Flame fir­ing, tyre burn­ing and ut­terly in­tox­i­cat­ing, the McLaren 600LT is prop­erly lit

FIFTY THREE kilo­me­tres... Twelve laps of the Hun­garor­ing in McLaren’s new 600LT. That’s enough to un­der­stand that its new­est track­fo­cussed car is, in­deed, rather more adept at the job it’s de­signed to do than its 570S re­la­tion, which it­self isn’t ex­actly a low bar.

But then it should be bet­ter given the 600LT is the first McLaren Sport Series model to get the LT treat­ment. If you need a re­minder what that is, it’s short­hand for Long­tail, hark­ing back to McLaren’s iconic F1, and the longer GTR ver­sion which was cre­ated to keep it com­pet­i­tive at Le Mans.

The LT, as we know it to­day, was in­tro­duced by the 675LT and its Spi­der re­la­tion, those two let­ters be­ing both his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant in McLaren’s mo­tor­sport his­tory and sig­ni­fy­ing an evo­lu­tion­ary phase in a model’s blood­line, be­ing sharper fo­cussed, more pow­er­ful, ag­ile and lighter than the car on which it’s based.

Longer, too, though here we’re only talk­ing 74mm. Long­ness, it seems is rel­a­tive. Those body re­vi­sions do help McLaren achieve its goal of pro­duc­ing down­force, so it’s a cred­i­ble link. There’s 100kg of down­force de­vel­oped at 250km/h where its 570S re­la­tion is neu­tral at the same speed. That is en­abled by a com­bi­na­tion of the ad­di­tion of a fixed rear wing and re­vised front and un­der­side aero­dy­nam­ics cul­mi­nat­ing in a size­able rear dif­fuser, the 600LT’s re­vi­sions also clean­ing up how the air trav­els along its flanks.

Cleaner and more ef­fi­cient, then, and lighter, too, the 600LT los­ing 100kg in mass over the 570S for a quoted, light­est, dry weight of 1247kg. To achieve that you’ll need to be fairly masochis­tic, the full weight loss re­quir­ing the dele­tion of ‘lux­u­ries’ like air-con­di­tion­ing and au­dio equip­ment. That’s a step too far. Leave them in and your LT will weigh around 85kg less, thanks to a cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect of lighter sus­pen­sion, brakes, wheels and seats, thin­ner glass and car­pets. The ex­haust, too, short­ens its path, and re­duces mass, by ex­it­ing out up­wards aft of the en­gine cover. That it adds some the­atrics into the mix at the same time is a wel­come by-prod­uct, too.

That freer-breath­ing ex­haust, com­bined with some ECU trick­ery ups the over­all out­put by 22kW to a to­tal of 441kW. That higher power fig­ure is pro­duced by McLaren’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 when it’s show­ing 7500rpm on its rev counter, peak torque of 620Nm de­vel­oped at 5500rpm and hang­ing

around un­til 6500rpm.

All that drives the rear wheels through a seven speed-SSG pad­dle-shifted trans­mis­sion. Hook it up all cor­rectly, or sim­ply use launch con­trol, and you’ll cover the 0-100km/h sprint in 2.9 sec­onds on your way to the 600LT’s quoted 328km/h max­i­mum. That’s enough to level-peg with its con­tem­po­raries in the su­per­car world and, get this, run away from its iconic F1 re­la­tion all the way up to 300km/h, af­ter which the older car gets into its stride and surges ahead to achieve its 386.4km/h party trick.

It’s fast then, as those 12 laps around the Hun­garor­ing demon­strated. But cir­cuits, what­ever the think­ing be­hind the 600LT’s re­vi­sions, won’t be where it’s used most. No, the LT hav­ing to work pre­dom­i­nantly as a road car, where those changes could lead to some com­pro­mises.

We’ve a day with it, in Palm Springs, the best roads ris­ing out from the golf clubs and gated com­mu­ni­ties be­low, wind­ing into the moun­tains above. As the el­e­va­tion gains, so too does the scenery, from desert to for­est, the tar­mac fol­low­ing the to­pog­ra­phy by me­an­der­ing up the moun­tain­side. The sur­face is the an­tithe­sis of a smooth, wide race­track – it’s im­per­fect, yet ut­terly per­fect with its un­du­lat­ing, buck­ing and twisting cor­ners not dic­tated by a de­signer, but the land­scape. It cre­ates a real chal­lenge for any car, let alone one as overtly fo­cused as the 600LT.

