The rogue one
McLaren’s sublime Sport Series gets its edgy, out-there LT flagship – resistance is futile. By Ben Miller
IF I COULD pause real life I’d hit the button right now. The view through the panoramic, vaguely Group C windscreen is split at the horizon into two contrasting worlds: above, the unbroken blue of a serene September sky; and below a speed-blurred streak of hot Grand Prix circuit. Pinch me.
The McLaren and I have made our best fist yet of the Hungaroring’s first four corners: brake-bursting turn one,
endless two, interlinked three and the blind-on-entry, over-a-crest rush of four. In third gear through daunting turn four everything’s just so, the car smearing out to the edge of the track with just the right balance of front/ rear slip. And we surge on into the rest of the lap, happy like cats up to our ears in cream.
Thing is, this is the 570S I’m driving, not the new 600LT. Smaller, less complicated and considerably less expensive than the extraordinary 720S (and the outlier that is the Senna), for me the 570S is a meltwater-pure example of McLaren’s thing: stunning steering, serious performance and a refreshing paucity of nonsense. The cockpit, for example, is beautifully gimmick- free and sparse like an East Berlin apartment block, if easier on the eye.
And today the 570S, on hand for circuit familiarisation, is every bit the delectable creation I remember: small, agile, friendly and exploitable. On the road it feels indomitable and dronestrike accurate but here, with laps, you wonder if a few tweaks might unlock still greater brilliance. The engine, for example, is omnipresent but here it feels a touch breathless, its ultra-flat torque curve a little lacking in drama. Then there’s the slight fuzziness when you really lay the car into the longer, faster corners, a moment’s delay before you understand exactly where you stand, and how much harder you can – or can’t – push. And couldn’t the rear end just be a little less keen to move around during the lap’s two heavy braking events?
Clearly McLaren wondered the same, and has seen fit to fuse two of its finest machines, the 570S and the long-since sold-out 675LT, to create what’s now probably the pick of its range, the 600LT. A Porsche 911 GT2 RS or Ferrari 488 Pista rival on paper, the LT’s list price is the right side of £200k – £185,500 before you delve into the (admittedly tempting) options.
Your money (which should be safe in a 600LT, incidentally; 675LTs have gently appreciated since the day they were born) buys a carbonfibre-tubbed road racer weighing in at 1247kg (dry) and powered by a 592bhp version of McLaren’s twin-turbo V8. And once you’ve bought one, the very next thing you must splash for is some track time – after all, it’s for such rarefied loops of tarmac that the LT’s been optimised.
McLaren claims 23 per cent of components in the 600LT are new, and certainly the list of work touches almost every element of its being, engine internals excepted. The new exhaust and a revised ECU alone have unlocked the additional power and torque, though they’ve also had a fairly transformative affect on the powertrain.
In the LT I’m hugging the inside of Hungaroring’s final corner, which goes on for what feels like a couple of weeks.
Finally you’re cleared for take-off: foot to the floor, off with the lock and let her run out to the first kerb (not the second, which kicks like a mule). In the 570S and the 600LT you’re in third gear, revs a little lower than is ideal. Both pull convincingly but where the 570S does so in one sustained lunge, the LT’s more clearly defined top-end rush makes for a more thrilling ride. The shift lights flash, the next gear flashes in imperceptibly (changes in Sport are deliberately brutal, for the drama, but eerily smooth in maximum-attack Track) and you take a moment to breathe as you bear down on the first corner’s braking zone once again. This, you think to yourself, is the engine the 570S’s always should have been: louder, feistier and, thanks to its less insulating mounts, alive behind you in a way that only long-distance pilots would bemoan.
Changes to the chassis are more extensive, and start with bespoke Trofeo R tyres with relatively soft sidewalls for friendly on-the-limit traits. The chassis gets an increase in front track width, revised geometry, a lower ride height (by 8mm), lighter load-optimised 720S wishbones, meatier anti-roll bars, a quicker (but single-rate) steering rack (14.8 versus the 570S’s 15.6; the 675’s was 14.5), recalibrated adaptive dampers and upgraded brakes that pair 720S discs and calipers with a brake booster developed with Senna learnings, for improved feel at the top of the pedal, hitherto a McLaren weak point.
The rear suspension’s been tweaked to reduce unwanted rear-wheel movement; this will be incorporated into the rest of the Sports Series range. That a 570S optimised for circuit use is better on a circuit than a 570S isn’t surprising: that a raft of individually small changes can create a car of such a profoundly different character is.
The notion of the start/ finish straight as sanctuary doesn’t last long. We flash past the 200m board, the V8 trembling through the tub as it continues to pile on speed in fifth gear. Hit the left pedal and the power is impressive, as is the ABS’s deft calibration, but it’s the car’s rock-solid composure as its mass is hurled onto its nose that really stands out.
At the back of the circuit, in a cerebrally interwoven complex of third- and fourth-gear corners, the LT’s elevated sense of control really hits home. Here the alcantara wheel is your point of contact with an altogether grippier and more precise chassis. The LT holds on where the S can’t, runs your chosen line with more conviction and goes without any trace of confidence- sapping lost movement. Think, turn, understand – they run in seamless sequence, and the sense of power and control the car creates is quite mesmerising; quite special.
Slacken the stability control’s intervention through Sport to Track (still a needlessly complex system in a McLaren, relative to Porsche and Ferrari set-ups) and the LT will get gently out of shape, but it’s a testament to the car’s tyre and chassis philosophies that, while the outright limits are higher than the 570S’s, broaching them is, if anything, less daunting.
The 600LT takes what is probably McLaren’s finest car and systematically addresses the shortcomings we knew it had – an occasionally numb brake pedal and an emotionally underwhelming powertrain – while also elevating its already peachy chassis to something so capable it’ll take you places you didn’t think you and your skillset could go.
Compromised on the road? Potentially: this opportunity was track-only. The more direct engine mounts may grate with miles, as might the more purposeful set-up (14 per cent firmer at the front, 34 per cent rear). But few could find reason here to swerve the 600LT’s magic. That it also looks fabulous, smells faintly of good value and will prove all but immune to depreciation should eviscerate any lingering doubts.
MCLAREN 600 LT
Lamborghini Huracan LT’s steering and chassis are next level, even if V10 trumps turbo V8
Ferrari 488 Pista But it’s close, and the LT’s less expensive
McLaren 600LT Now, which colour?
Design, powertrain, chassis, size, spunk
H A T E
Limited build, price with options, drive mode selectors
V E R D I C T
All things considered, it’s the best McLaren yet
★ ★ ★ ★ ★