• The McLaren 720S Spider’s Secret Weapon is Its Roof

The new Super Series machine is laughing in the face of the Ferrari 488 Spider

McLaren has had a busy year with the respective launches of the track-focused Senna and the three-seater Speedtail. But 2018 isn’t done yet, so McLaren’s busting out another debut, this time for the “more affordable” 720S Spider. Despite its place in the “Senna-Speedtail” pecking order, the McLaren 720S Spider is lethal and potent in its own right. It has the same 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged, V-8 engine as its coupe counterpart and produces 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque. More importantly, the 720S Spider isn’t as heavy as you’d think, especially with the complex roof system it’s carrying. McLaren is already taking orders for the 720S Spider, which carries a price of $315,000. Those who order from the British automaker should expect their supercars to arrive sometime in March 2019.

It’s easy to get lost in the shadows if you’re in the company of the McLaren Senna and the McLaren Speedtail. Those two machines are the crown jewels of McLaren’s current lineup, and any exotic, even one as potent as the 720S Spider, is going to have a hard time standing out on its own. But don’t sleep on the 720S Spider just yet. Even if it’s not in the league of both the Senna and Speedtail, it has plenty to offer at a fraction of the price compared to its two contemporaries.

From a power and performance perspective, we already know what the 720S Spider is capable of. It features a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that produces 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque.

All that power goes to the two rear wheels courtesy of a seven-speed SSG automatic transmission. Do this well enough, and the 720S is capable of sprinting from 0 to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds, exactly the same time as its coupe counterpart. Granted, the 720S Coupe can go from 0 to 124 mph quicker than the Spider, but the difference — 7.8 seconds to 7.9 seconds — is completely negligible. Top speed is pegged at 212 mph, the same cap as the 720S Coupe. By all accounts, a drop-top shouldn’t be as fast as its coupe counterpart owing to the extra weight it’s carrying. But that’s what makes the 720S Spider. It’s heavier than the 720S Coupe, but the difference in weight between the two models isn’t as drastic as you think.

The McLaren 720S Spider's Secret Weapon is Its Roof Interior Exterior
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Wanna know what the McLaren 720S’ secret weapon is? It’s the roof.

Whereas the coupe’s fixed hardtop isn’t all that fascinating, the Spider’s roof is important for all the reasons that make this model special.

For this particular model, McLaren developed what it calls an electrically actuated retractable hardtop. It’s essentially a one-piece carbon fiber roof panel that McLaren has patented under the name “Retractable Hard Top,” or simply “RHT,” for short. It features the same shape and silhouette of the 720S Coupe’s hardtop, but its main calling card is a folding mechanism that is electrically operated instead of being hydraulically driven. Combine that with the carbon fiber makeup of the RHT, and you’re looking at a mechanism that can be lowered or raised in just 11 seconds, making it the fastest-operating convertible roof in its segment. For a little perspective, that time is six seconds faster than the McLaren 650S Spider, and, more importantly, three seconds faster than the Ferrari 488 Spider’s roof mechanism.

That’s really what this is all about. The Ferrari 488 Spider is the closest rival to the McLaren 720S Spider. It figures that when the British automaker was developing the supercar, it had the 488 Spider in its sights. That’s important because drivers can raise or lower the RHT roof at speeds of up to 31 mph. You know where we’re going here. That’s a huge increase from the 18.5-mph limit on the 650S Spider. It also happens to be higher than the 25-mph limit attached to the Ferrari 488 Spider.

The McLaren 720S Spider's Secret Weapon is Its Roof Interior Exterior
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There’s more to the McLaren 720S’ RHT roof than meets the eye, too. It’s also twice as quiet as in operation as the first-generation Super Series convertible. The setup also features a rear lower window that lowers automatically when the roof is opened. The window moves to an optimum position to minimize the airflow intrusion into the cabin.

All told, the lightweight nature of the RHT roof helps the 720S tip the scales with a dry weight of just 1,332 kilos, or 2,937 pounds.

That adds only 49 kilos (108) pounds to the 720S Spider’s weight compared to the coupe version. It also makes the 720S Spider 88 kilos (194 pounds) lighter than “the dry weight of its closest competitor.” Care to venture a guess who that competitor is? The Ferrari 488 Spider.

The McLaren 720S Spider's Secret Weapon is Its Roof Interior Exterior
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By all accounts, the McLaren 720S is setting its sights on the Ferrari 488 Spider. It’s going to take more than a fancy new roof technology to completely upend the Italian stallion, but in this regard, it looks like McLaren has Ferrari beat. It’s no wonder that, given the mentioned performance statistics, McLaren has registered three worldwide patents for the roof system.

2019 McLaren 720S Spider Specifications

Engine configuration M840T engine, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, 3,994cc
Drivetrain layout Longitudinal mid-engined, RWD
Power bhp/kW @ rpm 710/537 @ 7,500rpm
Torque lb ft @ rpm 568 @ 5,500-6,500rpm
Transmission 7 Speed SSG. Comfort, Sport and Track modes
Steering Electro-hydraulic; power-assisted
Chassis Carbon fibre MonoCage II-S monocoque, with aluminum front and rear crash structures
Suspension Independent adaptive dampers, dual aluminum wishbones, Proactive Chassis Control II (PCC II). Comfort, Sport and Track modes
Brakes Carbon Ceramic discs (Front: 15.3in Rear: 15in); aluminum calipers (6-piston front; 4-piston rear)
Wheels (inches) Front: 9J x 19; Rear: 11J x 20
Tires Front: 245/35/R19 93Y; Rear: 305/30/R20 103Y
Length, inches 179
Wheelbase, inches 105
Height, inches 47
Width, with mirrors, inches 85
Width, mirrors folded, inches 81
Width, without mirrors, inches 76
Track (to contact patch center), inches Front: 65.9; Rear: 64.2
Lightest dry weight, lbs 2,937
DIN weight, kg (lbs) [fluids + 90% fuel] 3,236
Luggage capacity (DIN) Front: 5.3 cubic feet; Rear: 2cubic feet
0 -97km/h (0-60mph) 2.8 seconds
0-100km/h (0-62mph) 2.9 seconds
0-200km/h (0-124mph) 7.9 seconds
0-300km/h (0-186mph) 22.4 seconds
0-400m / ¼ mile 10.4 seconds
Maximum Speed (RHT raised/RHT lowered) 212mph/202mph
124mph – 0 braking 4.6 seconds/387ft
62mph – 0 braking 2.8 seconds/99.4ft

Further reading

The McLaren 720S Spider's Secret Weapon is Its Roof Exterior
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Read our full speculative review on the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider.

2018 McLaren 720S High Resolution Exterior
- image 708563

Read our full review on the 2018 McLaren 720S.

McLaren 720S Velocity Is The First MSO Special-Edition Super Series High Resolution Exterior
- image 708904

Read our full review on the 2018 McLaren 720S Velocity.

2015 McLaren 650S Spider High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 544397

Read our full review on the 2015 McLaren 650S Spider.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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