The age old cliche ‘race car for the road’ is banded around with reckless abandon all too casually in the automotive world. From Ferrari Pistas, to Porsche GT3 RSs and Huracan Performantes, it seems hardened road cars are a recipe for success and strong sales. But what if you really were to take a race car, homologate it for road use by sticking on a few indicators and airbags and set it free on to the road? Well, McLaren have done just that and the results are very exciting. ‘But what about the 600LT?’ I hear you chime. Well that is a road car turned up to be a road car that can handle a track day, the McLaren 620R is a GT4 race car first and foremost, you can read about when I put it through its paces on the track, here.
The 620R immediately lets you know what its primary purpose is as soon as you jump in the cabin, but be careful when doing so, the Senna carbon seats are very good at both hugging you and jabbing your ribcage in equal measure. There is no storage space in the cabin aside from two tiny netted areas in the doors which are reserved for the part of the 6-point-harness which connects into the seatbelt buckle. These are statements of intent.
The driving experience continues to embody the focused feel. This is another level to almost anything else I have driven on the street and there are a few elements which cement my initial impressions. The first is just how intense and visceral an experience it is at any speed – as soon as you hit the starter button the entire car fizzes and vibrates with an intensity that assaults all of the senses. When collecting the car I was puzzled as to why the key to the car has a velcro patch glued to the back of it, the reason for this is that the vibrations are so intense that if you leave the key in the space where the arm rest used to be (the only space for the key) it buzzes at a frequency that would drive even the most patient monk to scream in frustration – the velcro offers a botched, yet effective, solution as the key has a point to stick to. Even with the padding of the Senna seat the physical sensation of feeling bolted to the chassis and the engine is apparent. This feeling is most acute at 1,000 and 5,000rpm meaning that you’re exposed to it whether you’re pushing hard or not pushing at all – there is no escape.
In order to strip out as much weight as possible, a significant amount of sound deadening had to be removed. When cruising at motorway speeds I found myself checking to ensure the windows were closed as the road noise is extreme, as is the gruff sound of the flat-plane crank V8 and its chirping turbos which leak into the cabin. The most significant change from 600LT to 620R is the suspension.
The 620 is available with the adaptive dampers of the 600LT, but as standard it is equipped with full-on motorsport-spec dampers, two-way adjustable with 32 settings for bump and rebound. This is an incredible setup, but one that makes this one of the harshest cars on the road. You can feel every stone that the Pirelli P Zero Corsas fitted my test car passed over, cats eyes feel more like speed bumps and speed bumps have to be treated with extreme caution as there is no nose lift to gracefully clear them. Be prepared to wince as you anticipate the inevitable pain of carbon scraping over tarmac. The car is exhausting to cover miles in, it physically takes a toll.
And then I had a chance to take the 620R to my favourite roads in dry conditions with no traffic or luggage to hinder my progress. All of the aforementioned irritations paled into insignificance and I wore a smile that only a handful of cars have managed to draw out of me. Dial the chassis and drivetrain into Track and the physical connection to the car is heightened, the car becomes a part of you, there is a palpable organic connection, one which gives you supreme confidence and understanding of that the 620R is doing beneath you. It’s fast, too: the £252,000 620R with its 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 putting out 611bhp and 457lb of torque will do 0-100 in just 2.9-seconds and top out at 321km/h.
All of the gripes I had when cruising are translated into a language when you get down to the business of driving the 620R. You instinctively know exactly where you are in the rev range from the piercing noise from the full titanium exhaust noise combined with the sucking and whooshing coming from the roof snorkel. The chassis toggle slackens off the ESC in track, but it is not scary when the rear end brakes traction as you are constantly aware and in control of when the car is doing beneath you.
I cannot mention communication without giving a special mention to the steering and how it talks to the driver’s palms with sublime weighting, feedback and feel. Upon turn in the front end is so keen, scalpel sharp and clear that you never want to stop hunting apexes, and when you’re past an apex you can pile on the power and know that the chassis can handle the savage torque and power that launch you down the road with ferocity that is further enhanced by the cacophony of noise which accompanies it. It is no symphony, but it purposeful and impressive in equal measure.