The open-top version of a supercar doesn’t always deliver the same driving experience as its closed-lid sibling, no matter how hard it might try. In the case of the 2020 McLaren 720S Spider, however, we may have found a worthy contender.
So far as automotive indulgences go, they don’t get much more far-fetched than the 720S Spider. Not only does sir or madam require the very best that McLaren can deliver, sir or madam also wants to be able to take the top off, too. Everything about the 720S should feel excessive – from the styling, to the power, to the price – it’s all over the top. And yet, in true McLaren style, not only does the end result make complete sense, it’s also user-friendly and the exact opposite of intimidating.
Ever wanted a blow-dry at 300km/h? The 720S Spider can provide it. Silliness aside, though, the Spider’s strongest point might be that it doesn’t really look any different to the ‘regular’ fixed-roof 720S. You could even fool unsuspecting fans into thinking it isn’t really a convertible at all.
The single section, carbon-fibre tub is the same one used for the convertible, and according to McLaren there isn’t even any extra bracing required, such is the inherent rigidity of the tub in the first place. Crucially, that means there isn’t a huge weight discrepancy between 720S and 720S Spider either. Clearly, there is real benefit in the way that both models were developed alongside each other from the get-go.
The roof is clever, fast (11 seconds up to 50km/h) and unobtrusive. Something that few supercars can claim when it comes to removing the top. There’s a carbon-fibre rollover hoop for protection, but nothing makes the view rearward any more compromised than it would be in the fixed-roof model. The Spider is light, too – just 1468kg.
We loved the colour of our test example, and so too it seemed did most passers-by, with the Macca attracting all of the attention potential owners would hope it would. It looks different, and therefore it stands out, but it doesn’t look silly either. The svelte lines and dramatic styling ensure it captures attention from every angle.
Pricing for the Spider starts from $556,000 before on-road costs, and there’s plenty you can option or add to customise your car so it stands out even more than it otherwise might in stock trim.
|2020 McLaren 720S Spider|
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol|
|Power and torque||530kW @ 7500rpm, 770Nm @ 5500rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||11.0L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||15.1L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested yet|
|Warranty||3 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Lamborghini Huracan, Porsche 911 Turbo S, Audi R8|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||From $556,000|
The cabin is tastefully and beautifully appointed with high-quality leather trim, eye-catching metal accents and just enough carbon fibre to not look too boy racer. The switchgear is as logical as a vastly less complex beast, and we like the portrait-mode infotainment screen, which is clear and easy to work out. Top down, you might get some glare on the screen, but that would be a difficult one to remove entirely in any drop-top.
Storage is minimal – inside the cabin or out – but the Spider isn’t really about that. The console will house a smartphone (just as well given it will fly about the cabin when you hook in if it isn’t safely stored), there are clever little door pockets, and up front there’s a compact luggage compartment with enough room for a couple of bags for a weekend away.
Situated behind the driver there’s a 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo that pummels out the same maddening numbers as the coupe – 0–100km/h in 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 341km/h – with the roof closed, of course.
And would you believe it rained all weekend while the 720S was in our hands? Of course it did…
Unleashing 530kW and 770Nm on public roads is always an exercise in restraint and control. Peak power comes in at 7500rpm, while peak torque arrives at 5500rpm. In the wet, it’s best to imagine the throttle pedal is a razor blade and your foot is resting on the sharpest part of the blade. Treat it with the utmost respect, in other words.
The Spider is truly, utterly mad, but not in a threatening way. There’s no doubt it will bite you on a wet road if you’re playing the fool, but there is also no doubt this supercar can be driven as effortlessly around town as any hatchback. Then, when the mood takes you, the turn of speed and the ferocious way in which pace builds are monumental.
The fuel claim is 11L/100km, and we saw 14–15L/100km around town without trying to be too frugal. Lean hard on it at a track day, of course, and that number will skyrocket pretty quickly. But as we always state with this level of car, no owner will care about fuel use.
There is a little lag in the early part of the rev range, but once the revs start to build, there’s a savage kick from the engine as it snarls up to redline. The fact that the engine does its best work higher up in the rev range means you find reward in keeping it on song, making for both a more exciting driving experience, but also a more appealing soundtrack.
The view forward is expansive, with that ‘strapped directly to a rocket’ feel we love about the best supercars. Pointing the Spider where you want it is easy thanks to the view, but also thanks to the precision the steering and general balance afford you.
There’s prodigious grip from the 245/35 19s up front and 305/30 20s out back – Pirelli P Zeros in the case of our test car. Monstrous carbon-ceramic rotors wash off serious speed in the blink of an eye. Hit the brakes hard, and you’ll notice the rear spoiler stand up to attention in the rear-view mirror.
If I had to pick one word to describe the Spider it would be ‘sharp’. It’s so light and agile that every input, every reaction, every response feels sharp. There isn’t a single element that feels dull when you’re behind the wheel, which definitely brings the track to the road in terms of driver feedback.
Three different drive modes mean you can toggle between Comfort, Sport and Track. In Comfort mode around town, the Spider really is docile. It doesn’t bang and crash, and the electric nose lift means you can negotiate speed humps and driveways without the fear of costly front-end damage.
It’s this balance between outright track ability and day-to-day civility that remains a McLaren badge of honour. If you find a smooth, twisty section of tarmac, the Spider will reward like few other cars, but negotiate the commute to work on crappy, pockmarked city streets, and the adaptive dampers simply eat it up with consummate ease.
Drop the top, and the McLaren remains civil, perhaps the most civil convertible supercar we’ve tested. No need to shout at your passenger or vice versa, and precious little wind buffets the cabin even at speed. You hear the wail of the boosted V8 behind you, of course, but that’s a prerequisite, and you’ll be looking for every excuse to take the top off for that reason alone.
Supercars speak to different buyers for different reasons. The Porsche 911 Turbo S we just drove, for example, appeals to a very specific buyer profile, and it’s unlikely you’d ever talk a 911 tragic into a McLaren. You might struggle to even get that 911 tragic to test-drive a McLaren. The same goes for trying to sell a Ferrari to a Lamborghini aficionado and vice versa. Buyers at this end of the spectrum know what they want and why they want it.
There is little doubt, though, that the 720S – in coupe or Spider form – is one of the very best and most accomplished supercars in the world. It’s superb. It’s fast – but that’s a given, indeed an expectation. More important than speed alone, though, it looks and feels special. Driving it brings with it a sense of occasion every time you get behind the wheel. And whether you’re a McLaren fan or not, that appeal is both palpable and undeniable.