The 2021 McLaren 765LT Will Break You, and You’ll Be Glad for the Experience

  • Otherworldly performance
  • Extraordinarily loud with a harsh ride quality
  • Exclusive production run with a matching price
  • The First 765LT generation introduced for 2021

What is the 765LT?

The 2021 McLaren 765LT is an ultra-high-performance sports car that is based on the already impressive McLaren 720S. Like other McLarens with the LT moniker, the 765LT is more track-focused, gaining some performance enhancements from the top-of-the-line McLaren Senna. It’s also notable for what it doesn’t have. Thanks to the use of lighter transmission materials, thinner glass or polycarbonate and a titanium exhaust, it only weighs 2,952 pounds (176 pounds lighter than the 720S) — about the same as a Toyota Corolla, but with more than five times the power output.

The 765LT is brash, unapologetically rough, and one of the most thrilling cars you can drive today. It is best thought of as a race car that somehow got certified for road use. To further drive the point home, features such as air conditioning and a stereo are no-cost options. If the $360,000-plus price tag doesn’t ensure exclusivity, the limited-production run of 765 examples worldwide surely will.

How does the 765LT drive?

The 765LT is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter flat-plane-crankshaft V8 engine that is mounted right behind the seats. Spin it up and you’ll get 755 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, which is 45 hp and 22 lb-ft more than the 720S.

McLaren’s reps claim a 0-60 mph time of only 2.7 seconds and we’re inclined to believe them. Mashing the accelerator from a stop results in a brief pause as the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission begins to slip the clutch, followed immediately by a considerable burst of power as you’re pinned to the seat.

That alone is satisfyingly excessive, but it’s just the prelude. A blink of an eye later, as the revs push past 5,500 rpm, the turbochargers kick in with the kind of aggression we’d expect from an F-15’s afterburners. The world outside blurs from the speed and vibrations from the vehicle while the 765LT launches with laser-straight precision.

The LT sheds speed with similar expertise. Jump on the brakes as hard as you can and the nose twitches ever so slightly but continues on its intended path. The big rear wing flips to the vertical position, acting as an air brake. This position also adds considerable aerodynamic downforce to increase rear tire grip. You feel the soft tissue in your body try to escape out the front as you brace against the dead pedal and steering wheel, yet the nose of the car keeps from diving toward the pavement.

As capable as these brakes may be at full potential, they also allow for nuanced modulation. Feathering the brakes as you nudge the vehicle toward an apex is easy, and there’s no noticeable transition to the throttle if executed gracefully. The transfer of weight between the front and rear is well managed, and the overall balance is as perfect as you’ll find for high-speed cornering.

And corner it does.

The 765LT has an abundance of grip. The kind that you get from a legitimate race car wearing track-only slick tires. A lot of that can be attributed to the wide 305-series Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires at the rear, but the active suspension and aforementioned downforce also contribute mightily. On public roads, you’ll feel every imperfection in the road surface. But the suspension absorbs most big jolts, keeping all four wheels firmly planted. On smooth surfaces, the 765LT really begins to prove itself with otherworldly handling limits. The ultra-precise steering with substantial feedback serves to further add to driver confidence and enjoyment.

Whether you’re a white-knuckle death-grip type of pilot or a racing sophisticate with a featherlight touch, the McLaren 765LT will engage you and reward you with each passing kink in the road. It goes blisteringly fast and corners with cartoon-like ease, just as intended. It thrills as it challenges the driver to give it more, but it’s also relatively easy and approachable for a supercar. It’s not overly twitchy or terrifying, just impeccably balanced.

If you’re seeking a race car for the road (and you’ve been in an actual race car before), this is it. If you’re looking for anything different, such as comfort or refinement, you’d probably be better served by almost any other supercar. Don’t take that as a knock against the McLaren, though. Rather, consider it affirmation of its hardcore nature. Yes, we love it.

How comfortable is the 765LT?

Short answer: It’s not. The 765LT isn’t the kind of car you could comfortably cruise around town in. It’s a purpose-built race car. The nearly solid engine and transmission mounts transmit laugh-inducing amounts of vibration and noise that are met with little resistance from the minimal sound insulation and thin glass. At idle, it reverberates like a reciprocating saw and smooths out slightly as the engine speed increases. The mechanical growl doesn’t sound particularly inspiring until you apply some sustained pressure on the gas pedal, at which point it sounds like an angry robotic bear at full howl.

The seats are thinly padded in order to give the driver immediate and explicit feedback translating what the wheels are doing on the pavement. But there’s little in the way of comfort after about 45 minutes. The suspension is unyielding when compared to lesser sports cars, transmitting every shock into your backside and spine.

