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2020 McLaren GT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

Can you have your supercar and tour it too?

Basem WasefWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

Automobile's All-Stars awards are back, and this year we have one of the best fields of cars we've ever evaluated. In total, we invited 21 of our favorite new or significantly revised cars to find out which are the very best of the best. We've split them into Contenders and Winners, but let us make it clear: Every car invited to our All-Stars event is one of the most special cars on sale for 2020. Each day between March 8 and March 10, we'll bring you a new batch of Contenders, and on Wednesday, March 11, we'll announce our 2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners.

McLaren's meteoric rise to supercar relevance has been putting high-dollar foes on alert since the MP4-12C reinvigorated the brand in 2011. The clean sheet cavalcade of carbon fiber has mostly focused on pure performance, which puts all the more pressure on the 2020 McLaren GT to strike grand touring gold, an arena that has only superficially been exploited by 2016's 570 GT.

While All-Star exotics like the Ferrari F8 Tributo and Porsche 911 Carrera S managed to quickly endear the Automobile team with their cohesive and charismatic personalities, the McLaren GT struggled to strike a chord. Admittedly, Woking's mission was daunting: tackle the seemingly contradictory missions of offering long-distance cushiness while retaining the brand's sharp, track-capable soul. And the $280,490 two-seater did not escape praise, including near-unanimous appreciation for its massively powerful 612-hp twin-turbo V-8. "Above 4,000 rpm, the thing does a Hulk," pro racer Andy Pilgrim said, "banging into the traction control and trying to swallow the horizon."

Yet appreciation for the outrageous powerplant was also countered by some bigger-picture shortcomings. "Yes, there's serious speed on tap," contributor Arthur St. Antoine said, "but it's not delivered with that razor-edged precision we've come to expect from the House of Bruce. " Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa agreed: "The GT was ferocious running uphill on [Streets of Willow's] front-straight but then needed way too much brake before the turns."

Tellingly, certain Ghosts of All-Stars Past came back to haunt the GT. "I couldn't set it up in a way that I could really have fun with it, like I could in the 600 LT last year or the 720S the year before," social media editor Billy Rehbock said. Another consistently recurring theme was the difficulty in achieving balance between ride quality and handling sharpness. Lassa was "disappointed in the handling McLaren gave up in trying to balance against a decent ride." Pilgrim noted that "shock control over bumpy pavement was not great," and "[the] steering wheel bouncing in my hands was surprising and annoying."

Not that the long-distance McLaren didn't earn kudos for its underlying ambition and modulated persona. "It's easy to approach its limits—not intimidating like most cars in this price range," senior editor Aaron Gold said. But its ultimate undoing could be attributed to its indeterminate personality, which had a difficult time straddling the line between its dual-purpose goals. Rehbock found it "too harsh to be a GT but too soft to be enjoyable on the track," and Gold's problem "is that it's not a real GT; they didn't back off the performance enough to make this a genuinely comfortable touring car."

Ultimately, those prevailing sentiments triggered a broader conversation about the GT's lofty goals. Although it didn't make it as one of the All-Stars elite, McLaren's latest nonetheless shows that the carmaker's ambitions span beyond hyper-focused track toys. For these relative newcomers at the road-going genre, the McLaren GT opens up the promising possibility of a more diversified future.

2020 McLaren GT Specifications
PRICE $212,500 (base)/$280,490 (as tested)
ENGINE 4.0-L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/612 hp @ 7,500 rpm, 465 lb-ft @ 5,500-6,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 15/22 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 184.4 x 82.5 x 47.8 in
WHEELBASE 105.3 in
WEIGHT 3,384 lb
0-60 MPH 3.1 sec
TOP SPEED 203 mph

2020 Automobile All-Stars Awards: The Very Best Cars of the Year

This year's Automobile All-Stars awards saw us return to the Palmdale area for track testing at Willow Springs before spending a few days in Angeles Forest and Borrego Springs. So what are the best cars of 2020? These are.

2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners 

The new Ferrari F8 Tributo is arguably the best mid-engine car on sale today, delivering ludicrous performance and, just as important, a driving experience to match.

What makes the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette an Automobile All-Stars winner? Killer performance and unbelievable value, for starters.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

The third-generation 2020 Bentley Continental GT is a car so good we couldn't help but name it a 2020 Automobile All-Star.

2020 Kia Telluride SX Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

In a field of supercars, sports cars, and Europe's best, Kia's Telluride three-row SUV proved it's a great choice for anyone in need of an affordable, well-built people hauler. So great, it's an Automobile All-Star for 2020.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

Even facing down the very best supercars of the year, this American powerhouse proves it can do finesse as well as brute force—and earns an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

With its upscale interior, great chassis, and fun-to-drive demeanor, the Mazda3 proves that a car need not be expensive to be an Automobile All-Stars winner.

2020 Toyota Supra Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

The new Toyota Supra has been a polarizing figure since it hit the market, and our test drivers found plenty to debate about it. But it proved it's one of the most-fun sports cars on the market, and easily claimed an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

Reimagining a legend isn't easy, but sometimes Porsche makes it look that way. The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S is not just a great sports car, it's an Automobile All-Star.

2020 Automobile All-Stars Contenders

2020 Subaru Outback XT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

Subaru's family wagon might seem a bit out of place in this company, but that's only because you haven't driven it. The 2020 Subaru Outback XT is a 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender.

It's Mercedes' smallest offering in the U.S. , and not even the hot version, but the A220 is breathing the rarified air of the 2020 Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

This limited-edition, U.S.-market-exclusive super-STI is unlike any Subaru that's come before, that's for sure. But is the WRX STI S209 an All-Star?

The Lamborghini Huracán Evo is fast, loud, and gorgeous. No wonder it's a strong 2020 Automobile All-Stars contender.

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

It's a special edition, but is the Porsche 718 Spyder really that special? We found out during our 2020 All-Stars evaluation.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

We spend three days in Southern California hills and desert testing the 2020 Jeep Gladiator along with 20 other All-Stars Contenders to see which rise to the top.

2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The very fact that an affordable family hauler is rubbing shoulders with hypercars and mega-luxe cruisers should tell you the 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite is something special. It's also a contender for the 2020 Automobile All-Stars award.

How does a car this big drive this well? We dig into what brought the 2020 Mercedes-AMG 63 S to this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

It's McLaren's first car to put a serious emphasis on practicality and comfort over outright performance—but is the GT an Automobile All-Star?

2020 BMW Z4 M40i Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2020 BMW Z4 M40i proves it's just as much about good handling and driving fun as it is about top-down cruising.

BMW's excellent M850i xDrive luxury sport coupe does battle with 2020's best cars but falls short in this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback Test Drive: 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback is a compelling and powerful machine that's a winner in its own right.

Electric cars have many inherent advantages over the combustion-powered competition, but does the 2020 Audi E-Tron have what it takes to hang with this year's best?