It can be hard to keep up with the pace and complexity of McLaren’s model program. Many of us find ourselves struggling to list the subtle differences that distinguish what is meant to be the Porsche-fighting Sports Series and the Ferrari-baiting Super Series, especially as all McLaren’s roadgoing cars share the same core architecture. And as the carbon-fiber tub, mid-mounted twin-turbo V-8 and dual-clutch transmission are nearly identical in each variant, it’s easy to presume that the cars and the driving experiences are equally interchangeable.
Yet that categorically isn’t true, as proven by the new 765LT. This car is based on the existing 720S, itself the lightest and quickest machine in its light, quick segment. But the LT has been given increases in both urge and aerodynamic downforce, while also losing a claimed 176 pounds compared to the already svelte 720S. The result is a car that is nearly as fast and exciting as the range-topping Senna, despite costing less than half as much. It’s also a much more handsome proposition from every angle.
LT stands for Long Tail, a name that harks back to the race-evolved McLaren F1 GT of 1997 and that has become modern McLaren’s way of designating models that are track biased while still being road viable. The 765LT is a successor to both the 2015 675LT and last year’s 600LT. Like both earlier cars, it will ultimately spawn a spider version. But following complaints from some 600LT buyers that their cars were not part of a limited run—a strategy that helps protect residual values—765LT coupe production is restricted to, appropriately enough, no more than 765 examples. Around a third of those are expected to come to the United States. Starting at $358,000, it’s only slightly more expensive than the 675LT was five years ago.
We’ve already given you a tech rundown of the new car, with highlights including an increase in engine output to 755 horsepower—enabled by a higher-capacity fuel pump, forged aluminum pistons, and a beefier head gasket. A free-flowing quad-tailpipe titanium exhaust system shaves 8.3 pounds of weight compared to the system on the 720S. Further mass has also been saved with lightweight race seats, ultralight alloy wheels, polycarbonate rear side glazing, and even the removal of interior carpeting. The lightest possible configuration requires buyers to opt to live without air conditioning or infotainment systems, but we’d guess most buyers will keep both (as no-cost options) and live with the 25.3-pound weight penalty. Even with A/C and a stereo, McLaren says the 765LT weighs but 2988 pounds fully fueled.
We suspect many buyers will opt to make their 765LTs fractionally more luxurious than the company’s spartan ideal, especially as many of the weight-adding comfort options come free. Plusher sports seats, power adjustment for those and the steering column, parking sensors, a front-axle lift, and even the 12-speaker Bower & Wilkins audio upgrade are all offered at no extra cost in the U.S. Conversely—and perversely—you’ll be able to save ounces by paying even more, the option list even including a $1520 “MSO Defined lightweight front badge.” More significant extra-cost upgrades include the Senna’s skeletal ultra-lightweight carbon seats ($7580) and the uprated brake package that brings the hypercar’s more thermally efficient carbon-ceramic rotors in place of the standard carbon discs. That’s a pricey $18,030 box to tick, but having experienced the upgraded brakes on a track, we can attest to the benefit.
Our experience of the 765LT was exclusively on the 1.8-mile International layout at the Silverstone circuit in England. (There was meant to be a road-driving element in the original plan, but COVID-19.) While the truncated program denied the chance to assess the new car’s abilities in the real world—a shame given how rounded the 600LT’s talents are—it did confirm that the 765LT is both outrageously quick and remarkably easy to drive at a high percentage of its abilities.
As with all of McLaren’s harder-core offerings, the 765LT’s cabin is big on carbon fiber and light on toys and fripperies. The core architecture is shared with the 720S and includes the same fold-down instrument pack that motors itself from a conventional display to a pared-down rev-counter and speed readout when the car is put into Track mode. There is no elegant way to climb into the tight-fitting Senna-spec bucket seats and negotiate their six-point harnesses—a conventional seatbelt is also fitted—but once in place the view over the microfiber-trimmed dashboard is appropriately racy.
While the 765’s 4.0-liter engine makes 34 fewer horsepower than the Senna’s V-8 and the LT carries slightly more weight, the performance difference between the two cars is slight. A change in gearing has sharpened the 765’s acceleration dramatically over the 720S. According to McLaren’s numbers, the LT can blast its way from zero to 124 mph in just 7.0 seconds, 1.4 seconds quicker than the 720S and just two tenths behind the Senna. During our testing of the 720S, we rocketed to 120 mph in 6.9 seconds. Its 18.0-second zero-to-186-mph time—yes, apparently that is a thing—is only a half-second adrift of the Senna.
The reality of those accelerative forces are substantial enough to cause physical discomfort—don’t take a 765LT on track after a large lunch. Yet the huge grip of the track-spec Pirelli Trofeo R tires can be deployed with remarkably little drama. Fully unleashed, the new exhaust system creates more angry noise than melody—our wait for a truly fine-sounding McLaren continues—but despite the fury (and upshift lights), McLaren also gave the LT a chime that sounds as it gets close to its 8100-rpm rev cut.
Mechanical grip levels are huge. We soon realized that even what felt like daringly early accelerator applications in Silverstone’s tighter corners were excessively cautious, especially as the fast-acting stability and traction management systems intervene to hold the LT on the cusp of rear-end breakaway, feeding power back in seamlessly as the steering unwinds. A more permissive stability-control mode allows heroic-feeling slip angles in slower turns, although—as with all McLarens—the 765LT is short on steering lock when it comes to dealing with serious oversteer. Most owners will prefer to leave the systems watching their backs, especially given how unobtrusively they intervene.
The car’s aerodynamics help with high-speed stability, too. McLaren refuses to say how much downforce the 765LT can make, only saying the figure is 25 percent higher than the equally unquantified total for the 720S. But on Silverstone’s faster turns, the hand of God could be clearly felt pushing the car into the asphalt and increasing confidence, especially when turning into high-speed corners without first settling the front end with the brakes. While downforce levels are obviously less than those of the Senna, which produces up to 1764 pounds of aerodynamic assistance, the 765LT also feels lighter on its feet and more adjustable in corners than its wing-covered sister. The upgraded brake package is also close to extraordinary, turning what felt like outrageously late braking points into timidly early ones.
It took two stints at Silverstone in the 765LT to feel as if we were getting close to what it is capable of. Even those who regularly track supercars—or even race cars—will find it an adrenaline-spiking challenge. It might not sit at the top of the McLaren hierarchy in terms of pricing, but it is almost certainly the most thrilling choice in the current range and possibly the entire supercar segment. And thrilling is what cars like this are supposed to be all about, right?
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