Put your faith in the McLaren 765LT

by Andrew Maness

This story originally appeared in Vol.7 “The Athlete Issue”

What does a half-million driving experience entail? Twelve cylinders? Ten? Use of a supercharger or turbo? Maybe two of them or one of each. How comfortable do the seats need to be? How sharp is the handling? Must the vehicle look revolutionary? These are but a few of the questions that lingered after spending a couple of days with a McLaren 765LT. Having had the benefit of some time to really chew on the one at the center of the thought web, I’ve got what I think is an unlikely answer: A half-million driving experience doesn’t explicitly need any of the above — only the proper environment to operate within. I arrived at this conclusion only because I’ve driven a good deal of vehicles tagged close to or above the $500K mark, and the 765LT distinguishes itself in that group of eye-wateringly expensive cars as being worth every single dollar — with one caveat: You must — I repeat, must — have a legitimately fun place to drive it regularly. Sure, you could leave it parked at home and study its curvaceous body for hours on end. That’s one way to enjoy it, but you’re hardly getting any value out of it. Similarly, your ROI will be comically low were you to use the 765LT for mundane driving or, worse yet, trying to attract attention sprinting from intersection to intersection with the tach bouncing off the limiter. If stroking your ego is the desired result, there are other exotic vehicles better suited for such purposes. The 765LT is for driving and driving like you fucking mean it.

Shockingly, this isn’t to say that it’s punishing to drive anywhere other than a track or freshly paved road. Like every other McLaren I’ve driven in the past few years, the 765LT is very well damped and rides better on “normal roads” than a good deal of the GPUs (general transportation units) I’ve driven. As a colleague often likes to remind me, “British cars typically ride the best because British roads are the worst,” and that logic certainly holds up with regard to McLaren. The highly adaptable chassis and seemingly telepathic steering contribute to the driver of a 765LT getting their money’s worth, but again, you need the right setting to get the most out of it. That’s because in an era when the quickest vehicles feature an electric powertrain, combustion-engine exotics had better bring something to the table. It’s not enough for a vehicle to be fast anymore; it has to be visceral, primal, raw. If it is none of those things, it might as well be an EV. Much to my pleasure, the 765LT is all three.

As I discovered at age 15, turbochargers are multipliers of fun. Back then, part of the fun was the anticipation of the boost coming on. In the 765LT, there’s no waiting on the fun. Fun is omnipresent. What’s more fun than one turbo? Two turbos, of course! Pair those with a delightful V8 and that’s a recipe for an unforgettable experience. You don’t so much gain speed in a 765LT as you change states of being. One second you’re over here, the next you’re over there. It may be minor compared to, say, BASE jumping, but this is a vehicle that warps your reality. Time after time, I couldn’t believe what was possible behind the wheel of this car, and with such little effort to boot. I kept hearing how the 765LT was a handful, an exotic that would easily bite you if not properly respected. A great white in a hammerhead’s clothing. I don’t know about all that. If you’re wildly unintelligent or being deliberately ham-fisted, sure, I can see how you’d be intimidated by it. All I did was make sure the tires were up to temp, the roads were clear, and there was gas in the tank.

I’m not claiming to be the sharpest tool in the shed, but quite frankly, I don’t have to be: The 765LT is. At this level of performance, the X-factor I’m looking for more than anything is trust. Can I trust the people who engineered the car? Can I trust the people who assembled it? I trust McLaren unequivocally. This trust has been earned over years of driving their vehicles and having had no faults. I suppose they trust me as well, seeing as I keep getting the opportunity to drive their cars, and I’m deeply thankful for that. There’s no other exotic I’ve driven that behaves the way the 765LT does. I have vivid dreams about absolutely diving into a right-hand corner and just leaning on that driver’s-side front tire. Feeling it grip hard, working in tandem with the suspension to feed my hands and butt information that lets me know that wherever my eyes go, the rest of the car is going to follow. It’s a sensation I typically experience only on a motorcycle. Very few (street legal) vehicles are capable of delivering that feeling, and most of the track-prepped or outright race cars that I’ve driven deliver it in such a different way that it doesn’t yield the same result. Why does the 765LT offer a half-million-dollar driving experience? Because you can do race-car shit on the street. Is some of it going to be a bit outside the law? You bet your ass it is. However, that thrill is all part of the experience. Indeed, you can post impressive lap times all day long at the track with this car, but the imperfections of public roads, the sights, sounds, and smells of whatever environment you’re driving it in — that’s all worth the risk associated with a little bit of extra-legal activity. Besides, if you’re good for the tab on a 765LT, you’re probably good for at least a few tickets a year anyway.