Sit­ting a third of an inch lower, the 600LT bor­rows some of its sus­pen­sion el­e­ments from its 720S re­la­tion. Lighter, yet stiffer, the front spring stiff­ness is in­creased here by 13 per cent, the rear by 34 per cent, the roll bars, too, in­creas­ing in stiff­ness by 50 per cent at the front and 25 per cent at the rear. The wheels and tyres at­tached to that sus­pen­sion are about 4kg a cor­ner lighter and the car­bon ce­ramic brakes re­move a fur­ther 1kg a cor­ner. Hence a use­ful part of the 600LT’s weight loss is where it mat­ters – un­sprung.

You feel that in the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of its wheel con­trol, the chas­sis ob­vi­ously more taut, but the fo­cus isn’t at the detri­ment of the ride qual­ity. You quickly learn that ridges and im­per­fec­tions in the sur­face don’t re­sult in un­com­fort­able and un­set­tling jolts or knocks through the sus­pen­sion, which hangs off alu­minium struc­tures at­tached to the 600LT’s light and stiff car­bon fi­bre MonoCell II mono­coque.

That abil­ity to smother isn’t at the ex­pense of feel. The LT is richer in its in­for­ma­tion, with greater de­tail avail­able to you. It man­ages that clever bal­ance of in­form­ing with­out over­load­ing, that’s in­stru­men­tal in al­low­ing you to both ex­ploit, and en­joy its height­ened agility.

Turn­ing the steer­ing wheel in any McLaren is a re­minder why we all hark back to hy­draulic power-as­sisted racks, the Wok­ing firm doggedly hang­ing onto the tech­nol­ogy oth­ers have binned in the pur­suit of econ­omy. It’s done well to re­sist the zeit­geist, as the steer­ing is one of the LT’s sig­na­tures, the im­me­di­acy of the turn in, the faith­ful­ness of the front-axle’s re­sponse be­ing key to its in­creased alert­ness.

So, too, is McLaren’s tyre choice, the 600LT get­ting a be­spoke de­vel­oped Pirelli P-Zero Tro­feo R tyre, which on the front axle is 225/35 R19 and 285/35 R20 on the rear. It’s a sticky, track­bi­ased tyre, de­vel­oped specif­i­cally to get the best from the LT’s nu­mer­ous changes over the 570S.

Ar­riv­ing at a cor­ner, ever faster, you can stand on the brakes. The pedal is firm, but hugely re­spon­sive, its im­me­di­acy aided in no small de­gree by a brake booster de­rived from McLaren’s cur­rent Senna flag­ship. The stop­ping power is never in ques­tion, but the tyre’s abil­ity to convert it, key­ing


to the sur­face with­out un­set­tling squirm or move­ment is in­stru­men­tal in the LT’s huge, con­fi­dence-giv­ing sta­bil­ity. Ease off the brake, trail­ing into a bend and the nose goes ex­actly where you want it. There’s no slack in the trans­la­tion from what you’re ask­ing for at the steer­ing wheel to the change of di­rec­tion at the nose.

On the tar­mac here you’ll not want any of the damper set­tings se­lected other than Nor­mal. Pick Sport or Track and the 600LT loses its com­po­sure, the dampers’ ad­di­tional firm­ness adding un­nec­es­sary fre­quency to the pro­ceed­ings, un­set­tling and cor­rupt­ing, to the detri­ment not just of com­fort, but con­fi­dence, and as a re­sult, speed.

That’s true of the trans­mis­sion, too. Here you’ll want the fastest, though not most ag­gres­sive, Track mode. There’s noth­ing un­to­ward with the shift in Nor­mal, it slip­ping though the seven gears adeptly. Track ups the speed, fir­ing through the gears with an in­ten­sity that’s more in keep­ing with the 3.8-litre V8’s fe­ro­cious ap­petite for revs when it’s chas­ing its red­line. Avoid the Sport choice, its in­er­tia push kick­ing each gear through, McLaren say­ing some buy­ers like the abrupt shove it gen­er­ates, but here, in the LT it sim­ply feels un­couth, at best and, if you’re pulling for a gear as you’re still ex­it­ing a bend, it’ll un­set­tle the car’s oth­er­wise fine bal­ance.

