McLaren 720S Track Pack overseas preview drive
While for your bucks shopping usually means cramming in more gear per dollar, the equation is flipped on its head at the pointy-end of the supercar spectrum.
Honestly, there are Rodeo Drive plastic surgeons that would blush (if their botox-filled cheeks still allowed it) at the lofty prices our supercar manufacturers charge to perform a little liposuction on one of their models.
Take this new Track Pack version of the McLaren 720S; a stonking special edition of the brand’s V8-powered monster, and one that adds a hefty $75,800 to that car’s already formidable $499,900 asking price. And it’s not so much a case of what you get for that extra investment, but rather what you don’t.
Namely, the 24 kilograms that have been shaved off the car’s weight, with McLaren ditching some of the heavier body work, and sacrificing a little cabin comfort, in the interests of making the 720S Track Pack feel lighter and more dynamic on a race circuit.
So new (and surprisingly comfortable) carbon-fibre racing seats, complete with six-point harnesses, and a carbon-fibre active rear spoiler join the standard features list. The wheels are “super-lightweight” 10-spoke forged alloys, too, and you get new carbon-fibre air intakes and wing-mirror casings. All up, the changes trim the 720S’ 1431kg tare weight to more sprightly 1407kg.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; surely shaving a handful of kilograms off a car as prodigiously powerful as the 720S falls into the drop-in-the-ocean category? It's like knocking a couple of feet off the Burj Khalifa. Or a couple of dollars off Jeff Bezos’ bank balance. Will we even notice the changes?
After all, the regular 720S is hardly a slouch. Its mid-mounted and twin-turbocharged V8 is ferociously powerful, shuffling 527kW and 770Nm to a pair of rear tyres that, traction control off, could surely only feel more tortured if they’d summered in Abu Ghraib.
It’s enough, McLaren says, to produce a blistering sprint to 100km/h of 2.9 seconds, and for the 720S Track Pack to push on, turbochargers sucking and blowing like a marathon runner on the home straight right behind your head, to a staggering 341km/h. Incredibly, that's a speed you’ll be hitting less than half a minute after you first plant your foot.
To put that genuinely epic acceleration into some sort of perspective, the Track Pack will scream from a standstill to 200km/h in just 7.8 seconds. The McLaren Senna, which the brand openly describes as its most madhouse and track-focused car ever, takes just a second less, at 6.8 seconds.
What's it like inside?
Send the butterfly-style front doors opening skyward and drop into the cabin and it becomes pretty clear that the Track Pack has been tuned for performance over plush. For one, the new carbon-fibre seats don’t so much hug your sides as they do fuse with them like a Venom-style symbiote. Those seats are wrapped in a padding so thin it would surely disappear if you held it sideways, and yet they somehow offer up enough comfort to ward off a visit to the chiropractor every time you climb out of the driver’s seat.
You can also opt to have the fiddly six-point harness system which is fitted as standard swapped out for a regular seatbelt, something we would strongly recommend if you’re not of the track-driving persuasion.
Where some supercars feel delightfully old-school, the McLaren feels much more of a new-world order. To change driving modes, for example, you first choose between the three-stage suspension settings or the three-stage powertrain settings (or both), and then “activate” the panel that houses those controls, with the changes only taking effect when the car is travelling in a dead-straight line. No simple rotary dials here, then.
But there are some very cool side effects to the technological overload; you’ll never grow tired of the way the driver display starts as a full and detailed information screen, but then folds backwards on itself to reveal a streamlined letterbox version that only shows the vital go-fast stuff like speed, gearing and revs when you activate the Track Pack’s sportier settings.
What's it like to drive?
On freeway driving, the McLaren settles happily into a long-legged cruise, eating kilometres in the half-asleep way a shark patrols a vast ocean. But so much as breath on the throttle and the 720S awakens as if it has sensed blood in the water, a swooshing of turbocharging igniting behind your head as the lightweight McLaren punches forward with a startling ferocity.
It really is amazingly quick; its power arriving in a great fat lump that flings you back into your seat and forces you to reshape your whole idea of acceleration. Consider this; the current “fastest car around the Nurburgring” title holder, the twice as expensive Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, takes a comparatively lazy 8.6 seconds to clip the double ton. The 720S Track Pack would leave it somewhere in its rear-view mirror.
The steering wheel, wrapped as it is in grippy Alcantara, feels telepathically connected to the front wheels, too, translating the finest details of the road surface into your hands and wrists as clearly as it if it were reading brail.
Cycle through the drive modes, and the Track Pack firms noticeably, any remaining slack removed from the steering and the suspension firming to a point where the broken road surfaces dance a rhythm into your spine, and serious corrugations genuinely feel like someone knocking on the underside of the body like they’re breaking through from the Upside Down. It makes touring in anything but it’s most comfortable settings all-but impossible.
On a twisting road, though (even a public one), there is something vaguely terrifying about the clinical way McLaren’s lightweight speedster goes about its business, reducing the gaps between corners to a brief collection of white-knuckle, flat-footed moments before you find yourself standing on brakes and willing the big 720S to pull up.
And pull up it does, aided massively by carbon ceramic brakes that lack progressive feel at slow speeds, but work like dropping anchor when you need them to.
Corners are dispatched with an equally clinical efficiency (with traction control activated, at least), serving up near-impossible levels of grip before all that power finds its way onto the road surface and you blast out the other end.
What's the verdict?
So, back to the question; will you even notice the change in weight? On a public road (which is where this test was limited to) probably not, partly because the ridiculous acceleration more than makes up for any ham-fisted corner entries or exits, and partly because the 720S on which the Track Pack is based never felt like it was battling the bulge in the first place.
But on a racetrack, where every micro-second counts? Probably. Or you could just buy the regular 720S and go on a diet, which would likely be cheaper.
2018 McLaren 720S Track Pack Price and Specifications
Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol
Power: 527kW at 7250rpm
Torque: 770Nm at 5500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, RWD
Fuel use: 10.7L/100km
Chesto brings a sense of irreverence to car reviews that few writers in Australia can match, often finding the quirkiest details in new machines.