McLaren's road trip supercar

Inside McLaren's high-tech auto lab
Inside McLaren's high-tech auto lab

The McLaren 570S is an outrageously fun all-out supercar, complete with beetle-wing doors and 562 horsepower turbocharged engine.

But what if you want to carry some luggage? Tying it to the roof just would not do. It would look dumb and the aerodynamics would be awful.

That's why McLaren came out with the 570GT. It has a small luggage compartment behind the seats and more storage between the front wheels. McLaren engineers re-tuned the suspension a touch for a comfier ride, too, which will come in handy if you're going on a long trip.

McLaren cars offer a mix of immediate responsiveness and feel like fast, expensive go-karts. But they're refined enough so that you're not punished for your fun. But I always thought a little more practicality and comfort might be good. So it seemed like the McLaren 570GT was the car I'd been waiting for, if I could overlook its $200,000 price tag.

mclaren 570gt
The 570GT doesn't lose much of McLaren's usual intensity, even though it's designed for a more comfortable drive.

The 570GT's "more comfortable" seats are still pretty slim if you're used to a family car. There's not much padding and the driver sits at roughly sidewalk level. The dashboard is, likewise, minimal. A lot of things are handled using an iPad-like touch screen. Our test car's gigantic sunroof kept that screen bathed in glare about half the time. I'm told that cars built later have a shade that can solve that irritating problem.

mclaren 570gt
The back end of the McLaren 570GT slopes gradually, creating space for cargo over the engine.

The steering wheel provides ample feel of the road and the car responds immediately, and precisely, to each movement. With a relatively small 3.8-liter V8 engine tucked in right behind the seats, the 570GT makes you feel like a part of the machine. You twitch, it twitches. You swing your arms, the car swings. And visibility is amazing over that sharply-sloped nose.

The one part of the McLaren that let me down in this intimate relationship was the brakes. Yes, the car did stop, and quickly enough, but there was more work involved than I was expecting.

mclaren 570gt
The McLaren 570GT's interior is the very model of a focused workspace.

Three driving modes for the car's power and suspension -- Normal, Sport and Track -- tweak things like the firmness of the suspension and the touchiness of the gas pedal. In the 570GT, McLaren set the Normal mode to be a bit extra-cushy. But on the highway and open roads, I never left the 570GT in Normal mode for long. When going fast, which is what you're supposed to do in this car, Normal mode just didn't feel right. Properly set, the McLaren 570GT was thrilling.

porsche 911 carrera 4s cabriolet front 3/4s
The Porsche 911 Carrera 4S is about the most practical sports car you can ask for.

While the 570GT is comfortable for a McLaren, I had the opportunity to drive the ultimate comfy sports car right afterwards -- the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, which goes for a mere $155,000. It also has storage space behind its seats and in its nose. And its tiny backseats can carry suitcases instead of children. Compared to the McLaren, it was almost a crossover SUV.

porsche 911 carrera 4s cabriolet interior
Compared to the McLaren, the 911's dashboard seems positively old school.

Was it as visceral and exciting as the McLaren? Not quite. It had much less power -- 420 horsepower from a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine -- and almost 300 pounds more weight. It also had all-wheel-drive which, while great for traction, tends to numb driving feel a bit.

Like the McLaren, the 911 had adjustable drive settings, but they worked better. I could drive it comfortably at any speed in any setting from Normal through Sport Plus without feeling out of sorts. The notable turbo "whoosh" from the 911's new engine will be a controversial addition for Porsche fans, but I enjoyed it. It's the sound of the future rushing toward you.

I still love a McLaren. But for the really long haul, I'm afraid the venerable and comfortable Porsche remains the car to beat.

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