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The “Super Grand Tourer” in a traditional sense usually conforms to the following criteria. A hefty front mounted power unit tucked away under a vast bonnet, a 2+2 or full four seating layout, lots of leather and premium materials and to top it all off, a rather capacious boot capable of swallowing a sizeable amount of luggage. It must also go like stink and be comfortable and feel refined while on the move.

This is McLaren’s first clean sheet attempt at this formula, the GT. Sitting alongside the Sports, Super and Ultimate grades in family, the GT is all about taking those grand touring elements mentioned previous while still exhibiting the same supercar thrill-ride DNA McLaren is known for.

The GT namesake on a McLaren is nothing new. The first road going car built under the guise of Bruce McLaren, and used by the man himself as a daily driver, was the M6 GT. Then you have the likes of the “unicorn” GT variant of the legendary F1 hyper car and McLaren’s most recent first experiment into the Grand Touring stable, the 570GT.

With the GT’s successor having broken cover in the last months or 2023, the revamped and more powerful GTS, McLaren Auckland very kindly allowed me to spend 24 hours with their outgoing GT through Giltrap Christchurch. It would turn out to be one of the most exciting 24 hours of my driving life.

Let’s started right away with how the GT looks. Words like, dramatic, spectacular and other superlatives of that nature would be an apt description. The fact that my test car was painted in Helios Orange only added to this visual feast. Ducts, scoops, 21-inch alloys housing enormous brake discs, LED head and taillights and a set of blasting twin exhausts all come together brilliantly.

The power of the GT comes in the form of a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 with a considerable 456kW and 630Nm of torque. By McLaren standards it isn’t a powerhouse but I defy anyone to say in excess of 600hp isn’t enough. McLaren also claim 10.6L/km and it tips the scales at 1549kg.

Getting in and out is a typical McLaren-esque affair, dihedral door up and then slide in. The chassis tub is not too intrusive to the point where you don’t feel like you are falling in. In fact, getting in and out, while still requiring some level of effort, is not as awkward as you may think.

Once inside though, you probably won’t want to get out without a fight. The driving position is perfect and everything is easy to reach. Instead of trying to blind you with a million screens and buttons, McLaren have kept it minimalistic with only what you would need on display. It does also feel incredibly refined in here, much like a proper super grand tourer should, especially one which will cost you in excess of $300k, a figure which is actually quite reasonable when compared to the likes of the 720S and 765LT.

You get plenty of kit for your money too. Stuff like a reversing camera, parking sensors all around, sat nav, dual zone climate control, electric and ventilated leather and alcantara seats, a Bowers and Wilkins sound system and a lift kit which aids immensely in undertaking speed bumps or one’s driveway, the latter of which needs to be activate before reaching said bumps. However, things like adaptive cruise are sadly missing.

The GT wouldn’t be a GT without that capacious boot space and it certainly delivers. Open the electric boot lid and it instead of seeing an engine, we see 420L of cargo space. The engine itself is situated low down in the car and right behind the driver.

The GT actually sports more space than some hatchbacks or SUVs which is a masterstroke from McLaren’s engineers. A couple of big cases would fit nicely and if you need extra carrying space, you have a frunk at the front which will hold a further 150L of space, perfect for a couple of additional gym bags.

Firmly press the red starter button and like all supercars on a cold start, the GT shouts its V8 bellow before settling down into a more subdued idle. It’s a marvellous noise especially all the way up its 8500rpm red line, where it serves up a glorious howl of epic proportions.

Now, a particular route I love to test cars on is a loop through the north western Canterbury High Country. Heading west out of Christchurch, one follows SH73 through the communities of West Melton, Kirwee, Darfield and Waddington before turning right towards Bexley, over the Waimakariri River before popping out in the back of Oxford.

From here it’s a left turn through Starvation Hill, Glentui, over the Ashley River and through Ohuku before you are dispatched into the busy hub of Rangiora and back through the northern outskirts of Christchurch.

It is the perfect template to test a car, particularly one of a sporting nature. You have long straight motorway miles, short sharp B-roads, sweeping bends and tight corners which rise and fall with the stunningly pretty terrain and even the semi urban jungle thanks to Rangiora. Basically, this was the only way to really test how the McLaren GT stacks up as a Super GT for all seasons.

Along SH73 heading for Darfield and the GT, sitting at 2,000rpm in Comfort settings is both quiet and refined. The ride is also far more plush and compliant than I was expecting. In fact, there are saloons and SUVs which have a harsher ride than this. Sure, you do feel the odd bump but it’s certainly not unbearable. It’s remarkably compliant and thanks to those plush hip-hugging leather and alcantara seats, you will be supported comfortably for mile after mile.

The 4.0L twin-turbo V8 is a master class of torque and power. Let the boost build up pressure when you flex your right foot and a snip above that 2000rpm and it piles on the power. It is more of an immense surge of power rather than an instant kick in the guts, which is more than ideal for a grand tourer. The mid range torque delivery is also accompanied by a whoosh of turbo noise, which the child in you can enjoy a laugh when lifting off to hear the turbos wind down.

The seven speed DCT transmission is also a delight to use. Shift up or down via the brushed aluminium paddles are crisp and satisfying. Leaving it in automatic is also doable and when munching up the motorway miles, I found myself doing just that. The steering is electro-hydraulic. It brings both lightness and weight to the party, giving a brilliant blend of feel and ease of flicking left and right.

Look in the rear view mirror and you find that rear vision isn’t a McLaren GT strong point. However, when the mood strikes you, you will be spending more time looking ahead of you than behind.

Pulling up in Oxford for a pit stop and another aspect of the McLaren GT becomes obvious. It is a magnet for wide eyed stares and whooping kids. Something which increased five-fold the moment I opened the doors. “Look at that car!” became the phrase of anyone within the vicinity. Those wanting a GT car which has some degree of subtlety may want to look elsewhere.  

Activate the driver modes and switch over to sport for the engine and dampers, or even track if you want and the Jekkyl and Hyde person of the GT becomes all too apparent. Flex the throttle wide open and you really can believe this car is a capable of reaching the national open road speed limit from a standstill in 3.2 seconds.

Keep it in the power band between 3000 and 6000rpm and boy does the GT fly. On a tight twisty section of the route after leaving the Ashley River bridge, it stays flat and planted, egging you on to push harder and brake later. It is more of an intense driver’s machine than many of its Grand Touring contemporaries. Its active damping and proactive damping control allows you to devour the turns with little effort required on your part. It’s utterly fabulous.

I was expecting the McLaren GT to be good, but not quite this good. By not conforming completely to the entire mantra of what a Grand Tourer should be, the McLaren GT really is the best of both worlds, something that will whisk you and your significant other to your destination in relative comfort and will allow you to have serious supercar fun on the tight roads or track when you get there.

It doesn’t turn the segment on its head, but it still remains one of the most complete and exciting cars I have driven. A true “Tour De Force” for the McLaren brand. All I can say is bring on the GTS.

RATING: 9/10

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