On the road there’s no need to en­tirely un­bur­den the sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol sys­tems, which in dy­namic mode al­lows the 600LT enough free reign to al­low the line to be ad­justed by a ju­di­cious lift, the LT’s re­sponses such that there’s no rea­son to fear it mov­ing un­der­neath you. You’ll scarcely need to so high are its thresh­olds, but on a track it pos­i­tively en­cour­ages you to do so. Here on the road it’s the pre­ci­sion that de­fines it, al­low­ing you to pick a line with ab­so­lute con­fi­dence, the LT’s poise so bid­dable and eas­ily read to trans­late to in­cred­i­ble pace. The chas­sis fa­cil­i­tates that, but the force en­abling it is gen­er­ated by McLaren’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8.

McLaren’s V8 has pow­ered ev­ery car in one form or an­other since McLaren Au­to­mo­tive was formed. In the Sports Series models it’s 3.8 litres, swelling to 4.0 litres in the 720 S and Senna. Here it doesn’t feel like any poor re­la­tion for its lack of 200cc. Like the sus­pen­sion, you could read its spec­i­fi­ca­tion and think it’ll of­fer com­pro­mises, the height of the peak torque up the rev range, the sim­i­larly high en­gine speeds re­quired for max­i­mum power, too. There’s no deny­ing there’s a du­al­ity to it, need­ing those revs to pro­duce its best, but that’s not to say there’s noth­ing at lower revs. The chief char­ac­ter­is­tic is of a ris­ing, fran­tic ur­gency as the en­gine speed rises, the kick and change in in­ten­sity above 6000rpm not dis­sim­i­lar to an old Type-R Honda VTEC when it comes on cam.

That’s to its ben­e­fit, the LT as adept in traf­fic as it is climb­ing a moun­tain road, its range ex­pan­sive, yet there’s real in­cen­tive to dig deep and en­joy the heady de­lights at the top of the revcounter nee­dle’s sweep. Do that and the pace is fe­ro­cious, the en­gine feel­ing like it’s got no in­ter­nal in­er­tia as it chases the last cou­ple of thou­sand rpm. It’s im­pos­si­ble to re­sist it when­ever there’s space to ex­ploit it. With that trans­mis­sion in Track mode, you’ll run a gear lower, just for that ad­dic­tive, in­stan­ta­neous re­sponse the en­gine brings. The mas­sive speed is sig­nalled by an ex­haust that’s glo­ri­ously vo­cal, its closer


prox­im­ity to your ear al­low­ing you to en­joy the ex­otic notes em­a­nat­ing from it that much more. If you’re in a hurry, it’s dark or you’re in a tun­nel, the ex­haust doesn’t just de­liver sound, but vi­su­als too, with blue burn su­per-heated gasses ev­i­dent un­der heavy throt­tle load­ings, with orange flames join­ing the pops and crack­les on the over­run.

The LT is, by def­i­ni­tion, more en­gag­ing, more vis­ceral and ex­cit­ing, yet it achieves that with­out be­ing mired in any com­pro­mise. That is a quite bril­liant trick, and one which makes the 600LT not just one of McLaren’s best cars, but ar­guably its best car. Given they’re cur­rently build­ing the Senna, that might be con­sid­ered a bold claim, but one that stands up, on road and track.

That’s to be ap­plauded, too, as be­ing based on the en­try model in the range it’s ar­guably a ridicu­lous bar­gain; in­sane as that might sound when ap­plied to a car with a sticker price of $455,000. Yes, that is be­fore you’ve started tick­ing the op­tions boxes, or even more dan­ger­ously for your bank ac­count, ask­ing the dream-works MSO op­er­a­tion to get in­volved and per­son­alise it, but the LT feels worth it. It’s a more con­sid­ered, de­lib­er­ate choice than its light­weight, track-fo­cused ri­vals like Porsche’s GT3 RS, or reg­u­lar su­per­cars like a Fer­rari 488 – and it loses noth­ing to them. Trust us, you won’t be dis­ap­pointed wher­ever you drive it.

MAIN This is the fourth in­stal­ment of the LT tale, with the 600LT be­ing the light­est, most pow­er­ful and quick­est Sport Series

OP­PO­SITE Cov­er­ing 0-100km/h in 2.9sec and 0-200km/h in 8.2sec, the 600LT is se­ri­ously rapid

BE­LOW Top-exit ex­haust sys­tem shoots vis­i­ble flames on the over­run and dur­ing up­shifts

RIGHT Al­most a quar­ter of all the parts are be­spoke to the McLaren 600LT over its 570S sib­ling

ABOVE There’s no car­pet (-5.6kg), while au­dio and nav­i­ga­tion has been cut, too (-3.3kg)

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