McLaren GT 2022 long-term review
We say goodbye after a spell with McLaren's extravagant grand tourer
*Why we ran it:* To see if a mid-engined supercar really could cut it as a commuting grand tourer
-Month 3 - Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs-
-Life with a McLaren GT: Month 3-
*Can a £163k GT-cum-supercar really hack it as an everyday driver and retain its exclusive appeal? You bet it can - 27 April *
It’s funny how, sometimes, something amazing starts from something ordinary. There I was in the office when a brief message popped up on my computer, from editor Tisshaw: “Do you fancy running a McLaren GT long- termer?” My brain might not be the swiftest, but even I woke up pretty sharpish at that point.
If I’m honest, I’m not quite sure why Tisshaw even needed to ask the question. Ours is a special world at Autocar, but even against that backdrop, a McLaren GT as a daily driver takes some beating. A few months later, though, and it’s gone. That was a bleak day. All grey sky and mist, made even greyer and mistier by the lack of the Belize Blue McLaren parked outside my house.
Not that my time with GT07 MCL started out that way. I’ll admit to a fair degree of scepticism before it arrived. Yes, it was an exciting prospect. But as a GT? And an everyday commuter? That seemed like an altogether different prospect, with its carbon fibre tub, mid- mounted engine and strict two-seater layout.
GTs are meant to be long- legged cruisers, seats reclined, arms stretched out, long bonnet pointing towards the south of France. The McLaren promised anything but.
And yet within a week, it was suggesting a broader appeal. Not in the traditional GT sense, but with enough comfort and flexibility that meant a long commute didn’t fill me with dread. The sense of excitement from opening the dihedral doors meant every single journey at least started as an occasion.
Even the process of approaching the car turns the mundane into something memorable: walk out of the front door, glance at the low- slung shape 20 yards away, press the McLaren logo on the key (it’s keyless, but using a key in this touchless age adds to the sense of occasion), whip up the door and drop across and into the low-slung seats. A monobox SUV can’t compete with theatre like this.
Admittedly, I’m short so don’t have as far to drop as some (entry and exit would be a pain for anyone vastly over six foot), but because everyday events feel special in this car, the GT helps to set things up to be more adventurous. I’ve used it day in, day out and never found it to be tiresome.
You’d have to be dead inside not to get excited by the prospect of a trip in a supercar, but the M1/M25 slog to which I’m subjected can certainly give it a good go. Yet even those tortuous stretches of asphalt became events to be savoured.
Of course, the GT’s hardware helped. With the 4.0-litre V8 that appears in other McLarens, in this case with 612bhp and 465lb ft, and contained within a 1530kg body, acceleration was never lacking.
If I’m honest, though, it’s the steering and ride that I’ll miss most. It’s not as luxurious or sumptuous as a traditional GT, but it’s comfortable enough for the commute and absorbs far more than those low-profile tyres have any right to. Then when the road opens up, it rewards more than those traditionalists.
The hydraulic power-assisted steering is something that feels alive in your hands no matter what speed you’re doing, and there’s a wonderful roll about the car’s rear that means you can be doing normal road speeds and still get enjoyment from it. That’s why this car impressed me so much: you don’t need to go for a special drive to enjoy it. It gives you those moments of joy on most journeys.
In terms of running costs, the GT wasn’t quite as bank-breaking as I thought it might be. We’ve covered close to 3000 miles in it so haven’t needed a service or new tyres (a pal of mine has a 720S and has just extended the warranty, to make sure he swerves any of the reportedly frightening parts bills), but in fuel economy terms, an average of 23.1mpg is pretty impressive.