The 765LT isn’t a car for the fragile, nor is it for those who just want to exude a certain level of wealth or distinction. This is a car for those who prioritize the thrill of motoring and find the harshness intoxicating. Most others will find it torturous.

How’s the 765LT’s interior?

Swing open the dihedral-style doors and you’re treated to a cockpit that’s elementally simple without seeming barren. A good section of the roof swings up with the door, providing an almost direct drop into the driver’s seat, which is good since there’s not a lot of space on the side to shimmy between the wheel and seat. Our particular test vehicle was bathed in black Alcantara, giving it an authentic race-car look and feel while reducing windshield reflections and gripping the driver like a Velcro onesie.

The steering wheel, attached shifter paddles and pedals are some of the few controls that will seem familiar. Other controls are oddly placed, unconventional in their operation, or simply hidden from view. The seat controls are tucked underneath the forward inboard corner of the cushion, for example, and the mirror adjustment is to the right of the steering wheel where you’d normally find an ignition button. It all takes some getting used to.

The cabin is snug without being claustrophobic. There’s ample space for taller passengers in terms of head- and legroom, but laterally there’s barely enough space. Forward visibility is good, though the moderately thick front roof pillar can obscure the view through tight left turns. Your view out the back might also be massively obscured if you opt for the 765LT’s roof air scoop. Intended for racetrack use, it funnels air to help cool down the engine’s air intake. For the privilege you’ll pay $36,340 extra.

How’s the 765LT’s tech?

The 765LT is a technological powerhouse when it comes to performance. For everything else? Not so much. The Proactive Chassis Control II suspension continuously monitors road conditions and their effect on the suspension, all while processing what the driver is asking of the vehicle. The computer instantaneously comes up with a solution and executes it by adjusting a number of mechanical systems. Unlike most other suspensions, the 765LT’s eliminates some heavy metal elements with compact hydraulic substitutes. Instead of a traditional anti-roll bar, a linked hydraulic system between the wheels adds or subtracts pressure on one side to maintain a flat roll attitude when cornering. The end result is very predictable and seamless from the driver’s seat.

Power from the engine is also electronically controlled and routed to the right wheel at the right time with no hint of what’s happening on the surface. Other available tech-related items include track-related features such as a lap timer, performance telemetry to analyze your driving, and three cameras that can record your session.

Otherwise, the McLaren is noticeably light on convenience and safety tech. The infotainment system has a small vertical touchscreen mounted halfway down the center of the dash. It looks futuristic, but in reality, it’s very basic and rather difficult to use while in motion. Smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is not supported. As a driver-centric supercar, advanced safety features are absent.

One feature we do quite like is the dual-mode instrument panel. At startup, the panel rotates up from a flat position, revealing a high-resolution display that shows typical speed, engine, trip and temperature information. A tap of a button folds the display flat again, leaving only a very thin display strip showing engine rpm and speed for when the driver wants to cut out all unnecessary distractions.

How’s the 765LT’s storage?

Between the driver and passenger, there is a moderately sized cupholder and a few small pockets. There is no glove compartment, just a small elastic net on the bulkhead behind the seats. Interior space is at a premium, so we suggest you keep your personal effects to a minimum.

The cargo space under the hood is more accommodating than the interior suggests. You get a deep front trunk that could easily hold two medium duffles. A typical hard-sided carry-on suitcase will not fit. If this were more of a touring car, the lack of storage would be an issue, but since the 765LT has such a narrow focus on performance, it’s easy to accept.

How economical is the 765LT?

Economical? The McLaren 765LT is laughably wasteful. With a price tag not too shy of a half a million dollars and an estimated fuel economy estimate of 15 mpg combined (14 city/18 highway), it justifies the old adage of “racing cars is like standing in a wind tunnel shredding thousand dollar bills.” If you drive with any sort of excitement, you can expect single-digit mpg.

That said, if you consider the relative rarity of the 765LT and McLaren’s storied history, it could be a potential long-term investment, but we don’t think we’d be able to forgive you for keeping such a free spirit caged.

Edmunds says

The 2021 McLaren 765LT is an apex predator in the supercar space. You’d have a tough time finding anything more entertaining, but that’s really all it can do. The McLaren 720S is immensely easier to live with, especially when it comes to comfort, and it will still deliver far more performance than most drivers will ever demand of it. The LT is for the rare driver who finds the harshness attractive, and we’re glad that such a hardcore option exists.

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