McLaren 750S 4.0 V8 First Drive Review : Mac the Knife
Estoril, Portugal - Let’s get it out of the way first. Yes, the 750S’s modest 30hp and 30Nm bump over the 720S to 750hp and 800Nm aren’t exactly earth-shattering, especially for a twin-turbocharged engine.
However, with the 765LT on top and 720S below, there wasn’t a big window of opportunity to play with as far as upping performance was concerned.
In true McLaren fashion though, the enhancements to the 750S are holistic and aren’t limited to this ‘simple’ power-up, so it is anything but basic.
It’s lighter, more agile, more punchy and most importantly, more fun - things we immediately noticed when we first turned its wheel in anger!
For starters, the suspension and chassis have been sharpened-up over the 720S’s for even more incisive dynamic responses, with the 750S also 30kg lighter than the former to tip the scales at under 1.4-tonnes.
According to Chief Engineer Sandy Holford, the 750S isn’t intended to snap on the heels of the very hardcore, very limited 765LT (and its owners).
Instead, the objective was to extend the 720S’s already-impressive depth of abilities with a sprinkle of some LT fairy-dust in terms of feel, feedback and fun, albeit without compromising its daily-driveability.
I’m sure the more anorak among our readers would have noticed the 750S’s 332km/h top speed is lower than the 720S’s 341km/h.
For the record, we never saw the point in 0-100km/h and top speed stats for sportscars that are engineered to be fun-to-drive, because fast doesn’t necessarily equate to fun.
Considering the 750S now has a shorter final drive and more downforce than the 720S, I wouldn’t expect a higher top speed from something that is designed to perform on winding roads and technical circuits.
Besides, top speed runs are mostly conducted on speed rings or decommissioned runways and these don’t tend to be big fun for passionate drivers, even if such paper stats tend to impress the pub bores.
Moreover, bear in mind the even more hardcore 765LT weighs-in with a top speed of just 330km/h… Do you think it’s any less of a sportscar?
With the Mac-Spicy 720S already such an explosive bundle of fun, we didn’t think it possible for McLaren to be able to improve on it… yet it has managed to with the 750S, with 30 per cent of its components new or changed.
We see the 750S appealing to sportscar purists hankering after a visceral ICE-powered, mid-engined, rear-drive sportscar. If you haven’t noticed, these are pretty thin on the ground these days.
Apart from the nat-asp V10 in the Lamborghini Huracan, the V8-engined McLaren is the other chest-thumping sportscar in this segment - that you can buy new - to be animated by a pure ICE engine.
The visual differences between the 750S from the 720S are subtle but effective. This author has always liked the ‘eye-socket’ LED headlights (that double as radiator intakes) from the 720S and these have been narrowed for more of a menacing glint on the 750S.
The 750S gets a more aggressive front splitter and at the back, a P1-esque central, single-exit stainless steel exhaust (2.2kg lighter), as well as a 20 per cent larger rear-wing (yet 1.6kg lighter thanks to its carbonfibre construction) for increased downforce over the 720S.
In terms of footwear, the 750S also has the option of the lightest alloy rims of all series production models in McLaren’s stable.
A new 10-spoke ultra-lightweight forged wheel saves 13.8kg over the 720S and the unsprung weight savings translates to great agility on both winding roads, as well as the circuit.
The driver-centric cockpit features more tweaks to improve ergonomics.
If you found the earlier stalk-mounted lifter control fiddly to use, you’ll be pleased to learn there’s now a dedicated button for it on the left fascia (right side on RHD cars).
It features one-touch operation (in around 4secs flat) and can be actuated even when the steering wheel is not in the straight-ahead position (unlike before), which makes it a cinch turning into (and out of) driveways.
There’s been a reorganisation of the dynamic controls, with a new ‘Speedy Kiwi’ button (or MCL for McLaren Control Launcher), which recalls your fave dynamic (or comfort!) settings at the push of a button, sitting in a row with ‘Aero’ and ‘Launch’.
Like the Elva (and Artura), the 750S sees the rocker toggles for the Powertrain and Handling shifted to the instrument binnacle - in our opinion, this is ergonomically more intuitive to operate compared to the earlier Active Panel interface.
Unfortunately, the 750S also does away with the trick folding instrument cluster of the 720S, saving 1.8kg in the process but losing some of that cool factor we loved so much!
The latest generation PCC (or ProActive Chassis Control) III makes its debut on the 750S with fresh suspension and chassis tweaks, including a wider front track, softer front suspension and stiffer rears compared to the 720S.
The close-ratios deliver ferocious performance on both road and track, with a lightness of being to the lithe and lively 750S that lets you lead the charge in this light brigade.
Our track demos had the super-lightweight carbonfibre bucket seats from the Senna fitted, which not only save weight, but also keep you snug as a bug when you’re pulling big lateral gs.
The soundtrack to any sportscar is an integral component to the entire experience and the 750S’s aural overture is no exception.
It’s been tuned for soul-stirring pleasure, as you work your way through the seven gears, with every punchy downshift delivering the thrills with none of the spills.
The 750S is delicately balanced and boasts fantastic composure, yet it’s devillish in the way it constantly goads you into taking more liberties with its limits. Instead of ‘get thee behind me’, you’ll be saying ‘get thee slideways!’
Driven sedately, it’s nicely poised and impossibly comfortable (for something with its performance credentials), but when the red mist descends, it really draws blood as it cuts deep into the corners when you let the hammer fall.
On track, it’s staggering to see how much speed you can carry into the corners in the 750S. Its chassis and brakes inspire huge confidence and the angle of attack can be precisely fine-tuned to be as planted or as playful as you prefer thanks to the car’s visceral feedback.
The organic electro-hydraulic steering serves-up a properly old school feel, without the clinical detachment you get with most modern cars, so you’re always aware of how close you are to the limit of the sticky Trofeo R tyres (in the dry, they’re very high!).
Instead of feeding the hypebeast, brands like Ferrari with the 296, Porsche with the GT4 RS and the 911 S/T, and now McLaren with the 750S, have renewed their emphasis on driver engagement and entertainment, as opposed to escalating the arms race paper chase.
Early McLarens like the MP4-12C were criticised as being too clinical in their performance. However, the brand successfully evolved with each iteration all the way through to the 650S and 720S.
Today’s 750S hits all the empirical and emotional high notes while pulling serious gs around the track… even as the driver pulls a seriously big grin.
At the end of each drive, the 750S’s full-bodied flavour of entertainment and engagement leave the committed driver both emotionally drained, as well as emotionally fulfilled at the same time... and that's no wild stab in the dark!
Engine 3994cc, V8, biturbo
Transmission 7spd SSG dual-clutch
Top Speed 332km/h
Fuel consumption (combined) 12.2l/100km (WLTP)