As a replacement for the excellent 720S, the 2024 McLaren 750S has big shoes to fill. But the automaker’s comprehensive updates help ensure the new supercar is even more of a thrill than its predecessor. One key component is its high-mounted, stainless steel exhaust, which weighs less than the 720S’ system – and makes better noises.

To understand why requires an advanced degree in harmonics, but the gist is that engineers fine-tuned the exhaust to produce fewer second- and sixth-order sounds, of which the former can feel too throbbing and the latter too shrill for everyday driving. The just-right fourth-order frequency therefore dominates the sound experience, with some added eighth-order shriek for when you’re pushing it hard. That the new exhaust’s smaller size and revised construction also saves 2.1 kg is an added bonus.

Gallery: 2024 McLaren 750S First Drive Review

This seemingly minor tweak is proving to be the favourite feature of many McLaren employees familiar with the 750S. At a recent first drive of the supercar, I spoke with four representatives of the company whose work centres around the 750S, and the majority heaped praise upon the Mac’s new exhaust.

Max Hunt, 750S Product Manager

“I have a slight Spider bias in the case of the 750, so it’s a combination of the exhaust and the backlight, the rear drop glass,” said Max Hunt, product manager for the 750S. “The exhaust system reverberating through the aperture behind your ears is my favourite.”

Hunt is referring to the 750S Spider’s vertical pane of glass that rolls down independently of the retractable hardtop, which in my first drive of the car allowed me to keep the roof closed and the rain out, while still allowing plenty of music to enter the cabin.

Ben Gulliver, McLaren Automotive Head Of Vehicle Development

Ben Gulliver, who leads the development team for all McLaren road cars, echoed Hunt’s sentiments almost to the letter.

“It was a Spider I had been driving on the country lanes not far from my house,” Gulliver said. “They weren’t particularly fast country lanes, but there was the opportunity to push. It was the response of the exhaust, both on-throttle, off-throttle, and downshift, that was really enjoyable. It was just so exhilarating.”

Gulliver couldn’t resist tacking on a few more plaudits beyond the exhaust, calling out the capable suspension and steering as part of his driving enjoyment. But still, his first and most emotional response had to do with the pipe organ coming off the engine.

2024 McLaren 750S First Drive Review

Adam Lowe, Vehicle Programme Manager

Vehicle Programme Manager Adam Lowe was yet another exhaust evangelist. He said that engineering a brilliant sound for the 750S presented a few challenges. For one, the twin turbochargers had a tendency to muddy the flat-plane V8’s natural music, as they do on most boosted engines. Engineers also had to account for noise regulations, ensuring the Mac was a considerate neighbour at urban and suburban speeds while still allowing for high-rpm thrills that come on gradually.

“When you open ‘er up, it’s a completely different character,” he said. “It does build linear to that crescendo at the end.”

2024 McLaren 750S First Drive Review
2024 McLaren 750S First Drive Review
2024 McLaren 750S First Drive Review

Sandy Holford, Chief Engineer

And now, we arrive at the holdouts. As chief engineer over the McLaren 750S programme, Sandy Holford knows the car’s ins and outs better than anyone. But despite the myriad suspension, powertrain, and tuning changes to the new supercar, his favourite feature is more detail-oriented.

“The bit for me is the functionality of the McLaren Control Launcher, the ‘Kiwi button,’” he said. “I set the car up the way I want it, and then I switch into that bit seamlessly.”

2024 McLaren 750S First Drive Review

The McLaren Control Launcher is a single button on the car’s centre stack, next to the infotainment system, that allows the driver to call up presets for the engine, transmission, suspension, aerodynamics, and exhaust. I used it on my road drive of the 750S to enjoy a smoother ride over the Portuguese cobblestones, but still show off the car’s crowd-pleasing exhaust note and active spoiler theatrics to schoolchildren and tailgaters (respectively).

The button’s kiwi bird icon is the source of its nickname, chosen in homage to New Zealander, racing driver, and company patriarch Bruce McLaren. And since the McLaren Control Launcher can indeed control the exhaust’s multiple personalities, I’m going to cheat and call Holford an apologist as well.

My first impression of the 750S, apart from its aggressive design and billionaire doors, indeed centred on that exhaust. Whirring to life with a muted roar, the McLaren supercar sounds wonderful even in its least aggressive drive mode. Toggle over into Sport or Race and the engine note becomes positively addictive – throbbing at the low end and screaming away up top, with enough pops and crackles in between to encourage even the most puritanical drivers to get a little juvenile. The tailpipes might be just one part of the 750S’ story, but that part is clearly the headline.