easy money

The McLaren 765LT is the limited edition, even lighter, more powerful, track focused hardcore version of the already lightspeed quick Supercar King, the 720S.

Making a quicker, or indeed lighter, car than the class leading 720S could not have been an easy feat, so was it a resounding success or did it fail to reach the incredibly high bar set by the 720S?

All 765 cars are now sold out in advance with the UK receiving only 60 of them. Think about that for a second - just 60 cars for McLaren’s home market. This will be a very rare car.

I finally got some wheel time with the 765LT at the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in December. I wanted a road test, as over 95% of my usage will be on road, although I will be driving it on track at Silverstone this summer.

As it was forecast cold and wet on the day of my drive, I had requested that McLaren change the standard Trofeo R tyres to PZeros (which I dislike) just so I could get heat into the tyres, which they kindly did.

I arrived early to find the stunning white pre-production car, equipped with full Senna brakes and I got straight on with the drive as it had been raining heavily all morning and it was forecast to get much worse. Ambient temperature was 9C, and Woking roads were wet and very slippery with leaves and dirt.

765LT 2

Strapping myself into the perfectly shaped Senna seat, I fired up the engine and performed my usual 720S start up routine (active on, aero on etc). The first thing I noticed was the sound and feel of the car as it roared into life. It was noticeably more mechanical than a 720S, with some vibration and a lot more mechanical engine noise. Nothing harsh or excessive though, and in fact a lot less NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) than I had expected. Rolling past the lake at MTC, it was immediately apparent that the 765LT was much stiffer sprung than a 720S.

For those unfamiliar with Super Series McLarens, you can set the handling and drivetrain modes independently, as well as the aero. The DRS (Drag Reduction System) activates automatically as required, as does the incredibly effective airbrake. Electronic Stability assistance levels can be fully on, dynamic, off, or set to virtually anywhere in between. I initially tested the car in comfort/comfort, before switching to comfort Handling / sport Drivetrain. I spent about 5 minutes in these modes just getting comfortable with the car, before switching to Sport/Sport for about thirty minutes.

The PZero tyres reached temperature fairly quickly, which was a pleasant surprise given the conditions. Brake testing indicated there was minimal grip though, as ABS intervened and sliding was evident even with moderate braking. The roads were very slippery indeed.

The 765LT however was astonishing in its driver feedback through the wheel and seat, and I felt extremely comfortable right from the very start. I gradually increased pace, testing the car on all types of road and surface. Most of my time was spent on some fantastic twisty fast roads. I concluded that I could comfortably use this car for a trip from Kent to Scotland, as the NVH was not overly harsh. A 720S would make the same journey far more comfortably and quietly though.

I then switched to Sport Handling / Track Drivetrain for around thirty minutes. This was a revelation, as the change was far more dramatic than in any previous McLaren I’ve driven, even the other LT models. Whilst the engine had some nice burbles on lifting off in Sport, it was now far more aggressive and was burbling a lot, as well as adding gunshots to the exhaust when driven hard.

This was no engineered-in drama like in Lamborghinis. The only way to generate gunshots was to drive it hard. Very hard! It sounded as good as previous LT models, but perhaps with more burbles. I then used Track/Track for the remaining twenty five minutes or so. The car was perfectly usable on Woking’s A and B roads, and silky smooth on the motorway. This mode felt perfectly usable on the road.

765LT horses

Overall, the 765LT was not what I expected at all on road from the early track reviews I had read. I expected a terrifying ravenous beast of a car that would try its best to kill me, especially in these wintry, wet and very slippery conditions, and on relatively poor roads. In this weather I expected it to be borderline undrivable unless I took it very easy. After all, the car could not stop even moderately hard without ABS activating, indicating the low grip levels available on the day. However, the reality was so surprising that I commented on it many times to my McLaren passenger (Steve Harvey, who knew the best local routes). Despite its brutal power and performance, the 765LT was no hard-to-tame wild monster!

