McLaren 765LT 2020 review – latest Long Tail returns to reset the status quo

McLaren’s latest Long Tail fulfills its brief in once again pushing the supercar to the next level, the 765LT just has to prove its magic on the road now

Huge acceleration, high grip levels, involving handling, feels very special
Engine still more workmanlike than musical, you have to pay extra for the snorkel intake

McLaren’s Long Tail sub-brand has given us some of the most revered drivers cars of all time, whether that’s going back to the days of the F1 or with more recent specials such as the 675LT and the 600LT

Now the badge is back, attached to the ultimate incarnation of McLaren’s Super Series, the 720S. Few, if any, have found that car wanting in terms of performance, so what can the new 765LT bring to the party?

Engine, transmission and 0-100 time

The trusty 4-litre version of McLaren’s Ricardo-built V8 features in a halfway house state of tune between the 720S and the Senna, taking the forged pistons and stronger head gasket from the latter, and updating the oil pump. It exhales through a titanium exhaust system, and makes a huge 754bhp, coupled with 590lb ft of torque. The gearbox is the usual seven-speed twin clutch unit, but the ratios have been made shorter to the benefit of acceleration. 0-100kph takes just 2.7 seconds, while the 0-200kph is a ballistic 7-seconds dead. 

Technical highlights

The fact that the 765LT has more power than the regular 720S is almost an irrelevance: a necessary inclusion to justify its standing in the range and the price tag, but arguably of secondary importance to the changes found with the LT’s aero, chassis and weight saving measures.

The car is an impressive 80kg lighter (for a DIN figure of 1,339kg) thanks to a range of measures that have stripped back weight wherever it can be. The wheels are lighter, the glazing is 0.8mm thinner (the rear window is made from polycarbonate), the floor and front and rear bumpers are carbon fibre, as is almost everything you can touch, and much of the rear of the car is open to the elements, not only to save weight but to let heat escape. 

The LT produces around 25% more downforce than the S, with a jutting front splitter that contributes most of the additional 48mm in the car’s length. There are side blades to manage the air, extensions behind the rear wheels to keep turbulence away from the simply enormous rear diffuser and a rear wing that sits higher in the airstream, and flips up at the rear of the blade. It also doubles as an airbrake under heavy braking. 

McLaren has retained the Proactive Chassis Control 2 setup, but lowered the front by 5mm and widened the front track, and recalibrated the dampers to suit. A bespoke Pirelli Trofeo R tyre has been developed for the car, and the brake calipers from the Senna are standard fit; the Senna’s sintered carbon discs are an option, as are its very light and supportive seats. 

What’s it like to drive?

The LT’s cabin is smothered in alcantara, stripped back with less carpet, and entirely focused on the task of driving. That’s just as well when you stop to consider the 754bhp under your right foot, something that inevitably happens the first time you clamber into the stern embrace of the ‘Senna’ bucket seat. A five-point harness further clamps you in place, and the scaffold-work of the Clubsport package frames the view aft in the rear view mirror. The V8 pulsates through the seat, and the driving position couldn’t be any more perfect for fast driving. There is no ambiguity about the 765 LT’s purpose in life – in fact, its sheer sense of focus is intoxicating.

Of course, it’s shockingly fast. We drive the car exclusively on the Silverstone International Circuit for this first taster, but rarely has a car felt as though it can shrink the Hangar straight like this one. Exit onto it in fourth gear, in the meat of the powerband, and the car simply shrieks for the horizon, requiring a big stop down from over 257kph in the braking zone for Stowe. The gearshifts are virtually instantaneous, the paddles perfectly sized and situated.

The real triumph of the LT is that it can operate on many different levels. Obviously, the outer reaches of its performance envelope are ferocious, but with the aid of the sophisticated traction and stability control systems it can give you as much rope as you dare, and still be there to help you get out of trouble. Or, naturally, you can switch things right off, in which situation the LT becomes a complete hooligan on the throttle…

The sheer grip that the car can generate does take some getting used to, but once you’re dialled into this, and have the confidence to exploit the amazing braking powers afforded by the Senna setup, you can carry terrific speed through a corner and revel in the way the car rotates precisely at the point you want it to. Even the smallest throttle lift or steering input makes a huge difference to your trajectory, and what’s also deeply impressive is how the LT’s brakes and tyres stand up so repeated abuse without even the first sign of fade. It’s the sort of car once you’re lapping at speed, you really don’t want to come back into the pits. 

McLaren’s LT cars have usually worked terrifically well on-road. This new car should be no exception – if it is, it could be one of the all-time greats.

Price and rivals

McLaren will build 765 examples of the 765LT at around $370,000 each, but for now its key rivals are mainly out of production – such as the Ferrari 488 Pista and the Porsche 991.2 GT2 RS.

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