Up to that point, I hadn’t driven anything as quick, nor as visceral to be frank. My frame of reference had properly been reset back to factory settings, I was mightily impressed.
Most recently, I have been reacquainted with the moniker – only now in Spider form. Unlike the Coupe, it panders to customers looking to bask in the elements, all the while immersed in the visceral driving experience we have come to expect and appreciate from the tin-top variant. Thanks to the carbon fibre tub construction, a tradition that dates back to the McLaren MP4/1 Formula race car, chopping off a McLaren’s roof negates any strengthening of the chassis – which adds dead weight – as the carbon fibre offers enough inherent structural rigidity and unparalleled occupant safety. This, in turn, ensures a low centre of gravity, not to mention a lower overall kerb weight compared to its metal-hewn rivals.
The 720 S Spider, meanwhile, spins an even more powerful web, thanks to its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine that musters 530 kW and 770 Nm via a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox – enough to help it thread from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, slingshot past the 200 km/h mark in 7.9 seconds and top out at a heady 341 km/h (325 km/h with the roof down). And it feels equally as fast as those numbers suggest.
Comfortably the lightest car in its competitive set, with a lightest dry weight of 1,332 kg – 88 kg less than the 1,420 kg dry weight of its closest rival – the new 720S Spider is also lighter by 9 kg than the first-generation Super Series 650S Spider, as well as having enhanced refinement. The new Spider weighs in at just 49 kg – or less than 4% – above the 720S Coupe, the difference primarily associated with the Retractable Hard Top (RHT) and tonneau system.
Cabin appointments are from the top drawer with minimal frills and complex switchgear, which imbues the interior with an airy look and feel. The overall architecture is driver-centric in its execution and makes finding the optimal driving position an absolute cinch. I particularly like the overall visibility from behind the helm, making this one of the most useable super cars around.
With all those facts and figures thrown at you, the question still begs: Is it better than the Coupe? To be frank, you’d have to drive them back-to-back around the track to spot any tangible differences, but out on the road, there's very little between the two.
Thanks largely to the carbon construction that ensures that no further bracing is required to the structure to make it stiffer, which would incidentally also add unwanted weight. As a result the Spider is just as agile as the Coupe for the most part and also adds that extra cool factor of enjoying open-top driving.
In Track mode with all the aero-gizmos in full attack mode, the 720 S Spider morphs from a garden variety spider to a widow maker in one fell swoop. It is ludicrously fast, reels in the horizon at a lick that will have you questioning the validity of quantum physics. This, mind you, from a car that puts all its power to just the rear wheels and without the aid of mechanical LSD – making it even more impressive
At a price of R7 250 000 the McLaren 720 S Spider punches well above its weight and is everything one would expect from an exotica. Yes, it might not have the residual values of its Ferrari and Lamborghini rivals, but it does offer excellent value for those shopping in the pre-loved supercar space.
Indeed, the 720 S Coupe is a fantastic machine with oodles of performance, but it is the open-top Spider variant that will offers up the best of both worlds. It looks the part, offers searing performance all the while allowing the driver and lucky passenger an opportunity to bask in the elements - an all rounder if you will. Just be wary not to be bitten by its venomous performance.