Thanks to McLaren Dallas, I recently had the opportunity to spend several days with a McLaren 720S Spider. This was the first time I had 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 gain and what do you lose, by turning the roof into a mechanical component. Fortunately, I had several days to try and find answers to these questions.
The brilliance in the 720S Spider design lies in the subtle changes that preserve the elegant lines of the 720S Coupe. With the 720S Spider, McLaren has managed to keep the 720S Coupe’s sense of space and light in the passenger cabin 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 (personally this is a must have option). The second piece of brilliance is the use of glass buttresses which preserve the excellent rearward side 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. With the roof up, from the front and the sides, the coupe and spider look identical.
The other major changes between the two 720S’ are the modified carbon fiber monocage (II-S) and the switch to single hinge dihedral doors. The Spider also carries 100 lbs. more in its belly for the retractable hardtop system. The extra weight is completely unnoticeable. Top speed drops by just 10 mph to 202 mph with the top open which just means you can risk going to jail slightly less quickly.
Over the few days we had the 720S Spider, we used it as our weekend shopping trolley, date night transport, and road test subject. In all of these tasks the 720S Spider performed admirably. As a shopping trolley, the front boot holds a week’s grocery shopping with ease. The front nose lift makes getting in and out of parking lots fairly stress free. As a date night transport, it’s hard to find anything that could top the 720S Spider in terms of both “cool” and “comfort”. However, the 720S Coupe does all these things equally as well. It was only on the back to back road test that we actually did notice a bit of difference.
On Sunday, we took out both the 720S Coupe ( Driver’s Seat 720S) and Spider and drove them back to back. It was actually Mrs. SSO who first called out the one performance related difference between the two 720S’. The 720S Spider seems to ride slightly more smoothly. There is one piece of horrible tarmac near our house that is covered in badly filled potholes. This sorry stretch of road is a great torture test for ride quality in cars. Over the course of the day, we drove both 720S’ along with the Ferrari F40 and the Maserati Granturismo Cabrio over this piece of concrete tire torture. The rock-hard suspension in the F40 very successfully crashed through the potholes, probably delivering more damage to the haphazardly filled divets than it incurred. The Maserati bounced over the horrid road surface, while both McLarens seemed hardly bothered by the challenge. Between the two McLarens though, the 720S Spider handled the challenge just a bit better and never seemed unsettled by the ever-changing road surface. While the 720S Coupe was not unsettled, you did feel more movement coming up through the driver’s seat. I found this quite interesting as you have exactly the opposite outcome with the Ferrari 430 Scuderia and 16M ( 430 Scuderia vs. 16M). The ride quality in the Scuderia (coupe) is much better than the rock hard 16M (spider). In all other performance areas, the two 720S’ were identical. In fact, my only “nit” on the 720S Spider is that you can’t put the rear window all the way up with the roof open the way you can in the 6XX Series Spiders. If you could, it would provide a bit more wind buffering on the highway.
In summary, the 720S Spider losses nothing over the 720S Coupe. In fact, you gain a tiny bit in ride quality and the option of a ton of fresh air on a sunny day. If I had to choose today, which one would I opt for? Without a doubt it would be the 720S Spider. Will we be trading the Coupe in for the Spider? Despite some strong and not exactly subtle hints from Mrs. SSO, its unlikely. The man math doesn’t work as the delta between our late 2017 Coupe and a 2019 Spider is just too large to justify the switch. What I am sure of though, if we are fortunate enough to get a 7XX LT build slot, we will definitely opt for the Spider. Many thanks again to McLaren Dallas for lending us the wonderful 720S Spider.
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