Engines on Test: McLaren 720S 4.0-liter V8

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Some cars warrant a deep breath and puffed out cheeks before setting out for the first time. Seldom has this felt more appropriate than when E+PTi slid into the seat of the McLaren 720S.

The replacement for the 650S packs 70ps more than its predecessor (as its name suggests) and is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbochargedV8 – instead of the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 of its older sibling. It’s interesting to note, however, that the sense of trepidation fades away within the first few miles. Or, to put it another way, any such worries vanish the first time you realize that, in addition to being blisteringly quick, the 720S is also exquisitely balanced, with weight of steering, brake balance and throttle response seemingly tailored to engender supreme levels of confidence.

You can’t move for carbon fiber – glimpses of the Monocage II chassis structure are visible throughout the car and, unencumbered by anything other than the most essential of interior kit, the 720S’s lightest dry weight saves 18kg (40 lb) on the 650S. The engine has been lowered by 150mm, dropping the center of gravity, while even a cursory look at the car from the outside gives some idea of the amount of work that’s gone into the 720S’s aero package. As a result, the car sticks to the road with a sureness that only adds to the sense of driver confidence. Even at mid-revs, the throttle response is staggering and the power delivery virtually instantaneous – and getting a little sideways quickly becomes a grin-inducing joy to be embraced, rather than a sphincter-clenching terror to be avoided.

It’s neither subtle, nor frugal – neighbors will not appreciate the presence of the 720S on their street when you fire up the V8, and you’re likely to be frequenting the gas station forecourt on a regular basis. But it’s unlikely that anyone at the Woking OEM would claim otherwise. The thrill of hearing (and feeling) the M840T engine bite, the whoosh of the electrically actuated twin-scroll turbos, and the pop and crackle as you downshift into a turn are difficult to overstate. Take that deep breath and puff out your cheeks – this is a remarkable driving experience.

 

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