In Review

McLaren GT ride review: a sprint up Goodwood hill in the new grand tourer

We head to the Festival of Speed to sample the British sports car maker’s latest supercar

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The Goodwood Festival of Speed has become a hotbed of activity among leading car manufacturers in recent years.

The festival, held at the Goodwood Estate near Chichester, West Sussex, over the weekend, began life in 1993 as a celebration of all things motorsport. Drivers and racing cars from across the globe star in the event, ranging from historic Le Mans legends to current Formula 1 personalities and machines. 

Throughout the weekend, drivers took their cars - many of which had been brought out of storage for the event - up the venue’s famous 1.2-mile hill in front of thousands of fans.

With such a big audience to entertain, carmakers have started using the event to unveil their latest models and demonstrate them by driving them up the hill. This has given the Festival of Speed the unofficial nickname of “the British Motor Show”.

Among the new cars making their public debut at the event was the new McLaren GT, a mid-engined supercar that prioritises comfort over on-track performance. It’s aimed at those looking to drive to the South of France in complete luxury, before ending up in Monaco for an evening at the Hotel de Paris.

It’s a bold new model, given that McLaren is known for its hardcore supercars. But the company told The Week that the GT is designed for those looking for supercar performance without compromising on comfort. The firm expects it to be popular, too, as the GT is forecast to form 25% of its total car sales.

The GT isn’t expected to arrive until later this year. However, The Week was among the first to get a taste of the new car courtesy of a high-speed passenger ride up the hill. We were driven by Ollie Millroy, a McLaren test driver who competes in various GT racing categories around the world. 

We met up with Ollie at the Michelin Supercar Paddock near the start line, before getting a first-hand look at the interior. 

At a glance, the cabin is unmistakably that of the McLaren 570S. The rounded centre console and digital instrument panel have both been plucked from the entry-level supercar, as has the silhouette of the dashboard. 

It is, however, noticeably more luxurious inside, with leather covering almost every panel in sight. The new seats are incredibly comfortable, too, and the taller bonnet - that now accommodates a generous amount of storage space - doesn’t have any impact on visibility.

So it looks like a GT on the inside, but what’s it like on the move?

After Ollie fired up the engine, we joined the long queue that led to the start line. Once the flag had waved for the bright orange Lamborghini Huracan Evo in front of us, we crept up to the line and waited for the all clear.

Seconds before the off, Ollie activated launch control and built up the revs. It’s a system that can be found in lots of performance cars and is used to maximise traction when setting off from a standing start. 

Its significance in the GT, however, is that it’s just one of the many elements that proves the grand tourer hasn’t lost its supercar edge.

Then the flag dropped and Ollie was finally able to unleash the 611bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine mounted behind the cabin. 

Once off the line, we darted down to the first corner before slamming on the brakes and lining up the car to clip the apex of the right-hand bend that is turn one.

We then charged further up the hill, flying past Goodwood House and on to Molecomb corner, a deceptively tight left-hand turn that is often the scene of crashes over the weekend. We made it through, thankfully, before threading our way through the chicane to the iconic flint wall and flying over the finish line. 

In typical supercar fashion, the hillclimb was completed in a blur. The sheer acceleration of the GT is unrelenting and it was able to dispatch the main straight in the blink of an eye. 

What wasn’t typically supercar, though, was how comfortable the journey felt. The GT has slightly softer suspension springs than McLaren’s other cars, which was certainly noticeable from the passenger seat. 

The key question, though, is whether buyers are getting a compromised supercar experience in their pursuit for luxury? 

We won’t be able to answer that from the passenger seat. But what we can say, however, is that the GT doesn’t seem to have lost the supercar-like characteristics that make McLaren’s other models so enjoyable.

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