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2017 McLaren 570GT review: practicality wrapped up in a supercar package

Photo credit: Pras Subramanian
Photo credit: Pras Subramanian

Earlier this summer I took the uber-capable Ford F-150 Raptor to the Catkskills region of New York state. At the time I noted this was the place to be for young, upwardly-mobile city dwellers to spend summer weekends.

Yes, the Catskills region is a magical place — much more interesting than a certain celebrated location on eastern Long Island. But where do you go if you’re given the opportunity to test the new McLaren 570GT?

Now hear me out … With a sports car like the 570GT, you’re not exactly lugging around all kinds of gear like camping equipment, mountain bikes, coolers, etc. No, no, not even close. What you do have is enough space for you and your lucky companion to venture off in a genteel way, meaning a small suitcase and maybe a duffel bag (though nothing tacky, of course) — just enough for a few leisurely days of traveling in a highly civilized manner. I think you know where I’m going with this …

Southampton seemed the perfect place for a short road trip to test McLaren’s less raucous sports car offering and spend the weekend with friends.

Photo credit: Pras Subramanian
Photo credit: Pras Subramanian

First, a bit of background. The 570GT is based on the 570S, McLaren’s base model sports car that stickers for around $188,600. For about $10K more, the 570GT gives you an updated ‘fastback’ design, more comfortable ride, supple Napa leather everywhere in the cockpit including on the “touring deck,” and a Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker sound system (which was magnificent).

Photo credit: McLaren
Photo credit: McLaren

The touring deck is one of the big changes between the 570S and GT. The GT covers the rear-mounted engine with the touring deck, which itself is under a glass lid that you can pop open. With the touring deck giving you some storage space behind the seats, you have enough room for the aforementioned duffell bag, a backpack or couple bottles of wine for dinner with friends.

The other big change is the car’s massive glass roof. The airy feeling you get versus the 570S’s standard roof is astounding — no more of that dreaded supercar claustrophobia.

Then there’s how it drives

Driving east on Long Island on a relatively clear day, the McLaren, as you can imagine, was extremely capable. The 562hp engine has more than enough power to the push the carbon-tubbed two-seater around, and it was even more enjoyable with the drivetrain set to Sport mode, which gives you snappier performance and will hold revs when you’re manually selecting gears. And those paddle shifters are quite simply they are the best I’ve ever tested. The feeling was so positive — you feel a reassuring mechanical click right when you pull the paddle, and gear shifts were instantaneous. Fantastic stuff, paddle shifting was a real joy in the McLaren.

Photo credit: Pras Subramanian
Photo credit: Pras Subramanian

Handling in the “normal” mode made you feel like you were driving any comfortable touring car that had a slight performance edge. Switch it into “sport” mode and you were driving a real sports car with an aggressive suspension setup; you felt everything on the road. The car felt planted and purposeful, easy to drive hard and stayed flat when you needed it to in the curves. Slow it down and put it in normal, and driving in the worst traffic in East Hampton was no problem at all.

I was told not to use the “track” mode in either the drivetrain or handling setups as this is only really used for track day activities.

The interior was very luxurious for a sports car. Napa leather and carbon fiber accents everywhere, no hard-touch materials to be seen anywhere, and the touring deck gave the car almost an old school GT car feeling.

Photo credit: Pras Subramanian
Photo credit: Pras Subramanian

The Bowers and Wilkins sound system, with a teardrop tweeter sitting on the middle of the dash, was astounding. Usually a sound system in a supercar is an afterthought, but in a car that is positioning itself as a GT class vehicle, great sound is crucial. The human voice is typically the best test for a sound system, and the system’s ability to reproduce clear voices, distinct from the instruments, was impressive.

From a practical standpoint, the front trunk had a surprising amount of storage. You could easily store a rollaway suitcase and backpack. This was a pleasant surprise — and you really need this space if you have any plans to go anywhere beyond a joyride with this car.

Turning a few heads

Driving around the Hamptons and Montauk, there’s no denying the car generated a lot of looks. They may not admit it, but this is why certain people with that kind of disposable income drive cars like this. Yes, they like the performance, but they also like the gawking, and looks you get exiting a car with scissor doors, or has McLaren calls them, “dihedral doors.”

Photo credit: Pras Subramanian
Photo credit: Pras Subramanian

And a few quibbles and complaints

Now to some things that bothered me about the car. While the power was prodigious, it surprisingly took a bit longer than one would expect in a sports car to really push you into the seats. Perhaps this was due to the engine being turbocharged; it just took a bit of time to get going. Not what I was expecting.

And now to something that really bothered me. The way you park this car is to put in neutral and engage the parking brake. Simple you say, just pull up on your trusty parking brake. Unfortunately McLaren, like many other carmakers these days, employs an e-parking brake, or electronic one.

This thing drove me somewhat insane. You pull the lever to engage, and sometimes it would engage, sometimes not. Numerous attempts fiddling with it to engage or disengage took needless time and caused aggravation. I’m not sure why it was so fiddly.

Photo credit: Pras Subramanian
Photo credit: Pras Subramanian

With that out of the way, the user interface and software the 570GT was perfectly easy to use, my only gripe was it was difficult to see what was displayed on the touchscreen in the sun because there was no hood covering the screen. A bit annoying, but you can live with it.

Closing thoughts

The 570GT is a more than capable supercar that can also be the perfect weekend getaway vehicle, with its mixture of pure performance and GT car luxury and practicality. But — it kept bugging me — was this car really ‘super’ enough for a discerning buyer to really love it, given the competition?

The Lamborghini (VLKAY) Huracán RWD is in the same class and price range. It is way less practical, but it is oodles of fun and just plain bonkers. And that’s what makes it special. Honestly it’s something you have to think about if you’re basically paying a lot of money for a fun car with little practicality. The 570GT is super capable, if not a little boring when compared to something like a Huracán and McLaren’s other offerings. But, you can actually take it on a weekend trip (which you can’t in a Huracán), and it drives like a genteel grand tourer when you need it to be.

Yes, the 570GT is very practical. Sigh … Did you see the scissor doors though?

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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