A more powerful variant of McLaren’s 720S, the 765LT is one of the only street-legal internal combustion cars that keeps pace with the Tesla Model S Plaid.
DUE TO THE periodic arrival of fantasy automobiles at my house, I am legend with the kids in the neighborhood. But even these veteran trainspotters were unprepared for the arrival of the coral-orange metallic McLaren 765LT Coupe. I watched their impressionable minds and mercenary hearts go kablooey at the sight. I felt like I was contributing to the delinquency of minors.
The technical details are fascinating, but take a moment to appreciate the computationally derived beauty of the thing. With the 765LT (“Longtail”), McLaren’s usual biomimetic muscularity is even more explicit, its tendons and sinews even tauter, more exposed. I felt like handing it a robe.
Hewn from the very rock of inequality, the 765LT ($429,000, as tested) is a track-hardened version of the McLaren 720S, saints preserve us: stronger (by 45 hp), lighter (by up to 176 pounds), meaner, more emotional. Histrionic, even. With the 765LT, McLaren has scoured what little civility there is from the 720S, leaving only anger. The lightweighting program, including the optional carbon-fiber racing seats, has produced a cabin with all the comforts of a Gemini capsule. Air conditioning and audio systems are optional. More power, meet less mass.
Supercar trophy hunters will covet the 765LT as one of the last generation of extreme supercars, free of the dulling effects of hybridizing: the stop/start madness, the weird brake feel, the faked exhaust notes.
Bolted to the rear of the car’s carbon-fiber tub, or passenger cell, is a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 delivering the eponymous 765 PS (755 hp) and up to 590 lb-ft of roughhousing physicality centered around one’s backside. It’s like a damn fraternity hazing.
The 765LT’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission has been repacked with closer ratios for better corner-to-corner acceleration around road-course circuits. Unless you have a date at a superspeedway, 6th gear is for record setting only; 7th is the fuel-saving ratio for street use in Full Auto mode, which I hasten to point out the car hates.
At an undisclosed location, on a few thousand yards of unoccupied concrete, I was able to let slip this dog of war, and slip it did. The first big steering input under braking, I immediately got into a tank slapper—whoops! OK, car! Whether on road and track, the slope of the 765LT’s fun gradient is a function of tire temperature. I guess that’s why there’s that big tire-temp display. When the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R’s are warm—especially the front ones—va bene. When they are cool, or wet, mamma mia! Those rain grooves look painted on.
McLaren says that, with Launch Control engaged, the 3,000-pound coupe can accelerate from 0 to 124 mph in 7 seconds flat. So as not to overwhelm the tires, Launch Control briefly constrains engine output off the line. That’s why I never use Launch Control.
The 765LT at full honk—rapping repeating to around 8,000 rpm—is a highly exothermic phenomenon, during which the quad-titanium exhaust outlets glow a blue-white and all the female Godzillas in the area look up and wonder who the new guy is.
The crackling overruns in the braking zone—like scattered small-arms fire—are also “satisfying,” pronounced Willie, my motorsports consigliere, at the top of his lungs. The 765LT shares its race-bred 15.4-inch carbon-ceramic brakes/retro rockets with the McLaren Senna. From 124 mph, the 765LT can self-arrest in 354 feet, says McLaren. Get some arnica to put on that bruised sternum.
In 3, 2, 1, someone will say, What about the Tesla Model S Plaid? The 765LT is one of the few street-legal internal-combustion cars that can keep up with a Plaid in a drag race, but I’m not sure how relevant the comparison is. The satisfactions of electric performance are qualitatively and experientially different: hushed and dreamlike, a forward fall, absent many of the somatic cues we rely on to judge speed. The Plaid is stupendously fast but doesn’t always feel fast.
The 765LT practically curates the feeling of fast.
Are you thinking such a car is stupid, dangerous, immoral and obsolete? Most of the world agrees with you. McLaren has said it is prepared to go all-electric by 2035—sooner, if so obliged by the British government. As of 2026, all road-going Maccas will have hybrid-electric systems.
Which, ironically, makes the car in hand all the more collectible. Supercar trophy hunters will covet the 765LT as one of the last generation of extreme supercars, free of the dulling effects of hybridizing: the stop/start madness, the weird brake feel, the faked exhaust notes.
Ain’t nothing fake about the 765LT’s morning report. It sounds like the Queen’s Regiment Corps of Drums paradiddling outside your window. Attention, soldier! Engine mods include new forged aluminum pistons, a higher flow fueling system and the lightweight titanium exhaust system with a silencer that is more like an amplifier.
As it rumbles and chirrs through city streets, the car creates a vortex of attention, a bubble inside of which people on cellphones are yelling, “What?! I can’t hear you…. Some asshole in a Ferrari.”
Are you one of those scarf-wearing aces who complains about electronic nannies robbing sports cars of immediacy? Buckle in, Chet. With its stability and traction functions disengaged (Track mode), the 765LT’s tail moves around in exciting ways, on power and off. The electrohydraulic steering is pin-sharp, darty, dicey. The feedback from tires to steering wheel is practically holographic. There is almost zero body roll, thanks to McLaren’s nifty hydraulic anti-roll system. But there is no relaxing in the pilot house. The 765LT is one of the only cars I know that can commence a lengthy, swiveling burnout while it’s going 90 mph.
Is it the most dynamic supercar I’ve ever driven? It’s in the conversation. The candidates would be McLaren Senna, Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Ferrari SP90 Stradale, Mercedes-AMG GT R Coupe. In any event, it’s better to say that these cars all went around race tracks faster than I could possibly go, given my limited masculinity.
The 765LT just got me there sooner.
2021 McLaren 765LT Coupe
Base price: $358,000
Price as tested: $429,000
Powertrain: Mid-mounted 4.0-liter, 32-valve DOHC V8 with electrically actuated twin-scroll turbochargers, variable valve timing and dry-sump lubrication; seven-speed dual-clutch rear transaxle with electronically controlled torque-vectoring rear diff.
Power/torque: 755 hp at 7,500 rpm/590 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm
Engine redline: 8,500 rpm
Length/height/width/wheelbase: 181/47/85 (w/mirrors)/105 inches
Curb weight: 2,963 pounds
0-60 mph: 2.7 seconds
0-124 mph: 7 seconds
124 mph-0: 354 feet
EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg (comb.)