Estoril is a fantastic former Formula 1 circuit with a two-dimensional logo that doesn't do it justice. Instead of the bent-paperclip layout that's depicted, it's a nuanced and challenging ribbon of asphalt that's been artfully draped over Portugal's coastal mountain topography. A mighty 740-horsepower, rear-drive supercar such as the 2024 McLaren 750S should be intimidating around an old-school F1 track, but the 750S is so well sorted that yours truly, who had never before seen the place, felt fully confident to push like hell without fear of being flung into the barriers.
Yes, the 750S is an evolution of the 720S, but that's a mega jumping-off point. Roughly 30 percent of its parts are new or revised, so the changes go well beyond putting the screws to the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 to add 30 horses and 22 pound-feet of torque. The sum of the tweaks also amounts to a weight loss of 66 pounds and a class-leading power-to-weight ratio, according to McLaren. Other changes lean into this further, such as shorter final gearing that makes the car feel even more punchy out of slower corners. We expect the 60-mph and quarter-mile times to shrink, but that doesn't capture how much more alive it feels. Top speed drops from a claimed 212 mph to "just" 206 mph because of the gearing change, but we'll allow that.
A new center-exiting stainless-steel exhaust system gives the car a more ferocious bark. This is especially enjoyable to occupants of the Spider, which more effectively conveys the sound to the cockpit, even with the top up, on account of its headrest flying buttresses and retractable rear window. But the rerouted exhaust has a bigger role to play, as it's part of a comprehensive aerodynamic rethink that better manages airflow over a new rear wing that is 20 percent larger. Around Estoril, the active wing toggles from a drag-reduction device on long straights to an air brake when you smash the eyeball-stretching, optional carbon-ceramic binders. At the turn-in point, it once again becomes a conventional wing that works with the revised nose and front splitter to press the available Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires resolutely into the tarmac, delivering impeccable aerodynamic balance as speed builds. Those who don't need ultimate track grip can opt for P Zero Corsa PZC4s or stick with the standard P Zero PZ4 fitment.
Direction changes require less lock on account of a quicker steering ratio, which makes the car more responsive on the track without stepping over the line to become darty on the street. Effort buildup is a bit indistinct on regular roads when driven casually, but the electro-hydraulic system's precision is unflappable, with feedback that improves markedly as cornering forces build. McLaren's third generation of its brilliant hydraulically crosslinked Proactive Chassis Control suspension (PCC III) has been revised with new spring, damper, and accumulator tuning, and it delivers the compliance necessary to dance across FIA curbs without upsetting the car's stability.
On the open road, this setup also gives the 750S impeccable smoothness on neglected pavement, and that imbues this supercar with a dollop of Clark Kent respectability. The crosslinked dampers that replace traditional anti-roll bars are part of the reason, but the unsung hero is a "Z-bar" rear heave spring, which shoulders the considerable rear aerodynamic loads generated at speed on a racetrack without demanding stiff springs at the rear corners that would otherwise impede the movement of the rear suspension over routine lumps and bumps.
Inside, the McLaren's no-nonsense cockpit has been made even more approachable. Gone is the 720's silly instrument pod that rotated 90 degrees between a reasonably adequate gauge cluster in street configurations and a ludicrous KITT-style slot display in Track mode. In its place, the 750S employs a highly legible digital instrument cluster flanked by prominent rocker switches built into the outside corners of the shade hood. These switches make easy work of drive mode and chassis stiffness selections, as they are always within fingertip reach because the entire assembly tilts and telescopes along with the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel. The wheel itself, in stark contrast to Ferrari's approach, contains no buttons or switches apart from the large shift paddles that sprout from behind its spokes. Probably a horn too, but we weren't upset with anyone.
The center stack is equally clean and straightforward, with a triple stack of buttons close to the driver. The Aero button engages the active aerodynamics, while the Kiwi-bird button allows one to save a favorite drive, suspension, and aero setup. It works exactly like a radio preset too: Set everything where you want, then press and hold the Kiwi to save. From then on, a momentary press engages your custom setup, and you can change it at any time. Below that lies the launch-control button. To the right of these is the familiar McLaren-spec portrait-oriented touchscreen with a prominent volume knob just below. This is where you go to make audio, navigation, phone, and HVAC selections. But McLaren has taken this a step further down the ease-of-use pathway, because this modest system now supports Apple CarPlay. It's a wired connection via USB-C or USB-A, and Android Auto is nowhere to be seen, but it's a welcome step nonetheless.
The Spider is a more compelling package than you might expect, because the carbon-fiber monocoque at the heart of the 750S needs no reinforcement. The roof of the coupe isn't particularly structural, so the Spider's modest 108-pound claimed weight gain is all down to the power-retractable hardtop mechanism itself, including the retractable vertical rear window that allows the glorious new exhaust note to migrate into the cabin with the top up.
Just as there's more to Estoril than its logo suggests, there's more to the new 750S than the revised nomenclature indicates. McLaren didn't just add 30 horsepower; it gave the car more soul. And Apple CarPlay.
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