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McLaren Automotive does a remarkable job of baking suspension comfort into its supercars. For all their otherworldly performance specs, the cars don't beat you up too much on pockmarked roads. The McLaren 570GT exemplifies that virtue, as in addition to a new body with more luggage space behind the seats, it has a gentler chassis tune intended for the type of grand touring-type drives for which it was named.
Suppose, though, you like the idea of the car's additional storage room but don't want to make any sacrifices in performance? That's where the new Sport package comes in: it reverses the softening, sending the 570GT back to the gym and equipping it with the same tires, steering and suspension setup as the standard 570S coupe. A bit more storage but no loss in speed? Now that's a car I can get excited about.
The 570GT makes a big impression before I even open the door. Its Volcano Orange paint glows in the sunlight, while the low and wide nose gives the McLaren classic mid-engined car proportions. The doors are a theatrical show in themselves, swing and rotating upward. Behind the cabin, a sideways-opening glass hatch permits access to the cargo hold that distinguishes the GT from other 570 models. It'll hold just 7.8 cubic feet of stuff but is a nice addition to the 5.3 cubes that fit in the "frunk." The most dramatic angle is from behind, where the McLaren's bodywork flows in gentle curves. Skinny, curving LED taillights complement the massive functional diffuser to inject a real sense of occasion.
Behind the lights is a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 engine familiar from other McLarens. Rated for 562 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, it drives the rear wheels by way of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The claimed numbers: 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds, top speed of 204 mph, quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds.
With grip for days from the rear tires, the 570GT leaps away like it's been fired out of a slingshot. Catch it off-guard or in the wrong gear and you can detect a half-second delay before the turbos awake, but there's no disputing this is a powerhouse of an engine.
What makes it so much fun, too, is how the power is delivered. Many rival twin-turbo cars deliver all their torque right off idle; that may be technically superior, but where's the joy in that? McLaren's engine doesn't give you peak torque until 5,000 rpm, and you won't get all 562 horses until 7,500 rpm. That makes it all the more satisfying to wring out the engine, working it up and down the rev range to feel the power build and swell. Better yet, it's an excuse to use the carbon fiber shift paddles more often, relishing their click-click action.
The only thing that really lets down the powertrain package is sound. Sure, the V8 is loud, with all the turbo whistle and flutter you could want, but it's not exactly mellifluous. It grumbles more than roars, making me long for the sonorous tones of, say, an Audi R8's V10 or a Porsche's flat-six.
Of course, all that speed and performance means that the 570GT is too fast to fully exploit on the street; you'll need a track -- or a dismissive attitude to traffic laws -- to find its limits. Fortunately, an overwhelming amount of driver involvement ensures the McLaren is a riot at any speed.
The car positively sizzles with feeling. It starts with the steering, an electrohydraulically assisted setup that's so good it should be required reading for any sports car engineer. I can sense exactly what the road surface is like or which tire went over a bump and how much grip is left as I crank the wheel. Plus, the thin-rimmed wheel itself is a joy to hold. And, given that the Sport package upgrade means this GT has the same steering ratio as the 570S coupe, it's lightning-quick, reacting to just fingertip-light motions to change direction.
The suspension allows just enough body motion to sense what the car is doing, yet keeps the 570GT planted and pinned to the road. Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires, included with the Sport package, dish up more grip than you'll ever need on the road. Yet not only does the McLaren hug the road, its ultra-precise suspension ensures you know what's going on at the road, too.
The final piece in the equation is the brake pedal. Like the steering wheel, the brake pedal is also very precise in its operation, allowing for minute adjustments in braking force that feel preternatural. The brakes themselves, enormous carbon-ceramics, soak up heavy braking time and time again without issue. They don't squeal around town, either, though because there's an initial dead spot in the brake pedal, smooth braking in stop-and-go traffic or parking maneuvers takes some getting used to.
