McLaren 720S Spider: 1st Impressions

The McLaren Ball is a rather unique event.  On paper, the idea of throwing a black-tie party in the foyer of an office building doesn’t sound particularly enthralling.  However, when the foyer is in the McLaren Technology Center and you are engulfed in automotive and F1 history, it works spectacularly.  The MTC also serves as a stunning backdrop for the introduction of a new car model.  You can’t help but imagine what other secrets lie just a few feet away behind the closed doors of the design studio.  

We were at the most recent McLaren Ball in December 2018 for the unveiling of the 720S Spider.  Unlike last year ( ), when there was a bit of a mystery as to what McLaren would be unveiling at the Ball ( ), this year it had to be one of the world’s worst kept secrets. I had been looking forward with intense curiosity to seeing the 720S Spider since the 720S Coupe launch.  How McLaren would be able to turn the coupe into a spider without destroying the elegant lines of the 720S was completely beyond me. Two of the features of the 720S Coupe that I am very fond of are the glass panels in the roof, which give a sense of space and lightness to the passenger cabin, and the excellent rearward visibility. Both would seem to be at risk if you chop the roof off.

After a lengthy introduction by the chief designer, Robert Melville, the curtains came up on the four 720S Spiders scattered among us.  The details on the 720S Spider that Robert shared were the usual McLaren mix of highly technically form follow function impressive.  Thanks in a large part to the carbon fiber tub that the 720S is built off of, performance and the torsional rigidity of the spider is basically identical to the coupe.  Weight gain is a modest 108 lbs. and Robert came across as the justifiably proud father of a stunning creation.  In terms of a car to drive, the 720S Spider will be as brilliant and blisteringly fast as its closed roof sibling ( ).  Top speed with the roof open is an eye watering 202 mph.h

As the 720S Spider closest to us was revealed, my first impression was I could not see any difference in the car’s lines vs. the 720S Coupe.  In my mind, this was a very good thing.  Within moments, the majority of the tables had emptied as most of us immediately hustled over for a closer look at the new car.  The brilliance in the 720S Spider design lies in the subtle changes that both preserve the elegant lines of the 720S Coupe while allowing the roof to become mobile.  Unlike the 650/675 Spiders which use a hinged folding two-piece roof, the 720S is a single panel that lifts and slides back under a cover over the front of the engine.  This allows for the roof to be spec’ed as a transparent electrochromatic panel keeping the passenger cabin light and airy.  The second piece of brilliance is the use of glass buttresses which preserve the excellent rearward visibility.  The compromises made for these changes are quite minor, a loss of luggage space behind the seats and the cool way the engine is displayed on the 720S Coupe.

So, are we getting one?  No, but longer-term, yes.  Right now, the intent is to keep the 720S Coupe as it lives in a climate that doesn’t lend itself to open top motoring.  We also have the 650S Spider here and the number of times the roof goes down each year barely reaches double digits.  The “yes” is related to the 7XXLT.  If I’m fortunate enough to be offered a 7XXLT build slot, we will definitely opt for the Spider.  Like our 675LT Spider ( ), the 7XXLT will live up in Montana where open top motoring is a joy in the summer.

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January 2019 

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    […] driven the 720S Spider after seeing it launched at the McLaren Ball back in December 2018 ( 720S Spider Launch).  As a 720S Coupe owner for the last 18 months, the big question for me was, what do you […]


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