McLaren 750S First Drive Review: Scorching through the Valley of Fire

McLaren 750S First Drive Review: Scorching through the Valley of Fire

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LAS VEGAS – The Valley of Fire just got several degrees hotter. The McLaren 750S Spider convertible I’m driving is spearing through the Nevada valley’s blushing outcrops of red Aztec sandstone, generating a pace so lurid that it might just rearrange the rocks in its fearsome path. The lonely Mojave Desert seems as good a place as any to engage launch control, hold tight to the Spider’s idyllically formed steering wheel, and experience what 740 horsepower feels like. A class-leading dry weight of 2,815 pounds gives the Coupe version the best power-to-weight ratio of any series-production McLaren yet, with the Spider just a bit below it on the pecking order with only about 100 pounds added.


Sixty miles per hour is dispatched so quickly (a company-tested 2.7 seconds) that there’s no time to mark its passing. An official 7.3 seconds to 124 mph (7.2 seconds for the Coupe) is more to the point; coincidentally right atop a Ferrari 296 GTB hybrid that delivers 79 more electrified V-6 horsepower, but weighs 425 more pounds by McLaren’s measure. A quarter-mile takes 10.1 seconds in the Coupe, or a top-down 10.3 seconds: Sizzling for sure, but here the Ferrari is quicker at 9.7 seconds, putting a thumb on the scale with its electric-motor boost. With every vein-popping accelerative burst, McLaren’s weight-saving exhaust testifies to a more stirring sound (versus the departed 720S) with every snort from its high-mounted nostrils.

The way McLaren engineers sweated the harmonic orders and crescendos of that stainless-steel exhaust – addressing the flat, uninspired voice that was really the only sensory failing of the 720S – underscores how the 750S is more than a mildly hotted-up 720S with 30 additional horses from a twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8.

“We absolutely dialed up the fun factor of this car,” said Jamie Corstorphine, director of product strategy.

The car that McLaren conceived as a supercar with hypercar performance – including a straight-from-Senna “Track Brake Upgrade” pack with monobloc calipers (an extra $18,050) – also shows how well and quickly the brand has cemented its technical standing and market mindshare versus the veteran Ferrari and Lamborghini. The Woking, U.K., automaker known first for racing glory, including late founder Bruce McLaren’s record-setting CanAm run at Las Vegas’ mob-connected Stardust International Raceway in 1968, seems here to stay in the road-car business. Customer connection and enthusiasm shows in the 750S’ sold-out status through spring 2025. Over the 750S’ planned life cycle of 2.5 to 3 years, more than half the cars allocated to the Americas (90% of those in the U.S.) are already spoken for, with fewer than 900 left for potential owners.

I’m glad you asked: A 750S Coupe starts from $331,740, a Spider from $352,740. Those base prices are extra-base, even if one doesn’t choose, say, a $90,000 Gulf Oil livery, or carbon-fiber packs for the “Upper Structure” or “Underbody” at $17,800 a crack. A caloric schmear of 27 extra-cost options, including gorgeous Ceramic Gray paint from McLaren Special Operations ($9,900), lifted this particular Spider to $467,490. I lucked out to be assigned a Spider in this classy shade, which turned subtly lavender in certain light, and stood out even in a many-hued row of McLarens.

Changing its former overproducing ways, which led to shaky resale values for series-production cars, McLaren has largely switched to a customer-order philosophy. More than 80% of McLarens are now specced and pre-ordered by individual buyers, versus fewer than 50% four years ago. At Wynn Las Vegas, we visit a newly opened McLaren Experience Center, steps off the casino floor. The glass-fronted showroom hosts daily appointments for VIP prospects, who can sample the very F1 simulator used by McLaren driver Lando Norris, and a rotating display of cars that includes a rare McLaren Elva. The automaker estimates 20,000 people a day walk past and ogle candy-colored display cars — surely a few high rollers among them, who’d be better off buying a McLaren than blowing cash at poker or baccarat tables. Sure enough, the automaker says it has already sold 20 cars off this strategically located showroom floor.

No gambling is required on my drives in the Mojave Desert or at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the 750S combines irrational speed with reassuring poise. A car that already steered and handled beautifully in 720S form feels more vivid and easier to push to its limits. Or beyond, aided by a well-chosen Dynamic mode for stability control, or the Variable Drift Control that lets drivers set upper limits on yaw angle before the car sensibly reins things in.

On the tight 1.1-mile road course tucked into a NASCAR tri-oval, the McLaren immediately telegraphs its adhesive boundaries, even shod with track-centric Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, versus standard P Zeros sampled on the road drive. (Non-R Trofeos are the middle-ground choice for wheels staggered 19 inches up front, 20 inches at the rear). Engineers cite gains in downforce and aerodynamic balance. After a half-dozen laps, I’m feeling frisky enough to dial back stability oversight, throttle-balance the car on howling tires, and catch one truly errant entry (“Nice save,” my chill young driving instructor offers from the shotgun seat) in a way I don’t recall from several track drives of the old 720S.

Standard carbon-ceramic brakes are appropriately heroic (front rotors measure 15.4 inches). They’re backed by an electrohydraulic assist from an active carbon-fiber rear wing that weighs 3.5 fewer pounds than the 720S’; despite flashing 20% more surface area for aero-enhanced braking, cornering downforce or drag reduction at superhero speeds. A new brake booster and vacuum pump aim to improve sensitivity and modulation. As ever, it’s great fun to storm past slower cars, and then watch the wing flip them off, so to speak, as it pops up to help shed speed. McLaren cites a 371-foot stopping distance from 124 mph, which it says is shorter than many supercars past or present.