THE TRAJECTORY of Jeremy Clarkson’s car reviews should be familiar to regular Sunday Times Driving readers. He will invariably begin his column discussing something seemingly unrelated to the car in the picture before neatly transitioning to the subject at hand, with a seamless segue.
That is not what this week’s column entails. Instead, it is very much a tale of two very unrelated parts. The first is a rather sombre comment on the number of teenage boys who sadly fall victim to their own reckless driving and die on the nation’s roads. The second is about the McLaren GT.
On the first of the two subjects, there are some tragic stats. For example, although only 7% of licence holders are classed as “young people”, they make up 20% of drivers killed or seriously injured in crashes. That percentage translated to 279 young people in 2017, and the same in 2018.
Young men between 17 and 24 are statistically the most at risk. However, that statistic doesn’t compute in a young man’s mind, says Clarkson. “Telling young men to slow down is like telling them not to make a mess of their bedsheets at night. It’s a waste of breath. I know this because I was one once.”
He argues, therefore, that the best way to deal with the issue is to accept that young men “have no sense of their own mortality”, and go from there. Due to their recklessness as a demographic, young men have incredibly high insurance premiums, which prevents them from getting a car with modern safety features.
In a case recently, where a boy crashed his BMW 118d into a tree, tragically killing one of his passengers, a judge blamed his parents, calling their decision to buy him a BMW “crass”.
Clarkson does not agree with this verdict, however. “Of course the newspapers picked up on this, describing the BMW as a ‘sports car’. But it isn’t a sports car. It’s a diesel hatchback. A G-Wiz is more of a sports car. So is my frying pan. A 118d is exactly the sort of car young men should be driving.”
In fact, he says, he wishes he had bought his own son a 118d instead of a Fiat Punto.
This is the point at which Clarkson needs to get to the matter at hand — the McLaren GT. The company’s stab at a grand tourer is extraneous from its usual offerings, which are usually grouped into one of its three series; the Sport Series, the Super Series and the Ultimate Series. However, the GT stands alone.
Clarkson’s first issue with the GT isn’t necessarily specific to McLaren’s version of a Grand Tourer, however. It’s that its entire perceived purpose, of zooming across continents in extreme luxury, seems rather outdated nowadays.
“It’s a lovely idea, all Chanel and headscarves and stopping off at the Villa d’Este hotel. But no one actually does it any more. If you want to go to Lake Como now, you charter a jet and then get some Italian Herbert in a Mercedes S-class to meet you in the general aviation terminal.”
The other issue he proposes, more specifically to the McLaren, is that he doesn’t believe people who do want to whizz off to Lake Como in a car want an alternative to the Bentley Continental GT or Aston Martin DB11. Especially considering that what McLaren has essentially done is create a grand touring supercar.
However, getting past its purpose, he likes the McLaren, saying it feels “like a car”.
“This is a good thing. It drives like a car too. There are no histrionics. The exhaust doesn’t crackle and pop, you don’t graze the nose every time you run over a pebble and there’s never a sense you’re about to hit a tree.”
That’s not to say that it’s boring. After all, it’s a mid-engined, lightweight supercar that can get from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. The steering is also “as beautiful as any I’ve experienced”, Clarkson says.
He does disagree with the assertion made by Driving.co.uk editor Will Dron that the McLaren GT looks “sensational”, though: “Ever since the template for mid-engine two-seaters was laid down by the Ferrari 308, it’s been nigh-on impossible to make one that is anything less than stunning. Yet, somehow, McLaren has managed it, and got the front end all wrong. It looks limp.”
Well, each to their own.
There’s more general issues, according to Clarkson, like the fact that McLarens don’t tend to hold their value terrifically well. But if you don’t mind that, the McLaren GT could be “just what you’re after”, Clarkson thinks.
To read his full thoughts on the McLaren GT, head to The Sunday Times website, or grab a copy of this weekend’s Sunday Times Magazine.