That much admired fin-de-siècle supercar, the McLaren F1, sold about 106 examples at £634,000 a pop, while McLaren's P1 hypercar of 2013 cost £866,000 and they built 375. Yet this car, the new £218,020 720S, will run rings around both of them and the first year's production of 1,400 is already allocated.
They'd be small rings, admittedly, but rings nevertheless. With a top speed of 212mph, a 0-62mph time of 2.8sec and standard carbon-ceramic brakes, this 1.42-tonne, two-seat 720S will outrun, outbrake and outlap a hybrid P1, previously the toast of hypercars.
I'm not quite sure what that tells us about the speed of development in the supercar industry or whether there is a limit to how fast a road car could and should go.
"I do think about that," says Haydn Baker, McLaren Super Series line director, "and I think we are beginning to reach those limits."
What it does say, however, is that there are skip-loads more super-rich folk these days than there were in 1992 when the Gordon Murray-engineered and Peter Steven's-styled F1 was launched. For most, however, these cars are things to be celebrated, enjoyed where appropriate (on a racing circuit) and cruised past crowds of admiring camera-phone owners in Knightsbridge.
After a shaky start, McLaren has got its hooks into this world with its range of Woking-manufactured supercars. Its Super Series is the mid-point of a hierarchy of three quite similar McLaren car ranges: mid-engined with carbon-fibre tubs, sharing similar hard points for the aluminum, carbon-fibre and Sheet-Moulded-Composite (SMC) bodywork, and sharing the same Ricardo-designed twin-turbo V8 and seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox driving the rear wheels.
So while this new 720S is a Super Series that is claimed to be 90 per cent all new and a “new generation”, it is in fact remarkably similar to its forebear, the 650S. The 90-degree, quad-cam, dry-sump V8 has been stroked from 3.8 to 4.0 litres, with a brace of twin-scroll turbos. Power is up from 641bhp to 710bhp at 7,250rpm and torque from 500lb ft to 568lb ft. It's faster than the 650S, with 0-62mph acceleration down from 3.0 to 2.9sec, 0-124mph down from 8.4 to 7.8sec and 0-186mph from 25.4 to 21.4sec. The top speed is up from 207 to 212mph and the standing quarter-mile time down from 10.5 to 10.3sec.
There's an 18kg weight reduction to 1,419kg fuelled and oiled, the front suspension is redesigned with aluminium upper and lower wishbones and new geometry with more castor, plus acceleration sensors on the uprights. The rear suspension is similarly tweaked to reduce bump steer at high speed.
Pirelli P Zero tyres are wider than the 650S's; 245/35/ZR19 at the front with smaller carbon-ceramic brakes and the same AP Racing six-piston calipers, and 305/30/ZR19 rears with carried-over four-pot calipers and rotors, on a slightly wider track
It's a difficult shape to categorise, although there's certainly a lot going on there, with cuts, slices curves, vents, spoilers, wings and aerodynamic-enhancing barge boards along the side.
That rear wing sinks back into the bodywork when parked, which leaves a lot of smooth upper rear body, with a rounded cabin roof that sits forward on the wheelbase.
Then there are those extraordinary air channels along the top of the doors, which run like Roman aquifers into the wings and radiators, tempting schoolboys beyond endurance to roll a marble down into their irrecoverable depths. They're weird, but not as visually disturbing as the socket headlamps, which channel air into the low-temperature front radiators. The whole car drips testosterone, but it's a long walk from sensuous.
The interior gets a complete makeover, with a carbon-fibre upper structure, more windows, including the optional door/roof glass, and thinner spars. In the Rome rush hour, they're essential as you dodge the Kamikaze scooters and bullying taxis and even the rear-view mirror provides half-decent vision.
The cutaway doors make it easier to get inside (though tugging them shut is hard work) and the seats are plenty big enough, even if the hidden electric adjustment controls on the Luxury version are difficult to master and the pedal box is small for big feet.
And like with all McLarens, the cabin still looks constructed out of intergalactic Lego, with separate pods for everything including speakers and vents, switches that look like G-Shock watches and mad surface changes - I counted 14 across the front of the doors. There's some storage space including door bins, which shut themselves when the doors are opened, while the under-bonnet boot just accommodates a couple of airline carry-on cases.