The recent highs of petrol prices certainly don’t help, but a pence- per-mile cost on fuel alone came out at 30p a mile. It was helped by the number of journeys I did that were solid motorway stretches: on those, I regularly saw 30mpg on the trip. By cruising at 60-70mph, with the gearbox perma-locked into the upper ratios and the engine at relaxed revs, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Flipping all the settings to Track and the gearbox to Manual (with its delightfully snappy change) soon fixed any concerns that I was in danger of hypermiling a McLaren. We had several fills where the average economy was in the 17s. Not that that has spoiled the experience. You’d have to be a bit daft to imagine a V8 petrol wasn’t going to occasionally sting at the pumps.
It’s the surprise and delight of the McLaren that will last longest in my memory: those five minutes of a journey where the road, traffic and weather all come together and the taps can be opened up. Or getting stopped by strangers wanting to know more about it. No, it’s not a traditional GT. But have I ever wished for anything other than the McLaren in our five months together? Nope.
I just need to remember to leave my computer’s chat messenger open, just in case Tisshaw ever sends another of those messages.
*Second opinion *
Whether you chalk it up to the rarity of the badge, the head-turning exhaust note or the unmissable colour scheme, I’m not sure there’s been another car on Autocar’s fleet in recent times that could guarantee to put smiles on strangers’ faces as you drove by. It’s an effect I don’t think a Bentley Conti GT or even a Ferrari Roma, the GT’s closest rivals in the super-GT space, can replicate. *TM*
*Love it *
*Look - a friend! *
There aren’t many that can out-door a McLaren, but the Gullwing Merc we met gives it a good go.
Adjustable, colour-matched lighting behind the metal finish on the GT looked lovely at night.
These were optional extras, but boy were they worth it. Just be sure to park at least a metre from any kerb.
The styling was great, but the rear camera didn’t take long to get covered in grime in winter.
Could be wayward at times. And no Apple CarPlay meant functionality wasn’t what it could be.
*Final mileage: *3253
*We find out where customers go to make their McLaren even more exclusive - 13 April*
If you’ve been following the McLaren GT reports on these pages, you will probably have noticed the paintwork. It’s from McLaren’s Elite paint range, specifically the Belize Blue colour. And at £4000, it certainly ain’t cheap.
Although, as an aside, if you were to compare the percentage of its cost against the value of the car (2.45% in the GT) versus Oryx White mother of pearl paint on the Volkswagen Golf (4.52%),it’s actually not bad value.
The quality of it is a thing of beauty. TVRs were famed for having the most incredible paint quality (it was probably their most reliable feature), and with modern spray-booth techniques, a lot of manufacturers are now turning out equally impressive finish.
Precision painting technology promises even more. But there are still artisans out there, and that’s where McLaren Special Operations (MSO) comes in. You will have seen their work before, on some of the more outlandish special editions that have emerged from Woking (the 720S Spider at the 2019 Geneva motor show springs to mind), but they’re also the people who customers go to when they want something bespoke on their supercar.
These things stem all the way from the 15 unique examples of the US-only Sabre (based on the Senna but heavily reworked) right down to if you want your key painted to match the colour of your favourite cat.
If you so desire, you can even spend nearly £50,000 on a TPT gold badge for your car. Some of the detail paintwork, applied entirely by hand, is simply breathtaking – and more impressive than most other modern art.
Wandering round the MSO workshop, housed in a nondescript industrial estate in Woking, is like living all your supercar dreams at once. The day we went in, there was a McLaren F1 GT road car parked up behind another F1 with, cool of cools, flat white paint. Elvas and Sennas were dotted around like Ford Fiestas.
Our GT isn’t on that level. But you can still get MSO treatment on the model, even though it is McLaren’s entry-level offering. Neil Underwood, MSO’s global bespoke commissions manager, and Graham Chambers, its business relationship manager, are our guides, walking us through the process of speccing our car.
There’s a wall of paint samples with every conceivable shade, but customers can choose completely bespoke finishes as well. Leather is equally customisable.
The really clever bit is the computer software that MSO runs, allowing the team to spec the car in real time and to the level of detail that far exceeds run-of-the-mill car configurators. You can even zoom in to see the ‘fleck’ in the paint.