The 765LT inspired complete confidence from the moment I turned out of MTC, encouraging me to gradually push it more and more, and explore all its modes. The steering, and feedback through the seat and chassis were to thank for this. I knew what the car was doing every single second, and it felt like the car was actually looking after me. It sounds crazy, but that was how I felt driving it. Where a 720S insulates me from the feedback and speed so much more, the 765LT did none of that and therefore paradoxically allowed me to push it far harder than I would have dared in a 720S in these conditions. Astonishing, given the sheer brutal power and razor-sharp responsiveness of this car!

I tried launch control three times, on varying surfaces all of which were equally slippery, but varied in surface quality and camber. Each time the 765LT span its rears and kept them spinning through the gears, without any drama or nervousness, or tendency to spin or veer off the road. All of this whilst it rearranged my internal organs with its brutal power. It was incredible! I would never dare try that in any other car, but the LT just made me feel safe as a result of its telepathic steering and wonderful chassis feedback. It felt like McLaren had engineered a Vulcan mind-meld capability into the 765LT. This car has the best steering this side of an unassisted Lotus Exige S1. There is no higher praise. It was the same with numerous full bore starts, with the rear wheels spinning through the gears, but the 765LT remaining straight and true.

This reminded me of my summer 2020 F8 Tributo drive. The F8 Tributo was incapable of moving off on full throttle on a poor Kent B road in the dry without skidding, thudding its suspension, and sliding its rear sideways. The F8 interior light and switch panel also fell off when I did that, hanging from its electric cabling. The Ferrari passenger became “rather animated”, telling me to slow down. The McLaren passenger by contrast, on a MUCH harder and faster drive, and in the wet, never once asked me even to slow down and told me he really enjoyed the drive.

765LT flames

To be fair (in 2021), my SF90 Ferrari passenger was perfectly happy for me to push the SF90 hard, and wasn’t concerned that I drove the entire time in 1,000hp Qualifying mode + Race mode with traction control off.

Back to the 765LT, and my McLaren passenger even messaged back to MTC asking them to have another 765LT waiting with different sized Senna seats when I asked. Needless to say, it was waiting outside the main entrance when we returned. Attention to detail + McLaren go hand in hand.

Even more impressive was how the 765LT felt so stable in the bends, despite the low grip available. McLaren have definitely moved the game on significantly even from the 720S in respect of their active suspension. Alien technology, or witchcraft? You be the judge! Even in Sport Handling, the suspension soaked up potholes without any harsh shocks to the chassis.

The software controlling the suspension is an advanced version of the astonishingly responsive 720S and Senna system, and uses predictive algorithms to prepare the required damping force (for the next predicted state) within 2 milliseconds, based on what forces, attitudinal state and inputs it is experiencing at any point in time. The AI assesses data from 12 sensors - including 4 wheel accelerometers, 2 pressure sensors per damper, and multiple body sensors, to interpret and read the road ahead. It learns from previous scenarios to “predict” (calculate) what will happen next. McLaren calls this Optimal Control Theory. I call it witchcraft!

Engine vibration through the seat is slight, and only becomes harsh at the red line under full throttle. This is a perfect balance, as it enhances your connection to the 765LT and its mechanical nature.

The Senna brakes have great feel and felt absolutely perfect, but I was unable to use them very hard due to the lack of mechanical grip to the road surface on the day. I have no doubts as to their capability though, as these brakes have a fearsome reputation for stopping power.

The huge airbrake was nevertheless a sight to behold as it popped up repeatedly under firm braking at speed, completely blocking my rearward vision. So very cool - the airbrake view simply never gets old. The rear wing is in fact extremely active whilst driving, continuously adjusting its pitch to provide downforce, DRS or air-braking.
The 765LT is not in the least scary or difficult to drive on the road. In fact it’s paradoxically less scary and easier to drive fast than a 720S, thanks to the excellent driver feedback and enhanced traction and stability assistance, which is incredibly transparent and unobtrusive. This is quite simply the best road car I’ve ever driven. It’s so astonishing that any car can make the absurdly quick 720S seem slow, but the 765LT does just that. Not only because it’s lighter and more powerful, but also because it has 15% shorter gearing. This is the first LT or indeed Super or Ultimate Series car where McLaren have done this and I am sure it won’t be the last time they try this now.