Electronic goodies include the three-position toughening up of driveline response and chassis hardness via switches, a new drift control, with which you can determine just how far you want the back to swing out, and a complicated telemetry system which films the car via the 360-degree parking sensors and plays it back to narcissists on the centre screen.
With a long-travel throttle and slow hook-up on the automatic clutch, the 720S can feel unwieldy when manoeuvring, but once used to the galumphing width (and with warmed brakes), you can join the hustle and bustle of daily traffic and the auto selection on the gearbox engages just fine. The V8’s leaf-blower engine note hasn't improved much, however.
The ride isn't that bad, but nothing will shield you from the shuddering detonations of the wide tyres over pot holes, which flap your inner organs and gives the bodyshell such a shock it crackles like the hull of an ocean-racing yacht.
Hydraulically-assisted steering comes off the straight ahead with a lovely lift and there's lot of physical feedback to enable you to feel the car into corners and place it on the road. That it feels fast but not overwhelming is largely down to the fact that pretty much everything you need on the road requires just an inch of throttle travel.
And so to the fairground ride that is the Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi, where the abiding impression is of lightning speed, good manners, nice steering and well balanced controls. Those grumbling brakes come into their own; strong, with a good amount of travel, but a slightly bouncy feeling at the pedal when you're stopping hard.
The power is extraordinary; seamless, howling at the very top end and unburstable. And while the stability has improved markedly over the 650S, that flat-out Curva Grande, half way down the main straight, is a slightly horrifying prospect when you realise just how fast the car is travelling as you turn the nose in.
Fortunately the steering only improves on the track, being beautifully weighted and bursting with feedback, although the mid-engined dynamics mean you have to be very accurate and gentle with the controls. I wasn't convinced by the variable traction control and thought that Chevrolet had made a better job on the Corvette 20 years ago.
Undoubtedly quicker, more stable and better looking than its predecessor, the 720S still comes up hard against McLaren's dilemma of making three different cars out of one basic architecture. It's also a strangely unmoving car that doesn't welcome you into its cabin as its Italian rivals do.
I can see why you might want to own one of these, but for me the cheaper and not that much slower 570S or even the 570GT are more wieldy, ride more comfortably and make a better compromise between road and track car.
McLaren 720S Luxury
TESTED 3,994cc twin-turbo V8, seven-speed 'box and rear-wheel-drive
PRICE/ON SALE £208,600 (£292,200 as tested)/now
POWER/TORQUE 710bhp @ 7,500rpm, 568lb ft @ 5,500rpm
TOP SPEED 212mph
ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 2.9sec
FUEL ECONOMY 26.4mpg/17.9mpg (EU Combined/Urban). As tested 10.7mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 249g/km
VED £1,700 first year, then £140
VERDICT Faster and more stable, the new 720S is a more dynamically competent than its predecessor, although whether it could be genuinely described as “all-new” is debatable. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but certainly the Italian rivals are better looking and for our money, the cheaper and only marginally slower 570 cars are a better compromise between road and track.
TELEGRAPH RATING Four stars out of five
Ferrari 488 GTB, from £183,984
While the 661bhp starter Ferrari can't out-sprint the middle-ranking McLaren, it offers more visual reward and great handling. The 3.9-litre turbo V8 sings opera compared with the McLaren's growl.
Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2, from £155,400
Not as wieldy as the competition and the ride is crashy, but great looking and indubitably modern. Available with four-wheel drive, too. Its 5.2-litre, naturally aspirated V10 is a masterpiece.
Audi R8 Plus, from £139,350
So much more than a Huracán in a Hugo Boss suit, the 601bhp, V10 R8 is one of the most dynamic, practical and useable supercars. Four-wheel drive means you can use it all year round, too.
Porsche 911 Turbo S, from £147,540
Porsche's 572bhp flat-six is one of the great engines and its variable-geometry turbo is more exotic than the 720S items. 911s divide opinion, but this 4x4 flagship is light-switch quick, beautifully made and quite amazing to drive.
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