Apparently, a lot of customers ask “who else has done this in my country?”, showing how important customisation is at this level of wealth.
For ‘my’ GT, I’m happy to stick with what I would like, so we end up going with Chicane Effect paint with Papaya Spark accents, the Black Pack, orange brake calipers with black text and diamond-cut 10-spoke alloy wheels. Inside, there’s more hints of orange with the Vision Orange piping on the seats.
At a punchy £9960, it’s an MSO bespoke paint, but if the client goes for an even more way-out colour, they will be sent a sample, just to make sure they’re happy.
And the best bit about all this? With additional MSO kit on your McLaren, it will depreciate less. I told you the paint was good value.
*Love it *
*Fully literate *
The sat-nav displays the wording on motorway road signs with surprising accuracy.
*Loathe it *
*... but dim-witted*
Sometimes the memory seat’s reset function fails to kick in when you shut the door.
-Life with a McLaren GT: Month 2-
*We’ve caught the F1 bug and pitted our McLaren for fresh tyres - 23 March 2022*
If this truly is McLaren’s everyday supercar, it needs to work in all weathers. And while the standard Pirelli P Zero tyres are perfectly acceptable circles of rubber, in cold weather they can come unstuck. (Not quite literally: we’re not that brutal on the throttle.)
It’s the cold morning start when this was most noticeable. Pulling out of my house is a bit of an exercise in blind faith, as we’re on a corner, so sometimes I’ll edge into the road only to be greeted by a set of headlights bearing down on me.
At that point, a touch of panic sets in, I tend to jump on the throttle slightly more aggressively than is strictly necessary and things get a little squirmy. It’s an obvious and understandable consequence if the temperature is below 5deg C and there’s 612bhp sat under your right foot.
So we decided to try some winter rubber. Although we went to McLaren to get these fitted, we didn’t get any special treatment: the process is available to every McLaren owner at their local retailer. For £2556 (oof!), you can fit a set of Pirelli Sottozero tyres, which, like their summer brethren, are designed for the McLaren GT. They’re the same 225/35 R20 (front) and 295/30 R21 (rear) size, so it’s simply a question of wheels off, rubber switched, wheels back on.
What to do with the spares? Most McLaren owners will have a garage in which to store their pride and joy, so it’s not really an issue. In theory, and at a push, you could ask your retailer to store them for you, but it’s not something that’s generally offered.
So what effect has this had on the road? Simply, it’s much more secure to drive. There are no longer any fleeting moments of a loss of traction, as the grip is consistent across all speeds. I’ve tried to unstick them (safely, I should add) when the temperature has dipped below 5dec C, by being more aggressive with the steering and throttle than would ever be needed, but the tyres have remained true and planted. So you would have to be some shade of lunatic to get them to break away from you. And who wants to be doing that on a public road?
They’ve also been extremely impressive in standing water, sadly something we saw a lot of this winter. The GT wears a wide set of rubber, but it still cuts through water easily, with a hint less tug on the steering wheel as you dip into the puddle than you get on the summer tyres.
Is there any aspect where the winters are worse than the summers? There’s perhaps a smidge more road noise, but not enough to make any discernible difference (the winters lack the summers’ Pirelli Noise Cancelling System that is meant to reduce road noise). And you should also limit the top speed to 150mph – an enormous hardship, as I’m sure you can imagine.
It would be interesting to see how the winters perform in warmer conditions and whether the grip drops off as the temperatures rise – something that I’ve experienced before in high-powered cars. But sadly the GT will be heading back to McLaren before that happens.
What I can definitively say is that at 12deg C, and at normal road speeds, you can’t tell any difference in how they handle. That counts as a win in my book.
*Boot space *The boot is long and thin, but I’ve yet to fill it.
*Restricted viewing *My view of the reversing camera is obstructed by the steering wheel.
