A FERAL BEAST WITH MANNERS

the facelifts

ALEX INWOOD

McLAREN 720S SPIDER

Model McLaren 720S Spider

Engine 3994cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, TT

Max power 530kW @ 7500rpm

Max torque 770Nm @ 5500rpm

Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch

Weight 1468kg

0 100km/h 2.9sec (claimed)

Economy 12.2L/100km

Price $556,000

On sale Q3 2019

WHEN Wheels deputy editor Andy Enright drove the McLaren 720S late last year, at night, in a dusktill-dawn blast on the deserted Great Ocean Road, he looked like a terrified Casper the Ghost in the resulting WhichCar TV segment.

The harsh glow of the TV crew’s LED lights didn’t help, but Enright freely admits he was shaken by the ferocity of the malignant machine from Woking.

“It’s just … feral,” is all he could muster on returning to the office.

And now, 13,231km away in the cactipeppered desert of Phoenix, Arizona, I’m beginning to appreciate just how feral, albeit in a slightly different 720S.

This one’s the Spider version, and before you write it off as the softer, flabbier and floppier alternative, remember that the 720S’s carbonfibre tub construction should see it sidestep many of the traditional convertible pitfalls. It certainly hasn’t diluted its potency in a straight line. In fact, flattening the throttle in any of the first four gears is an experience akin to lighting the afterburners. With the roof down and the drive select modes toggled to Sport (which activates ignition cut for faster shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch ’box), it can verge on sensory overload as the rear axle bucks and the 305/30R20 P Zeros squirm and grip.

Savage acceleration; approachable dynamics; boosted sense of theatre

PLUS MINUS

There’ plenty of noise but it never sounds amazing; fearsome options list

Gear shifts are brutal in their speed and decisiveness, and in the noise they produce. Ask for a downshift as you barrel into a bend and the resulting ‘crack’ sounds as though a rock has hit the windscreen. How does it compare to a 488 Spider or Huracan Spyder? Neither can match the 720S for sheer shock and awe.

And as for losses compared to the 720S coupe, the Spider’s 2.9sec 0-100km/h claim and 324km/h top speed (roof up) are identical. Only the 0-200km/h number blows out … by a tenth of a second. The culprit for this is found in the Spider’s roof mechanism. It adds 49kg for a kerb weight of 1468kg and has resulted in the single chassis tweak compared to the coupe – a minor recalibration of the dampers.

There have been extensive changes elsewhere, however. The roof itself is all new and ditches the existing hydraulic system of the 600LT Spider and old 650S Spider for an electric set-up that is both faster and lighter. Airflow over the rear deck is carefully managed via redesigned buttresses that are clear to assist with rear vision, and the active rear wing and the air-con now have two maps to adjust for the differences in driving roof up or roof down.

Highly strung supercars can feel recalcitrant when performing the mundane duties of everyday driving, yet the 720S Spider offers no such resistance. The cabin is beautiful, forward and side vision superb, and McLaren has nailed the fundamentals.

The seating position is low and offers ample adjustment, the steering wheel is right-sized, sculpted and able to be pulled close to your chest, and the pedals are perfectly positioned for leftor right-foot braking.

It’s quiet inside, too. Roof up, there’s little difference between the coupe and Spider in terms of road and tyre noise.

Only an occasional, and tiny, tremor of scuttle shake shows some concessions have been made in the move to opentop motoring, but even over very bumpy roads the stiffness of the chassis is impressive, and noticeably better than a 488 Spider.

Is it as capable and as exciting as the 720S coupe? If you plan to use your 720S exclusively at a circuit to extract lap times, then no, it isn’t. However the differences are so negligible that if you use the 720S Spider as a very fast road car, the answer is: absolutely.

Few cars can destroy a road with such clinical precision or offer such an experience of barely contained aggression. Feral, indeed.

ALEX INWOOD

the facelifts

Was it worth all the effort?

FOTON TUNLAND

WHAT’S NEW?

This unpopular Chinese ute is searching for more market share with its MY19.5 facelift that gets a new front bumper and grille, headlights, daytime running lamps and wider wheelarches.

HAS IT WORKED?

It couldn’ have gotten worse, frankly. But the sore point remains that it keeps the same average chassis and engine, and won’ get AEB until the next-gen model arrives in 2021.

MINI COOPER

WHAT’S NEW?

Mini has made its Driver Assistance package standard across the range, adding AEB, high-beam assist and speed sign recognition.

Further range additions are a nicer 8.8-inch touchscreen and keyless entry.

HAS ITWORKED?

Who can argue with a $2500 package for free? Fitting AEB as standard is crucial, given it’s included on sub-$20K-hatchbacks.

KIA PICANTO

WHAT’S NEW?

Kia’s temporary crossover-style Picanto X-Line is nowa permanentmember of the line-up.

HAS IT WORKED?

As winner of the top gong in this year’ Best Value Cars, we already know the Picanto is stellar value. In this guise it’ barely more than a small car in stilettos, but will no doubt prove fashionably popular.