Sports car devotees enjoyed the opportunity to test drive a range of majestic McLarens in Bahrain over a three-day period hosted by Mumtalakat.
Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund is the majority shareholder of the McLaren Group and the British sports car marque considers the kingdom as its second home.
It was described as ‘more than an event, it’s an experience’ and few could argue as they gathered outside the grand-looking Arcapita investment management building on the edge of Bahrain Bay to await their turn in the driving seat.
“We are very proud of our investment in McLaren Group,” said Mahmood H. Alkooheji, Mumtalakat’s CEO. “It has been six years since McLaren Automotive produced its first car and we are happy to see the year-on-year increase in car sales. These hand-assembled luxury sports cars and super cars are in high demand with approximately 14,000 cars produced to date and increasing interest from new buyers.
“Mumtalakat organised this test drive event to give some of our valued partners an opportunity to know what it feels like to drive a McLaren! It certainly led to much excitement in Bahrain Bay over the last week.”
The beautiful mean machines certainly glistened gloriously in the spring sunshine and gathered a crowd of admirers at the entrance of the building.
The McLaren marque has a particularly soft spot in this particular hardened hack’s heart. Back in 2012 I became the first English language newspaper journalist in Bahrain to put the McLaren MP4-12C through its paces on the island’s roads.
‘Wow! What a car’, was my reaction at the time. Its light feel was a result of its radical new carbon fibre Monocell which was its structural heart yet weighed just 75kg. It is also astonishingly strong too as carbon fibre is three times stiffer than aluminium.
The original soon inspired rival manufacturers to add elements to their own offerings.
Times have moved on at McLaren too. The Sports Series now features the 570S Coupe, 570S Spider, 570GT and the 540C and the Super Series, the stunning 720S.
McLaren also moved into a new home in Bahrain only last year when a state-of-the-art showroom in Tubli was opened. Its inauguration, as reported by GulfWeekly, was overseen by chairman of McLaren, Shaikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al Khalifa, Kanoo Motors directors Ebrahim M Kanoo and Talal F Kanoo, and managing director of McLaren Middle East, Africa & Latin America, Andreas Bareis.
Head of McLaren – Kanoo Motors, Trevor Fletcher, was on hand last Tuesday to greet me beside a striking silver 570S set aside ready for my road test around the bay bridges, touching the Seef and Diplomatic districts.
The capabilities of the car are astounding. Today’s McLaren is lighter, stronger, faster and so much better than before. In fact, the marque’s obsession of reducing mass gives the car a level of agility and precision that helps define its character. Every component is weight minimised resulting in an incredible power-to-weight ratio that means only one thing – blistering performance.
Hand-crafted in the state-of-the-art McLaren Production Centre in Woking, England, the McLaren is designed to thrill, yet its excellent visibility, smooth gearbox and comfortable driving position make it simple to live with even around the stop-start roads of Manama.
To be honest, when you’re sat in a car like this gathering admiring glances from all and sundry who cares how long you stay stationary at the traffic lights!
In a recent episode of The Grand Tour, TV celebrity and road test supremo Richard Hammond put one through its paces and it didn’t take long for him to become besotted with the McLaren 720S. And it is easy to see why.
For many, it’s a case of love at first sight and by all accounts that was exactly the case across all the three days of the ‘Mumtalakat experience’.
Praise has also been loud and clear from motoring scribes across the globe. One suggested its smooth, flowing design would even make the Ferrari 488 GTB and Lamborghini Huracan feel self-conscious.
In terms of performance, the McLaren 720S is simply unmatched in its class. Under the hood is a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 packing 710 hp, allows the 720S to hit 0-62 mph in just 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 212 mph, comfortably beating its Italian rivals.
It can also slide around corners with ease thanks to its variable drift control. The carbon ceramic braking system is the most extreme of its type fitted to any McLaren road car and I particularly liked the fact that when you properly press down on the pedal you don’t knock your nose on the steering wheel, which has happened to me on more than one occasion with those ultra-touch sensitive systems in other cars.
An Active Dynamics Panel allows the driver to adjust the modes from Comfort to Sport and the noise grows, not just in its volume, but with the wind orchestra played in the hungry engine’s intakes, and the growl and roar of the exhausts – a melody of sounds that envelops you as you drive. Common sense soon prevailed and I returned to Comfort mode before the end of the stretch of road.
Trevor said: “All our guests were thrilled by the experience. We committed ourselves from the beginning to give McLaren the market position it deserves in Bahrain, and the best method of achieving that goal is to let drivers personally discover what it feels like to be behind the wheels.”
The 720S starts from BD120,000, although the silver sample I drove with its extra bells and whistles came out at BD157,000. It’s not often that I repeat myself but sometimes it can’t be helped. ‘Wow! What a car’.
For more information, go to www.bahrain.mclaren.com or call the toll free number on 80007878. Check out my interview with Trevor by clicking the link below:
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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