*Back to the top*
*Screenwash is in short supply in the GT - 9 March*
The McLaren is proving itself a useful commuter, but it falls short in screenwash. Not only is the reservoir way too small for British roads in winter (it runs out after a week), but the access to it is tricky as well. I’ve taken to using my wife’s long-necked watering can so that it doesn’t chuck fluid all over the lining of the ‘froot.'
*Ward's Lincolnshire to Middlesex commute is a true test of touring talent - 23 February*
Most commutes start early – and that’s where the McLaren GT initially comes unstuck. This isn’t a car to make you popular with the neighbours. The cold-start procedure drops a V8 whap into the quiet of 5am, waking the local feral cats and most of the houses on our street. There are worse cars out there (the Jaguar F-Type springs to mind), but it’s not the most social way to set off.
Still, it’s only a brief musical interlude for the village before the commute proper starts. In these cold times, it takes a while for the GT to warm through properly, so a gentle throttle is required for the first bit of the journey before the oil and water temperature indicators change from blue to white to signal that everything is tickety-boo.
The consequence of this delay is that the cabin stays cold for a surprising amount of time. My commute involves a quick bit of village limits before I’m straight onto dual carriageway. In other words, prime warm-up-quickly territory. But even with this, the GT’s cold interior meant that at one point I was wearing gloves (not string-backed, before you laugh) in the really early starts, just to keep the frostbite at bay.
I’ve since discovered a ‘quick heat’ button within the air-conditioning controls, and this definitely helps to get things going faster. However, there’s no way of easily getting heat into the other weak spot: the tyres. Their pressure sensors are really sensitive to temperatures below about 5deg C, to the point that it always pings a flat-tyre warning. You learn to ignore it (the clue is if it warns you about all four tyres), but it’s an irritation at dawn.
Overall, then, the McLaren isn’t the most suitable cold-start companion. However, for the wider, mundane run down to London, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. I felt a bit self-conscious at first, with the colour certainly not helping the car to blend in, and the driving position is very low, so eyeballing the underside of lorries is common, but it’s a remarkably comfortable place to be.
I had thought that I would find it annoying to not have any controls on the steering wheel, but I admire McLaren for sticking rigidly to the mantra that a steering wheel is for that purpose alone. The contrast to a modern Ferrari is certainly marked. And besides, in such a compact cabin, all of the controls are within easy reach, even for Tyrannosaurus rex arms like mine.
The standard Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker sound system is good, providing enough clarity for me to listen to a variety of different radio stations without feeling like it needs turning up too much. The McLaren GT is no Bentley Continental GT in terms of isolation, as the lack of a bulkhead filters more noise into the cabin, but I don’t find it wearing over athree-hour commute.
It’s annoying that there’s no Apple CarPlay, though. The Bluetooth link to my iPhone is fast, but missing out on the extra functionality of CarPlay definitely feels like a miss. It is coming (at least it is for the all- new Artura; no word yet on whether the GT will get it),but for the time being owners have to make do with McLaren’s slightly fiddly home- grown infotainment system. Still, sit back and enjoy the drive.
Even over three hours of motorway, including the really impressively clogged sections of the M1 and the M25, it rarely gets tiring. I enjoy the easy throttle control and the fact that I’m not skittering on hot coals; the car can be sharp and reactive, but with the settings in normal, it’s placid. The key is that the experience feels special. If a car can make my commute feel like that, I would count that as a win.
*Did our man’s maiden McLaren voyage live up to expectations? - 9 February*
You might or might not be surprised to hear that not everyone at Autocar gets to sample every new car we test. No, the priciest and most powerful are usually exclusively for the road test team. So until recently, my sole experience of a McLaren was five minutes I spent trapped inside a stationary Senna, as no one thought to tell me the door release was in the ceiling. A week with our long-term GT would surely make amends.
Once you’re past the sheer presence of a mid-engined supercar whose dihedral doors open upwards, the most striking thing about the GT is how bespoke it all feels. The Audi R8 greets you with an interior that isn’t massively different from that of the TT, or really any other Audi.
