It’s not often a review of a sports car starts in the boot.
But the back-end is a significant differentiator in the latest McLaren newcomer, the GT.
As its “grand tourer” nomenclature suggests, it’s more everyday practicality than outright pace and thrills, two things McLaren sports cars typically excel at.
The GT has been designed to cover big distances in comfort with some extra in reserve to enjoy that deserted back road — luggage and all.
Which brings us to the 420-litre cavity behind the two occupants. The raw numbers suggest the boot is more useful than a Toyota Corolla (217L) or Mazda3 (295L) hatch.
But to access about half the load space you’ll either need arms like an octopus or to climb into the car — boots and all. Seriously.
That’s because the boot is lumpy, curvy and about half the 4.7m length of the car, in part because it’s fighting for space with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 lurking beneath.
Skis and golf clubs work fine, as does McLaren’s tailored luggage.
If you’re wheeling a sizeable Samsonite you can pretty much forget it.
At least things stay cool, some tricky air ducting and insulation ensuring hot exhausts don’t cook your luggage.
Still, the 150-litre cavity under the bonnet is often more useful; deep and near-square and more than capable of swallowing things that aren’t long or flat.
Potential targets for the GT are broad and include the Ferrari Portofino, Bentley Continental GT, BMW 8-Series and Porsche 911.
The GT is missing one crucial feature compared with those rivals — back seats. That’s because it doesn’t stray far from the template set by modern McLarens: there’s a sleek carbon fibre body housing a twin-turbo V8 behind the occupants.
Drill into the details and engineers insist the GT is very different to its more focused siblings. Despite sharing a modification of the engine and chassis used in other McLarens, two-thirds is claimed to be unique.
One of those changes is a nose that rides noticeably higher. Rather than a front wing hugging the bitumen, the GT tackles speed humps without fear of sending shards of carbon airborne.
There’s a hydraulic lifter to raise the nose 20mm, something McLaren says gives it frontal clearance akin to an everyday sedan, such as Mercedes-Benz’s popular C-Class.
By now you’re probably getting the impression the GT does things differently to its grand tourer rivals, part of the “new approach to grand touring” inspired by GTs of the 1960s.
All of which pays dividends on a snaking road in the south of France.
Clever suspension electronically links individual wheels to a central computer that can adjust parameters such as damping in 2 milliseconds.
There’s also a genuine suppleness to the suspension, especially in its tamest Comfort setting. It’s more compliant and composed than a Mercedes-AMG, for example.
Stability control steps in early to temporarily halt delivery of the full 630Nm thrust, something in keeping with its more relaxed GT character.
It’s a shame the brake pedal is so firm, like the enormous (and effective) stoppers are ready for a qualifying attack at Mount Panorama.
And while there’s additional sound deadening — making for a calmer cabin with surprisingly good vision — there’s the ever-present fluttering and whistling of turbos.
With 456kW from eight angry cylinders the sound is purposeful but far from V8 sonorous.
No questioning the punch, though. The GT has performance to match its styling, claimed to hit 100km/h in 3.2 seconds. After a hint of turbo lag there’s a potent surge that feels strongest across the middle of its rev range.
Despite the efforts stepping up comfort, there are inherent compromises with that McLaren mid-engined layout.
Scissor doors reward a lean-back approach to ingress and it’s a decent step across the broad sill that is part of the carbon fibre structure.
Bespoke seats grab and pamper, but the low-slung cabin means you’re always conscious you’re driving something fast and exotic, which is good and bad.
Tempering the GT concessions is a $399,995 price tag, albeit one that misses out on modern active safety systems.
While no bargain, but the GT brings lashings of pace and grace in a package that is more affordable and everyday friendly than something like the potent 600LT.
That makes it a worthy addition to the family, albeit one that’s more a niche within a niche rather than something set to change the course of modern GTs.
Price: $399,995 plus on-roads
Warranty/servicing: 3 yrs/unlimited km
Safety: Not rated, 4 airbags, stability control
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, 456kW/630Nm
Spare: Repair kit
Boot: 150L (front), 420L (rear)
Originally published as Supercar’s unique selling point