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Auto review: How'd they make it street legal?

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

It was the last that I loved the best. Sitting low, tracking well, the knife-like sports car seemed to find perfect lines through the twisties almost intuitively, without much operator cerebration. I felt the full benefit of the car's traction control, stability control and seamless gearbox.

Gurgling happily on the downshifts, and then roaring into the straightaways, the 720S' twin turbo V-8 gave audible voice to its 720 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque.

The 720S offers three driving modes -- Comfort, Sport and Track -- which alter settings in the powertrain, transmission and suspension. In Sport mode, the handling was perfectly dialed in for the Angeles Forest Highway sweepers.

The route to and from the canyons, driving the 5, 210 and 14 freeways, was a less thrilling and less enjoyable experience. The lovely music from the V-8, even at cruising speed, made an imperfect experience out of listening to music or talking on the phone. More than one person asked me, "Where are you?" when we spoke, and the otherwise quite good Bowers & Wilkins sound system was wasted on speeds above 60 mph.

But it was the city driving that was most problematic, and urban conditions that exaggerated the 720S' daily driver failings.

The dihedral doors swoop open to reveal a spare interior, again reinforcing this car's intentions. The seats are minimally adjustable. The visibility is extremely limited. The infotainment and climate control systems both require paging through menus to make adjustments, which requires the driver to spend a lot of time looking at the screen instead of the road.

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(I was forewarned, sort of. The person who delivered the car said the infotainment system was "intuitive." In my experience, this is shorthand for, "You will probably be able to figure it out, with time, but I'm not going to explain it because it's just too complicated.")

The rearview camera that appears in that screen helps considerably with backing and parking. So does the essential nose lift function, which will keep the 720S from scraping its chin on driveways.

That's a $2,510 upgrade on the 720S, and the model I drove had many other options.

The lightweight wheels cost an additional $5,330. The rear "aero bridge," which like the standard front splitter and rear diffuser keeps the car grounded at high speeds, added $6,910, and the improved carbon fiber diffuser kicked it up an additional $7,270.


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