Gone are the days of McLarens sharing wing mirrors with Volkswagens and brake lights with buses – although saying that, the ultra-thick windscreen wiper could easily have come from one. Must it be built like scaffolding to cope with the car’s top speed?
I can’t remember the last time I drove a car whose steering wheel was just for steering. The GT’s is entirely absent of all buttons, switches and (God forbid) touch-sensitive surfaces, relegating the cruise control and dial-cluster controls to stalks below the indicator and wiper ones. It looks slick, but it does mean having to hunt for some features we now take for granted as having at our fingertips.
McLaren’s bespoke infotainment system is at least straightforward to find your way around, with buttons to jump between the sat-nav, climate and media. I’m not sure why a British car’s sat-nav insists on speaking in an American accent and measuring things in eighths of a mile, though.
My biggest bugbear is that the reversing camera appears in the dial cluster: sure, it would have to shrink to fit within the touchscreen, but it wouldn’t get blocked from view as soon as you turn the steering wheel.
Those quibbles aren’t enough to detract from the driving experience, which is sublime. The GT launches explosively under a heavy foot and gives incredibly responsive steering feel. It’s certainly more supercar than grand tourer, but it’s still impressively relaxed on a motorway and easy to slot into traffic in town.
In my week with the GT, I passed lots of Porsches, a few Aston Martins and Ferraris but no other McLaren.
I won’t miss the fuel consumption, which dipped into single digits at one point, but the feeling of exclusivity it exudes will be hard to beat.
*Economy figures as good as a diesel SUV - 2 February*
We’re just over a 1000 miles into our ownership of the McLaren GT and we’re already getting pretty impressive fuel economy figures. Admittedly, this was a two-hour motorway journey, so there was plenty of consistent throttle. But still, 31.1mpg over a two-hour drive would count as a win in a large diesel SUV, let alone a 4.0-litre V8 petrol sports car. Sorry, GT car...
-Life with a McLaren GT: Month 1-
*Welcoming the GT to the fleet - 26 January 2022*
Here’s what we said about a McLaren when we road tested it back in 2017: “The car’s class-transcending performance comes combined with remarkable breadth of ability on the road (ride and handling that can be more supple, progressive, tactile and mild than any true rival), with excellent usability, too, and with more indulgent on-the-limit track handling than any McLaren we’ve known before.”
To my mind, that’s all that would indicate the car could make a good stab at being a GT. But we didn’t write those words about a GT. That road test verdict – and a five-star rating, incidentally – was reserved for the McLaren 720S. Which is part of the reason why McLaren finds itself in a quandary with the car we’re lucky enough to be running for the next three months: the actual McLaren GT.
Spun on further, the debate continues: can a mid-engined, supercar-based GT be the ultimate car to live with, or are the compromises too much, especially when the actual supercar from the same brand already does such a good job at the daily stuff? In the rarefied world of these things, it’s going to be a heck of a few months finding out.
And to kick things off in suitably superlative style, we managed to line up our GT with a 720S to do a bit of back-to-back comparison, meeting at Millbrook Proving Ground. But more on that in a second. First, some details on the GT we will be running.
The GT is built around McLaren’s Monocell carbonfibre tub (essentially an evolution of the 570S’s without a roof section), as opposed to the Monocage II of the 720S, but it does share the supercar’s 4.0-litre V8 and electro-hydraulic power steering. Peak outputs are 612bhp and 465lb ft, with 95% of the latter arriving at an un-supercar-like 3000rpm.
Our GT is in Luxe trim. It’s nigh-on identical to Pioneer trim, except it gets full leather instead of a leather and Alcantara mix – as befits the names, really. There’s also the ‘base’ Standard trim, but that has you make do with manual reach and rake adjustment. Think of the effort...
As you will have already noticed, our car isn’t in the most subtle of hues. This particular paint is called Belize Blue, and it’s certainly doing its bit to attract all sorts of phone-camera attention on the UK’s motorways. With a £4000 price, it’s the most expensive option on the car.
