As Good as it Looks – McLaren 570GT

mc-laren-5Back north this time, and more motorway. Dead straight, mind-numbing motorway, all of it apparently under the UAE’s constant upgrade plan. But even though the 570 gets less carbon in its construction and a less outré cabin architecture than the big brothers to keep costs down, the wider, more comfortable seats and simplified centre console all work without flaw. It’s even got a thumpingly decent Bowers&Wilkins 12-speaker stereo which keeps us company all the way to the Jebel Hafeet Mountain road some four hours up and east away – voted one of the world’s greatest driving roads, and 7.4 miles and 60 corners of hillclimb brilliance.

It’s good – of that there is no doubt. Two lanes up, one down, lightly trafficked and beautifully surfaced. At the top there’s a hotel, a small palace and a few other buildings, and a viewing point that looks across the whole Al Ain area in 360° magnificence. We’re there as the sun goes down, and without Moreeb’s sandy sketchiness, the GT finally manages to work its steel brakes to the fullest. And work they do. This road is all about gears two to four, a dance between the paddles operating the brilliant seven-speed SSG ‘box, the accelerator and the brake. Heavy on the brakes. The little McLaren finds extra grip from the front, and proves hilariously rapid – even though the fact that the rear end is all but unstickable under power can be a bit frustrating. As can the fact that when forced to do so, the lack of a proper rear differential means that you can’t hold onto a slide. At my skill level, at least. We stay until the night wraps its velvety arms around the hill, and Hafeet’s lights flicker on. And then it just feels like the world’s most awesome video game. But we’ve lingered too long, and we must get to our hotel – there’s more in the morning.

Before that, though, a few more hours of commuting to a seaside resort called Ras Al Khaimah up in the north of the country. Boring commuting, with bad roads and dull speed limits, rigorously enforced. In any other car, this would be frustrating. But once down out of the speedy cornering goodness of Hafeet, the GT immediately calms back into an easy lope. We’ve done more than 1,000km according to the tripmeter, and I’ve not even got backache. Yet.

Next morning, we rise before the dawn and head up to the UAE’s highest and a road only opened a couple of years ago: Jebel al Jais. Now, this one is fairly hard to find, seeing as though there aren’t really signposts and the road doesn’t actually go anywhere. Eventually, there will be a hotel and ski resort at the top, but right now, the Jebel al Jais road is infrastructure-to-nothing; the tarmac just stops. As we drive up, it’s pitch black – no street lights – and even though the road itself is absolutely fantastic, there’s an ominous sense to the blackness. So we camp out with some random goats at the top, and wait for dawn.mc-laren-5

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