The inside of the McLaren is as attractive and functional as its outside. Because you sit so far forward in the car and the nose is so low, visibility is panoramic. The sports seats hug with the tightness of a friend at a reunion but are no more punishing on your back than an office chair. About the only ergonomic letdown is a lack of storage space, as there's no glovebox and the center-console compartment that holds three USB ports is just about big enough for a bag of M&M's. (Of course, there's more storage in that cargo space behind the seats.)
The material choices are flawless, with everything a treat for sight and touch. Note this car's optional orange seat belts, abundant carbon fiber and suede trim; feel its tactile switchgear and carbon-fiber shift paddles. The Bowers & Wilkins speakers, with yellow cones peeking out through drilled-metal grilles, are especially eye-catching.
The cabin is, however, relentlessly finicky in its controls and operation. To switch modes with the drive-select knobs, for instance, you must first engage the "Active" button. Only once Active is lit can you pick from Normal, Sport and Track for the powertrain and chassis respectively, and choose whether to shift manually.
There's an equal amount of nerdiness to the control stalk located by my left knee. It operates a variety of car settings shown on the left-hand side of the color instrument cluster. Yet clicking in and out of the fiddly menus, especially while on the move, reminds me of trying to use a computer without the mouse: possible, just annoying.
Another quirk: the power-seat controls are hidden between the cushion and center console, so the first few uses is a guess-and-check game. A comfort access feature slides the driver's seat backward when you shut off the car, so it's easier to get out, but it doesn't automatically move it back into place; you must hold the left control lever for that. All things to which, I suppose, an owner would acclimate.
Infotainment duties -- as well as all the climate controls -- are handled by a 7-inch portrait-style touchscreen that McLaren calls Iris. Like the rest of the car, it was clearly designed by engineers, for engineers. The minimalist color scheme and blocky font don't exactly lure you in, and neither does the somewhat convoluted menu structure. After a few minutes of tapping and poking you'll figure out how to operate everything, but McLaren makes tasks like swapping from FM to satellite radio, using Bluetooth calling or even entering a navigation address feel more Linux command prompt than Apple iPhone. Speaking of which, though there are three USB ports, Iris doesn't support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Aside from that infotainment screen, you don't get a whole lot of other special features in the 570GT. My tester has power seats, an upgraded sound system, heated seats... and that's about it. Not that the McLaren is supposed to be a luxury car, of course. Active safety technology is also absent (often the case in rival supercars), aside from parking sensors and the federally mandated backup camera, the latter of which has a somewhat grainy image.
One of the most useful features is suspension-lift, which raises the nose so you're less likely to scrape on driveways or speed bumps; ground clearance is listed at a scant 3.7 inches. Unfortunately, you have to fiddle through the instrument-cluster menus to find it. The option to lower the suspension doesn't even stay selected, either, though the car automatically lowers again when you hit 30 mph. A great feature, but one that ought to be simpler to find given its importance in daily-driving use.
Don't for one minute think that griping about the McLaren's fiddly electronics means I don't love it. It's got curb appeal for days, a fabulous cabin and it goes like stink. All of which makes the $205,450 starting price (with destination) seem... well, it's a lot. With options, this 570GT has an as-tested price of $236,220. Key factors in bumping that figure up include the Sport package ($5,950), 10-spoke diamond-cut wheels ($6,200) and Volcano Orange paint ($4,320).
Yes, some similarly powerful cars cost less: the 532-horsepower Audi R8 V10 starts from $166,150 and a 550-horsepower Mercedes-AMG GT C is $146,995. But to think that way is to miss the point of what makes the McLaren so special.
What you remember after driving the 570GT is not the performance figures or the looks. It's the myriad sensations and feelings that give you goosebumps on every drive. While this car, like all McLarens, delivers epic performance on par with the world's best, what matters is that it invigorates its driver even on the most normal of roads. That it does so inside a body that is, as supercars go, relatively practical and riding on a suspension that is, by supercar standards, reasonably un-harsh, only solidifies the gotta-have-it factor. In fact, the most difficult thing about driving a McLaren 570GT is relinquishing the keys.