The landing page of McLaren’s website trumpets a bold statement: “At McLaren, we refuse to accept what’s gone before. We find a different way. To discover new ideas. To create pioneering supercars. And breathtaking driving experiences.”
With this philosophy as their cornerstone you can understand why the McLaren 720S, the sole representative of the company’s mid-range Super Series, looks and performs the way it does.
Previously, if you wanted a futuristic looking supercar that challenged the boundaries of design and performance as well as the status quo represented by the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini you looked to Pagani. But these days a Pagani Huayra will set you back well over a million euros, and having placed your deposit you can look forward to a two-year wait.
Looking every bit as spectacularly futuristic, unique, and comfortable in its own carbon-fibre skin for less than a third of the price, the McLaren 720S has also rewritten the book on bang for your buck in the supercar arena.
Importantly, the 720S is not just a pretty face. In independent testing by magazines around the world, and even by owners who have strapped a VBox to their cars and pitted them up against some other quick machinery on drag strips, the 1,283kg 720S has proven to be even faster than its maker’s claims.
However, there will always be some for whom the 720S is not quite unique enough, and not quite fast enough. These are the people who undertake a pilgrimage to Novitec in deepest Bavaria in search of the aerodynamic, engine, suspension and wheel upgrades that will provide the right stuff.
Although the core of every McLaren is their twin-turbocharged flat-plane V8, they do not simply use the same engine in various states of tune achieved with ECU mapping. Featuring a displacement increase from 3.8 to 4.0 litres the 3,994cc dry sump V8 that powers the 720S is a development of the motor used in the 650S and 675LT. With 41% new components, including the turbochargers, crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods, and cylinder heads, it is really a different engine.
Making 720hp at 7,250rpm, with 770Nm of torque at 5,500rpm, the M840T incarnation of McLaren’s twin turbo flat plane crank V8 is recipe for outstanding performance. The 0-100km/h benchmark falls in 2.9 sec, with 200km/h coming up in just 7.8 sec. The quarter mile post is reached in just 10.5 sec and top speed is 341km/h or 212mph. Braking is equally impressive, and it takes just 30m to stop from 100km/h and 122m from 200km/h.
Beating these numbers sounds like a pretty tall order so Novitec has their work cut out. However, their engineers have come up with not one but three conversions that take power and torque to the next level.
Stage 1 is an ECU only power upgrade using the Novitec N-Tronic Plug & Play piggyback controller that comes complete with a bespoke wiring harness.
Sitting between the factory ECU and the engine, the N-Tronic unit is activated and deactivated via the cars Active Dynamic Panel, and intercepts, modifies and passes on the new fuel, spark and boost parameters. The N-Tronic conversion increases engine output to 773hp at 6,800rpm with 849Nm of torque at 6,250rpm.
A peculiarity of Novitec’s price list is the fact that their Stage 2 conversion is more powerful than Stage 3. The reason for this is that these conversions are graded in ascending order according to price rather than power. Thus, Stage 2, which is aimed at countries in the Middle East where you can legally remove the catalytic converter to increase power, saves the cost of the expensive sports catalyst.
Stage 2 builds on the Stage 1 ECU conversion with Novitec’s power optimised stainless steel Race exhaust. This has a cat-bypass pipe and the Novitec Tectronic device that avoids the closed-loop electronic check system showing a fault when you remove the catalytic convertors and their sensors. The lower backpressure helps to unleash 806hp at 6,700rpm, with 878Nm of torque at 6,300rpm.
For the rest of the world where catalytic converters are mandatory, the Stage 3 upgrade as tested here uses Zeller 100-cell metal sports catalysts for 791hp at 6,700rpm and 863Nm at 6,300rpm. Variations of the exhaust system include ones with a sound flap system, polished or black tailpipes and the Race system made from Inconel instead of stainless steel.
As the McLaren 720S has a carbon-fibre central tub clad in carbon-fibre body panels, it makes perfect sense for all the Novitec aerodynamic and styling components to be created from this same light and strong material.