MUCH OF WHAT MCLAREN LEARNT WITH THE P1 AND 675LT HAS GONE INTO THE 720S
‘One push was to shorten the development time and make it more efficient,’ says Haydn Baker, McLaren’s vehicle line director for Super Series. ‘So we decided to delete the experimental prototype phase, which was a huge challenge. All the proof of content was done on 650S mules, so one with the suspension on, one with the new engine, etcetera, but we didn’t build any cars until less than a year ago. All the work was done using CAE and CFD, and signed off virtually – years ago we would have done a lot more crashing into walls. Our first cars were built by April 2016: there were 20 of these validation cars, and that was the complete fleet for everything – sign-off, mileage, electronics, driveability – all built from production tooling.’
A great deal rests on the shoulders of the 720S. McLaren is forecasting production to rise from just over the 3000 units in 2016 to 4500 by the end of 2017. That will require Mike Flewitt, McLaren’s CEO, to continue to build the company’s market reach (you can currently buy a McLaren in 30 markets and India will be added very soon considering not only strong demand expressed by enthusiasts but the fact that one of the first deliveries will be to an Indian, albiet to his Middle East residence) while his engineers busy themselves renewing and expanding the current product lineup. That will include a more powerful replacement for the P1 – codename ‘BP23’.
Among the 15 new models scheduled by 2022 will not only be Spider and GT versions of the 720S, but also a more extreme replacement for the 675LT, too. Then we’re into Spider variants of today’s 570 and 540 models, before these too are replaced with significantly updated models that will have been developed with technology introduced on the 720S. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Flewitt and his team is that half of all future McLarens will feature hybrid powertrains. For this, McLaren will not only need to develop the technology and seamlessly integrate it into its new range of cars, but it will also need its customers to actually want it, too. Which isn’t always a given. Supercar owners want their toys to be noisy and thrilling and, in many cases, anti-social devices. Can hybrid technology deliver all those characteristics?
Right now, though, the focus is on the car you see here. And when you see it in its aluminium-and-carbonfibre glory, you’ll see a much more aggressive McLaren. Parked next to a 720S, a 650S looks devoid of any distinguishing features. Those new headlights may have caused much chatter, but when seen in situ they create a McLaren that makes you stop and take in the details, pick out the lines and the shrink-wrapped philosophy Melville and his team has focused on. Those sharp creases in the bonnet add an aggression that’s been lacking in the past.