The Panoramic Privacy Tinted Glass Roof (£1750) is one that I would opt for, if my early judgement counts for anything; you can’t get the GT in Spider form, but this large expanse of glass certainly opens things up a bit.
The Glass Black diamond-cut wheels (£1650) also look a bit of all right. Wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tyres, they really do help give the car a convincing stance. I’ve seen other GTs on more normal alloys, and they don’t have anywhere near the kerb presence. Speaking of which, these look like they could easily be damaged, so there will be a metre-from-the-kerb rule put in place. Width restrictors are banned.
Privacy glass (£500) and Polished Special Colour brake calipers with a silver logo (£1270) round out the cost options.
The GT is the entry point to McLaren ownership, with a starting price of £163,000. The firm divides its cars into three categories: GTs (containing just the GT seen here); supercars (the 720S and Longtail variants, each soon to be joined by the all-new V6 plug-in hybrid Artura) and the Ultimate Series (expensive specials like the Elva and McLaren Speedtail).
As you would expect of two different cars targeting two different types of buyer, the GT is softer than the 720S, both in theory and in practice. Its V8 produces 98bhp less than that of its sibling, while it also gets an increased ride height (by just 3mm, although with up to 130mm with the nose lift engaged) and more sound-deadening. Mind you, it still weighs only 1530kg, so it’s hardly a lardy thing even with the extra leather and noise insulation.
Do they feel that different on the road? Even driving them back to back, it’s pretty marginal stuff. In the GT, everything feels wound off by about 2%. The car still rotates around you and is incredibly precise in its major controls (all hail electrohydraulic power steering), but it’s lacking that last element of enveloping sportiness. The steering doesn’t tuck the front tyres into a corner with quite as much bite.
At the moment, with slippery roads around, I’m grateful for that. The steering is plenty sharp enough as it is for road use, with the nose hunting out apexes just on the acceptable side of aggressive.
So far, then, it’s doing the cross-country thing very well. As a GT and for my mammoth commute from the Midlands to Middlesex? Well, finding that out will come soon enough. What a chore it’s going to be...
My issue with the GT has never been its handling balance or the character of its steering, nor anything else that matters when you’re simply in the moment, enjoying the drive. It does those things well. It’s the GT brief that undoes it, because despite the name and brochure bumf, this is still a mid-engined supercar, with all the associated joys and frustrations. How long before Piers tires of the dihedral doors or the iffy over-the-shoulder visibility and wonders why you wouldn’t just buy an Artura or, more temptingly, a used 720S?
*Back to the top*
-McLaren GT Luxe specification-
*Prices: List price new* £163,000 *List price now* £163,000 *Price as tested* £172,170 *Dealer value now*
*Options: *Belize Blue Elite paint (£4000), panoramic tinted privacy glass roof (£1750), privacy glass (£500), gloss black diamond-cut wheel finish (£1650), polished special colour brake calipers with silver logo (£1270)
*Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy* 23.7mpg *Fuel tank* 72 litres *Test average* 23.1mpg *Test best* 32.6mpg *Test worst* 17.1mpg *Real-world range* 366 miles
*Tech highlights: 0-62mph* 3.3sec *Top speed* 203mph *Engine* V8, 3994cc, twin-turbo, petrol *Max power* 612bhp at 7500rpm *Max torque* 465 lb ft at 5500 - 6500rpm *Transmission* 7-spd automatic *Boot capacity* 150 litres (f) 420 litres (r) *Wheels and* *Tyres* 8.0Jx20in, 255/35 R20 (f), 10.5Jx21in, 295/30 R21 (r) *Kerb weight* 1530kg
*Service and running costs: Contract hire rate* N/A *CO2* 270g/km *Service costs* None *Other costs* Winter tyres (£2556) *Fuel costs* (£832.64) *Running costs inc fuel* £832.64 *Cost per mile* 30 pence *Faults* None
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