The 765LT is claimed to have only 45hp more than the 720S, but it feels like at least 145hp more when driving it. The lighter weight and 15% shorter gearing play a part in this of course, but the sheer brutality of its power delivery indicates it is making a LOT more power than claimed. McLaren evidently under-promise and over-deliver, and I’m certainly not complaining about that!

Some of us feel that hypercars and supercars are losing what really matters in the rush to ever greater power and straight line speed. Personally, I’m of the view that the Bugatti Veyron started the rot, but there are many other recent examples also chasing 1000-2000hp in the quest for headline records. The 765LT is a wonderful antidote to that. The 765LT is truly all about the driver experience and enjoyment.

765LT 3

Everything about the 765LT is centred around what the driver senses. Whether that’s steering feel, chassis and engine vibration, the movement of the car through the rigid carbon seat, the many mechanical sounds, the excellent all-round vision out, or indeed the G-forces acting on the driver. It’s quite an assault on the senses.

The 765LT has less lag than the 675LT, but all three LT models are so different to each other, each offering a different experience so that no LT driver is short-changed in any way. These cars are an abundance of riches in terms of driving pleasure and there is no bad choice amongst them. The 765LT is absolutely flawless on the road, delivering raw excitement and a stupidly wide grin even at relatively slow speeds.

A few technical points you might not find elsewhere. I learned that almost all of the 765LT is carbon fibre, even the front and rear bumpers, and also the large aero blades on the doors, which are composite on 720S. The fenders are aluminium, but with a no-cost option to switch to vented carbon fibre fenders with louvres. That’s a no-brainer option, not that it matters now as all 765 cars are sold out.

The stated 80kg saving compares a standard 765LT to a standard 720S, so for example a 720S comfort edition with electric seats would be even heaver, and the weight saving greater. The standard 765LT carbon fibre P1 seats are 18kg lighter than the standard 720S seats, which are themselves 13kg lighter than the electric seats. The Senna seats option saves a further 7kg over the standard P1 carbon seats. There are also other optional weight savings available, so it’s possible to save far more than the claimed 80kg. It’s also possible to add weight of course, with certain options.

The great news is that unlike the F8 Tributo, the new McLaren still has no Gas Particulate Filter deadening the exhaust sound. Perhaps the 765LT Coupe and Spider will be the last such McLarens. Fortunately however, they won’t be the last cars with great steering feel, as McLaren will continue to use hydraulic steering, unlike all competitor cars I am aware of.

I absolutely loved the 765LT, and have thought of little else since driving it. The drive was around ninety minutes, but I was offered more seat time if I wanted. I didn’t, but only because after driving one, I wanted one and was eager to get on with specifying my own car. So we headed inside to do that, which took the rest of the day.
The 765LT is inhumanly capable. It’s a running joke amongst petrolheads that McLaren use alien technology to make their cars so fast and agile. Given that H.G. Wells set Woking as Ground Zero for the Martian invasion in his seminal War of the Worlds, I half expected NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover to beam back pictures of MTC (Martian Technology Centre) with 765LT’s rolling out!

It took another McLaren to take the supercar crown from the incredible 720S, but what is truly surprising is how overwhelming the improvements are in all areas (except reduced comfort). Given the direction of new models and global hybrid/EV/emissions/noise regulations, the 765LT could easily prove to be the greatest pure combustion road focused McLaren there will ever be. The 765LT reigns supremely as the proverbial King of its jungle - a Lion amongst stallions.

The 765LT is sheer sensory overload, and is a thrill to drive at any speed. Everything about the car is focused on engaging the driver’s senses, with no compromise in achieving that singular objective. It is easily my favourite road car I’ve ever driven.

Long live the new Supercar King!

by Jas Hayre

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