Getting here entailed six months of planning, days of driving and mild heatstroke. It was worth it…
There is no such thing as a “practical supercar”. It’s a contradiction in terms on the same intellectual level as “moderate terrorist” or “diet cake”. The point of a supercar is to be impractical. Whimsical, even. Fantastical to look at, and with a poisonously narrow go-faster brief that means it’s about as useful in real life as male nipples, or those cheap spanners you can buy made from metallic softwood. Yes, you can get searingly fast cars that are also practical – the Porsche 911 Turbo being one – but is that really a supercar? It’s got four seats, for goodness’ sake. And there are approximately seven hundred lesser models which all – bar a few extra bits of bodywork – look exactly the same. The Audi R8 comes close – it looks suitably unsuitable, has the engine in the right place and goes very fast indeed. But it’s an Audi. And Audi also makes the A4 2.0-litre TDI. And it has normal doors. And as we all know, a supercar needs ridiculous doors. Even a practical one. Step forward, then, the McLaren 570GT.
McLaren does not make city cars, small cars, saloon cars or cars that you can walk past without looking at. It makes – exclusively – supercars. And while all the other practical fast things mentioned previously are perched at the top of their respective family trees (or at the expensive bottom end of the brochure), the 570GT is one of McLaren’s more “affordable” models. Not for normal people, obviously – the GT starts at just over one hundred and fifty thousand pounds – but for the gilded rich, this is basically the financial equivalent of a VW Up on nice rims. And while it has the same carbon tub, 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 and grand-entrance beetle-wing doors as the PI hyper-hybrid or 650S, it also gets a… hatchback. A panoramic glass roof and soft-close doors. And softer suspension. And a quieter exhaust. And generally less white-knuckled, let’s-take-the-Tesla-to-the-shops intensity.
This is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. A bewinged and dive-planed racetrack-refugee like a 675LT might have the car-park kudos, but to be honest, you never really get to drive one hard on the road past third gear. A PI might get all the plaudits, but it is essentially a fairly single-minded, pretty little psychopath, ruthless in its pursuit of speed. The 570GT purports to offer the look and a more accessible experience without the unceasing daily drama. And so, to test the hypothesis that the McLaren 570GT really is a universe-bending paradox, we have decided to do something perilously impractical in McLaren’s most practical car. We’re having a little road trip.
Now, when I say “little”, obviously I mean “fairly large”, and when I say “perilously impractical I just mean ‘”perilous”. Because I’m going to load up the 570GT with everything it can take, and then try and drive every decent road in the United Arab Emirates – and slightly beyond – in a couple of days. This means filling the front boot with photographer John Wycherley’s camera kit, the rear, side-opening hatch with my increasingly disturbing bag of laundry and several other unidentified items, and hitting the road. First up: city driving, Abu Dhabi style.