8-liter V8 it replaces. This new design has a larger capacity, thanks to a 3.6-mm longer stroke, lighter pistons and connecting rods, a lighter crankshaft, twin injectors per cylinder, and twin-scroll turbos that spool up faster than before. Forty-one percent of the engine’s components are new. McLaren says the 720S goes from 0-62 mph in under three seconds, 0-124 mph in less than eight seconds, and has a top speed of 212 mph. Weight for the car is impressive as well, 2,828.5 lb. dry, and 3,128 lb. with all fluids and 90% of the fuel capacity onboard.

The first customers are scheduled to receive their cars this May, with pricing outside of the U.K. set closer to launch. U.K. models will start at £208,600 ($253,740). — CAS


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