McLaren’s new 765 Longtail should not be anyone’s first supercar. Longtail is not an Italian supercar with luxurious interior and sophisticated road manners well suited to a romantic weekend with two pieces of soft luggage tossed in the frunk. Longtail is not a fashion accessory, not a luxury high-performance look-at-me car for trawling beachside enclaves.

Swing the dihedral butterfly door upwards, drop into the high-waisted carbon-fiber racing bucket, hit the hot button, 754 horsepower turbo V8 sharply barking into life, and Longtail leaves no doubt that it is a war machine built to cover ground at ungodly high rates of speed with few concessions to physical comfort. Longtail is distinguished by innumerable subtle engineering tweaks and changes to aero, chassis and powertrain. Only the foolish would call this a hotted-up 720S. To call any such track-focused vehicle—Longtail, Pista, Motorsports RS—a trim level is an insult to the extensive engineering that goes into these limited volume cars. A 720S is impressive, so minute gains borne of inventive thinking are the makings of a Longtail.

Thanks to remarkable suspension damping that distinguishes McLaren from all others, Longtail has a blessedly supple chassis that serves well enough for dawn patrol on lonely two-lanes. Longtail traveled over LA freeways without causing headache or bruised tailbone, and proved ideal on asphalt mountain roads, but this comparative suppleness should not be mistaken for long-distance GT capability.

McLaren has a burgeoning Solidworks “parts bin” to produce brand-defining vehicles like Longtail without gambling the entire enterprise. Gone are the days when McLaren had to risk everything on the hybrid hypercar P1 to relaunch a faltering new brand and prove they were legitimate competitors for Ferrari and Porsche. Considering Longtail’s U.S. allotment is sold out till 2022, McLaren has earned itself a buffer, bought time in humanity’s great stress test of 2020. Radical elaborations like Longtail, Speedtail and Senna deliver meaningful profit.

In Longtail, McLaren’s “corporate” twin-turbo V8 produces 765 PS, hence the model designation. Or in U.S. measure 754 or 755 horsepower, depending if rounding up or down. To reach such power, McLaren squeezed ever more maximum boost from the turbos, adding 3-layer head gasket from the Senna and a unique piston to cope with extremely high combustion chamber pressures. Understand that this engine is NOT at the ragged edge, but it is likely nearing the rational limit. This engine is ripe for combination in a gas-electric hybrid system while a new V8 is designed.

Titanium exhaust weighs a mere 24 pounds, about 8 pounds less than 720S pipes. Four outlet pipes gather high in the center of the rear perforated “bodywork.” At high revs the pipes sing with distinct Titanium brightness, and when cooling, there’s that satisfying ting-ting. You’ll note the wing has a center cutout to clear the pipes, which are quite hot after a run.

Senna-derived carbon-fiber seats are one of the biggest weight savings, cutting 39 pounds of padding, leather and electric motors. A lithium-ion battery saves another 6.6 pounds, and optional audio and air-conditioning help trim the waistline, too. McLaren also shaved weight out of the windshield and side glass, and deleted things like lids on storage pockets. Drawing on McLaren’s Formula One skillset, Longtail has several aero components formed in gorgeous lightweight carbon-fiber at McLaren Composites Technology Center in faraway Yorkshire. A battle of ounces and grams.

Longtail is a purist rear-drive car, without the weight and complication of all-wheel drive. Dry weight is 2709 pounds, though topped with oil and gas, the car weighs 2963 pounds. It’s nearly impossible to get a big-bore sports car much under 3000 pounds. Interestingly, Longtail’s weight is within a hundred pounds of most 1960s Italian V12 supercars, and several hundred less than 1960s long-range English GTs. Longtail has far more than double the horsepower of “track day” competizione supercars of 50 and 55 years ago. Complain as we might, we are living in the good old days.

Swanning down a recently reopened narrow canyon glowing with shadowless late-afternoon light, I came across a Camry puttering through a sequence of tight, blind corners, no doubt driven by a bird-watching senior citizen. At the first available short chute, time to pass, second gear. Longtail lit up its fat, nearly treadless rear tires and slewed sideways for a moment, tripling speed in seconds. Hitting the brakes hard for another turn, the wing popped up, filling up the rearview mirror and shifting the center of gravity backwards as the car squatted down, bringing that much desired stimulation of the viscera. Jesus, what a bloody quick car.

McLaren 765 Longtail has the appeal of a finely crafted dagger, a tomahawk, a Sig-Sauer MPX, or the elegantly purposeful curves of a Hoyt compound bow. No opera here, certainly no luxury, no slavish obedience to any tradition beyond enemy takedown. McLaren Longtail is the latest triumph for the Ruthless English Racers of Surrey.

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