Take the credit card from you wallet and flip it over 90 degrees. Skinny thing, isn’t it? The plastic gap between your finger and thumb is 0.03 inches, which happens to be how much thinner the glass in the McLaren 765LT’s windshield is versus the glass in the 720S. Doesn’t sound like it would make much difference, but when it comes to creating the latest ‘LT’ McLaren, it all adds up.
Or maybe that should be down. In total, McLaren cleaved 176 lb from the 720S to create the 765LT, then jacked up the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 for good measure. And then it lowered the final drive by 15 percent for even gooder measure. Next it tossed us the keys and a pass to Silverstone Circuit so we could try it for ourselves.
When the 720S won our 2018 Performance Car of the Year (PCOTY) shootout at the National Corvette Museum track in Bowling Green, we don’t remember feeling disappointed about pretty much anything other than its ability to deliver its ample power to the pavement. But an even lighter harder, faster LT was always in the offing.
That’s LT as in Longtail, a nod to the ’97-spec F1 GTR endurance racers, which received elongated, downforce-generating bodywork, but also—and of more relevance in the case of its modern namesakes—important mechanical upgrades in an attempt to keep ahead of the competition.
McLaren first used the LT badge on the 765’s predecessor, the 675LT, in 2016, followed by the 600LT, based on the 570S, a couple of years later. And it sticks to the same recipe of less weight, more power, extra aero, and a greater focus on track performance again.
Besides the lighter windshield, other measures to cut weight include polycarbonate for the rear screen, greater use of carbon for the bumpers and forged wheels wrapped in sticky Pirelli Trofeo rubber to remedy our PCOTY traction woes. There’s also a titanium exhaust system that’s 40 percent lighter than standard and culminates in four tailpipes sandwiched between the license plate and the rear wing.
That multi-position wing shifts its angle and height to suit the situation, providing downforce or braking drag when needed. Even in its dormant position it sits further into the airflow, but in maximum push mode it contributes to an overall 25 percent improvement in downforce versus a 720S.
You appreciate that stability at Silverstone. Like many British tracks it started life as a World War II Royal Air Force base, meaning it's flat and fast. And often damp. Intermittent wet weather means we’re actually on Pirelli Corsas, not the Trofeos. But on a dry line the LT’s numerous aero devices help it find incredible front-end bite—and an answer to the traction problems we struggled with at MCN three years ago.
The LT gets carbon brakes and the sturdier front brake calipers from the Senna as standard—those calipers are the only items that are heavier than the parts they replace. But the test car went one further with a full Senna braking setup comprising special carbon rotors that take a crazy three months to bake, and cost an equally crazy $18,030.
That price doesn’t seem so crazy when you’re trying to shed enough of the 170mph you’ve got on the dial at the end of Hangar Straight to make it round the greasy Stowe corner that follows. But for most drivers, even those expecting to put in some regular track time, we’d guess the stock stoppers would likely be sufficient.
That’s an educated guess, much like the 765LT’s behavior on the road. We only drove the car on the track, and although that’s where the car was designed to shine, in reality that’s not where it’ll do the majority of its miles.
So we can’t comment on how it’ll handle the bumps on your favorite back road, but we can tell you how it’ll handle the Ferrari in the next lane, because this thing absolutely rips. Extra boost, and forged pistons to handle it, lifts power from 710 hp to 754 hp (765ps), and that, together with the 176 lb weight reduction should be enough to take a significant chunk out of the already outrageous 9.9-second quarter mile we recorded for the 720S.
But for the first time on a LT model McLaren has shortened the transmission gearing. The top speed (205mph) is now achieved in seventh gear, not sixth, and every one of those ratios makes more of the engine’s 590 lb-ft of torque, helping the engine start boosting sooner and pulling harder than a 720S would in the same situation. McLaren says the 765 gets to 60mph in 2.7 seconds and 124 mph (200kmh) in 7.2 seconds, compared with 2.8 seconds and 7.8 seconds for the 720.
That might not seem like a huge distinction if you’re driving a car that struggles to even get to 200 clicks, never mind get there in seven seconds. But what matters is how much more angry and urgent the 765 feels, compared with its brother. The engine response is more immediate, the transmission is sharper, the steering more precise. And firmer engine mounts mean more of the engine’s activity is transferred through to the cabin. Not great for touring, but great for helping you feel connected to the machinery.
And there’s no doubt McLaren could go further, just as did on the Sports Series cars when it introduced the 620R above the 600LT.
"The R made sense for the Sport Series because there was a clear link to the GT4 racing cars," says chief engineer, James Warner, nixing that idea. "But it wouldn’t feel so authentic if we did an R version of this."
Which doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Super Series upgrades. McLaren hasn’t confirmed it yet but there’s a 765 Spider in development that will get the same upgrades—but almost certainly won’t be available with the coupe’s funkiest option—an $8470 double-glazed window into the engine bay mounted inside the cabin.
Climate control and a hi-fi stereo are no-cost refits, but there are plenty of other MSO (McLaren Special Operations) goodies to make the $358k base price price a distant memory, including a full visual carbon fiber body panel package.
You don’t need any of it to enjoy the 765’s extra performance and meaner disposition. No one lucky enough to own a 720S needs an LT, either. But if we were planning a McLaren purchase and some track days, and if the limit on our 0.03-inch thick credit card was stout enough to take the strain, we’d melt it for the keys to the 765LT.
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