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Test drive: The McLaren GT, a head-turning-powerhouse of British engineering

LLM’s Toby Aiken test drives the McLaren GT, the lightest, quickest accelerating car in its class.

By LLM Reporters  |  April 9, 2022
The McLaren GT

Words by Toby Aiken

One of the most popular cars on our roads has, for some time, been the Golf GTI. Ever-reliable and iconic, it’s arguably the most well-known car to carry the GT badge.

Going back to the roots of the term, the ‘I’ simply refers to the fuel injection method. The GT is the important bit and, of course, stands for Grand Tourer; a car built for high speed and long distance driving. Traditionally they tend to be a two-door coupe with either two seats or a 2+2 seat arrangement, a big front engine and rear wheel drive, not a hatchback. So let’s get one thing straight: the Golf is not a GT car, despite its badge.

The ethos of a GT is to be able to cross continents at speed, in comfort and with all the luggage accoutrements needed for the trip. Think Aston Martins, think Maseratis, even the likes of BMW and Mercedes have developed very good GT cars. And then we have the McLaren GT – mid-engine, rear wheel drive and with the (normal for McLaren) small front luggage storage, and only two seats.

The McLaren GT

Let’s look again at those GT requirements: speed, comfort and practicality. It’s fast, yes, and surprisingly more comfortable than previous McLaren offerings in the sports car category, considering it appears similar in styling. But try and fit anything other than a small holdall in the luggage compartment and you’re going to struggle, which is why there’s also some storage space behind the two seats. So it just scrapes in on the practicality side of things too.

For me, there are two other requirements for a true GT car: eye-catching looks, and the almost indescribable feeling you get when you start it up. And on both of those, the McLaren GT delivers – and then some.

I drive a lot of nice cars, but there’s something about the shape and form of the McLaren that gets me every time I see one. It’s distinctive, notably different to anything else on the market (in my head at least) and while dramatic, somehow at the same time, a little understated. To compare to another iconic British GT car, the Aston Martin DB9GT (which I also loved) it’s somehow a little less shouty – a little more refined maybe?

The McLaren GT test drive

It’s an absolute experience from the moment you open the dihedral door upwards, and get in the hugging bucket seat. Despite the low seating position and lack of grab handles, it’s remarkably easy to get in and out of without making a fool of yourself, and closing the door is an equally pleasing experience. I know that sounds weird, but it’s engineered so well that the whole operation is seamless. 

From that moment, it’s excellence all the way. The materials around the cabin, a combination of carbon fibre and alcantara leather, all serve to remind you you’re in something a little bit special. Everything is focussed for the driver and the three button gear selector – drive, neutral and reverse – add a touch of dynamism. Then you press the starter. 

The rumble starts low and grows until the exhausts roar to life. The 3.8 litre twin turbo engine sat behind you sounds stunning and a blip of the throttle sees the rev needle spike towards the red zone. 

But enough of the pointless, childish fun, it’s time to start driving. The acceleration is simply astonishing, matched by the incredible noise from the two big-bore exhausts. 

The McLaren GT

The handling is incredible and definitely worthy of the GT badge, but also very easy to drive smoothly, eating up the miles and spitting out noise from the back. It’s really an amazing job the engineers at McLaren have done in creating something capable of the two, sometimes conflicting, needs of a GT and a sports car. 

So there you go. Initially I thought there was no way that the McLaren could be a true GT car. Yes, it looks the part and certainly performs admirably, but it was (in my head) another example of McLaren’s excellence at making performance sports cars. But as it turns out, they have managed to create a true GT – albeit it looks a little different, but it ticks all the boxes and in the special deep blue that my test car came in, it looked every part the GT for the discerning customer too.

I want one – and I don’t mind what colour it is, as long as someone else pays for it!

For further information, visit cars.mclaren.com/gb-en.