McLaren 720S: Behind the design

Dec 7, 2019 · 7 min read


The team behind the McLaren 720S super car was lead by Chief Designer Robert Melville, whose natural inclination for design derives from a lineage of creativity and ingenuity. His father was an engineer and mother an artist, which influenced his passion for art and design early on; and at the age of four he began creating sketches of nature and cars.

Robert’s passion for the arts lead him to pursue degrees in photography and fine art, which both fell by the way side due to his inherent love for automotive design. He attended the University of Huddersfield where he received a BA in vehicle design and then the Royal College of Art in London where he received his Masters in Automotive design.


McLaren Chief Designer Robert Melville

He began his career at Jaguar Land Rover in 2003, where he worked on their Advanced Design Team, who created the Land Rover Evoque. Then in 2006 he went on to join General Motors in the United Kingdom where he helped design the Cadillac Converj, Chevrolet Corvette, Hummer, and Buick. Finally in 2009 he was recruited by former McLaren CEO Antony Sheriff, and became the Senior Designer for McLaren Automotive.

From there, Melville helped design the McLaren P1 and the McLaren 650S, then in 2015 he was promoted to Chief Designer where he lead the design for the McLaren 675LT, McLaren 570S/570GT, McLaren GT and McLaren 720S/720S Spider. McLaren’s 720S and 720S Spider, which was debuted in 2018, are two of Melville’s most recent designs that have taken the super car industry by storm.


Artists draw inspiration from a variety of sources including nature, which usually tends to lend itself to design, and the McLaren 720S is no exception. Melville and his team drew inspiration for the 720S’ teardrop design shape from one of the world’s most fearsome animals, The Great White Shark.

These magnificent creatures have evolved the shape of their bodies to increase lift and decrease drag as they move through water which, when applied to aircraft and automobile design, provides efficient aerodynamics. Melville incorporated design cues in the McLaren 720S with air in mind, in order to provide the best driving experience possible.


The McLaren 720S has a Monocage II core, which is a one-piece carbon fibre tub that includes the upper structure. The carbon fibre core gives the 720S a lighter and slimmer design, while reinforcing the vehicle’s structural integrity.


McLaren 720S Carbon Fibre Core | Photo: McLaren

Melville tends to focus on subtle design elements to increase aerodynamics, including the front dynamic headlamps, which are placed in a slimline housing that elongates with the vehicles eye socket design, in order to guide air around the car at high speeds. This air flows into the uniquely designed side channels integrated in the 720’s dihedral doors, which is McLaren’s new “dual-skin” design.

The top side skin consist of a full length door duct, designed to draw high energy airflow over the vehicles shoulder into its channel, and the bottom side skin consist of a subtle side channel that draws turbulent air into the body, reaffirming the vehicle’s low drag design. The unique dual-skin design gives the McLaren 720S a sculpted body shape, which establishes a tone of sophistication leading into the rear portion of the car.

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McLaren 720S Rolling | Photo: McLaren

Melville designed the rear end of the 720S to appear wide and muscular, with an integrated  full width active rear wing and streamlined rear led lamps. The active rear wing appears at the push of the aero button and when the driver breaks, which increases the vehicle’s stopping power by applying excess downforce and drag.

The design also incorporates a visible engine bay on the rear deck, which illuminates red at night to showcase the M840T engine. The McLaren’s M840T engine is a twin-turbo V8 that outputs an impressive 720PS (710 HP) hence the name 720s, as well as 560 lbft of torque with a top speed of 212 mph.


McLaren 720S M840T Engine | Photo: McLaren

This places the McLaren 720S’ in the company’s top five fastest automobiles, with the McLaren Speedtail at #1, coming in at a top speed of 250mph.

The interior of the 720S was designed to provide the ultimate driving experience, with luxury and performance at the center of each design cue. McLaren simplifies the customization process for customers through their configuration portal, which provides three McLaren 720S model options to start with; including Base, Luxury, and Performance.

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McLaren 720S Interior | Photo: McLaren

Each model comes with its own unique suite of materials and curated color palette, as well as step up materials and colors to further personalize the car. These materials include Nappa leather in a variety of colorways, Alcantara, and MSO carbon fibre (ie. McLaren Special Operations) which can be incorporated throughout interior and exterior pieces.

One of our favorite interior features that comes stock with all configurations is the driver display, which folds from a full screen to a slim auxiliary screen when the car is placed into race mode.


McLaren 720S Driver Display | Photo: McLaren

This feature is complimented well with the vehicle’s 8-inch Central Infotainment Screen, which displays the vehicle’s electronic functions to suit driver preference such as audio, media, navigation and other convenience features.

Here’s a sample McLaren 720S Coupe that we’ve personalized in McLaren’s configuration portal, using the Performance model as the base build. We’d love to see what design cues you choose in your McLaren 720S Coupe build.


McLaren 720S Coupe Build | Photo: McLaren

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