Saturday, 0800. It’s June just outside London, summer is taking its sweet time to make an appearance – instead it’s more of a hybrid of autumnal dull juxtaposed with greens of spring. I am on a road I’ve opened many stories, such as this one, on and I’ve got butterflies akin to those of a 15-year-old being alone with his high school crush for the first time. My senses are heightened – my ears are being hammered with abusive whip cracks on gearshifts, up and down, harsh V8 noises fill the gaps in between.
My eyes are focused on the ribbon of road ahead; I’m at the head of a needle ducking and diving, stitching apexes together. They are being bordered by boisterous lime green a-pillars, a racing horse with blinkers. The smells of the morning are concentrated and heavy, courtesy of the dense country damp – I can taste it. My palms and fingers are wrapped around the soft warmth of an alcantara steering wheel that is wriggling with feel and communication, a sixth sense. This is what the McLaren 600LT is about – sensory overload.
The 600LT is a car that caused quite an upset, and not just for its competitors. McLaren invited esteemed members of the press (including GTspirit) to experience the LT just a few weeks after they had driven the McLaren Senna – with the thrill and adrenaline of the Senna likely still coursing through their veins, wordsmiths such as Henry Catchpole and Chris Harris openly claimed that they would prefer to own a 600LT than the Senna hypercar that costs almost four time the price.
You would assume that this is because the Senna is so extreme, but they went further than that, saying that the 600LT is more engaging, playful and absorbing on the edge. Bold. Then came this, the 600LT Spider and rumour had it that the 600LT really took the levels of excitement and driving experience a step further with the removal of the roof, surely then this is the ultimate adrenaline hit on four wheels for a fan of topless motoring and track day speed. An un-compromised Spider based on what many claim is the most hair-raising McLaren since the F1.
To find out what was what, I called the friendly people at McLaren and a few weeks later the vivaciously specced car you see pictured here arrived. As statements of intent go, this car screamed street legal race car with lashings of exuberantly expensive carbon, alcantara and other exotic materials. For me personally, one element above everything is the real statement of intent – the seats.
It’s for this reason that I insisted on having a test car fitted with the extraordinary ‘Senna seats’. These hallow carbon sculptures blur the lines between race and street car saving an incredible 24.6 kilograms, a feat and one that contributes heavily (pardon the pun) to the 100 kilogram saving between 570S and 600LT. Not only are they light, they are comically impractical, but in the coolest way possible. The shoulder and thigh support bolsters are enormous and share a shape more welcome in something at Le Mans than your local high street. These shells are clad with seven sponges wrapped in alcantara. Being one piece, they are frozen and cannot be adjusted. The driver’s seat moves forwards and back on traditional rails, manually of course. The passenger seat cannot be moved – at all. As statements of intent go…
It’s not just the seats that hint at what you’re letting yourself in for. McLaren removed most of the carpeting from the inside saving a few kilos, the glovebox saves one more. You could remove the AC and speakers and save around 13 kilos – don’t. Elsewhere, the wheels and Trofeo R rubber combined save 21 kgs, wishbones and uprights 10.2, exhaust 12.6, wiring 3.3, thinner glass 2.1 and a host of body panels in carbon save a further 7.2 kilograms. That’s 100 – spec the Spider and you undo half of McLaren’s hard work and stuff 50 kilograms of roof motors back in, still 50 kilograms lighter than the 570S Coupe and believe me when I say it is worth every gram.
If you’ve read or watched any reviews of the LT Spider you’ll be aware of the hype and why everyone fell in love with it. As many before me have reported, there’s a hack – keep the roof up and the rear window down. Put the drivetrain in Sport, not track, and hit it. The sound from the V8 is not tuneful but its intense. The top mounted exhausts that are situated so close to the rear window and the lack of wind noise from having the roof up combine to concentrate the brutality into an angry, merciless cacophony of tyranny. It’s like nothing else. The gear shifts in sport are just as barbarous and put the infamous Aventador changes to shame, even with a dual clutch gearbox courtesy of Ignition cut.
Want to be fast and smooth? Engage track and the LT stops being a drama queen and becomes a speed freak. Ignition cut is traded for inertia push which harnesses the engine’s torque for a feeling of positive acceleration throughout the shift. It’s wizardry that makes the shifts feel supple, smooth and blooming quick. It’s a shame that the downshifts are not always available upon command as they are with Porsche’s PDK. The dramatic shifts in sport compensate and will have you laughing.
Another point of contention is turbo lag. McLarens are heavily turbocharged and you can feel it. There is a fatty wall of lag that melts away into tyre shredding torque in the midrange, but below 3,000rpm you feel it slugging away before the explosive turbos are spinning at their best. One element that few could ever criticise is the uncorrupted steering that features a traditional hydraulic rack. Like all McLarens it is a joy to flow through the bends being fed granular, accurate feel from the front tires.
Enough technical ‘torque’, what is it like drive? As my Saturday morning introduction highlighted, the 600LT is all you could ask for and so much more if you’re looking for a car that looks, feels and is special. It gets better the harder you push and you learn more about how to access that intoxicating speed the more you drive it. It gets under your skin, one of those cars you’ll empty the milk down the sink for so you can have an excuse to tell your partner you need to nip down to the shops. For me, that’s what these cars are for, not just to set lap times on track days, that’s where the Senna is in a class of one, but to test and goad you to learn their idiosyncrasies and make you a better driver – to bring a smile to your face and hit you with a sensory overload on the way. There may be 592 brake horsepower and 620 Nms, but you feel the LT is on your side.
It’s makes you feel alive and it’s why the 600LT Spider is correctly heralded as one of the greatest car that McLaren has built – it has soul and character. Know someone that says McLarens are cold and not engaging to drive? Put them in an LT Spider and watch them smirk at the antisocial sounds and struggle to articulate to sensation of speed.