Its limit behaviour is more predictable than the 675LT’s
Takes the best of the 675LT, 720S and 570S and distils it into a toned, focused, addictive driver’s car. We get hooked at the Hungaroring
Any day involving both a new McLaren and a racetrack is a good one, but the company’s enthusiasm for restricting our first taste of new products to circuits rather than public roads means you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out how the 600LT copes with the real world. On the basis of our first acquaintance at the Hungaroring, however, it feels pretty special.
We’ve reported extensively on the basic ingredients before, but here’s a recap. The 600LT gets a modest increase in power (its 3.8-litre twin- turbo V8 turned up to 592bhp from the 570S’s 562bhp), more aggressive suspension, a top-exit exhaust on the rear deck and, because of this, a fixed rear wing with a heatproof coating where the hot gases flow over it. More impressive is the weight saving: forgo climate control and the audio system and specify the lightweight carbonfibre shell seats (from the Senna) and the 600LT is 100kg lighter than the 570S.
Few owners will be that dedicated. Product manager Tom Taylor admits the company is planning to check with the one owner who has already ordered the air-con delete to see if he’s really sure. But even with cooling and entertainment left in place, an 80kg-plus weight saving on an already light car is an incredible feat.
The Hungaroring is the first international-spec track to have been constructed in what, when it opened in 1986, was still the communist bloc. The 2.7-mile circuit is twisty and bumpy with serious elevation changes – a tough challenge, and the sort of place where the 600LT should excel. On tighter tracks, we’re told, it will have the legs on the 675LT.
I’m sent out in a 570S first. Officially, it’s to learn which way the corners go, but it’s also to demonstrate how different two cars sharing most of the same core architecture can feel. The lesser car is predictably fast, taut and agile – it’s still a McLaren – but within two corners in the 600LT, it’s clear that it’s a very different creature.
Not really in terms of raw urge, although the 600LT is quicker than the 570S. McLaren says it will outpace much more expensive alternatives, but basic marketing logic dictates it can’t be allowed to outdrag the much more expensive 720S. But it feels immediately more exciting, that top-exit exhaust having a harder-edged rasp from idle speed upwards. (Sadly, it’s too light outside to confirm its ability to shoot flames.) The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox gives each full-throttle upshift a neck-nodding bump of torque, just like the 720S and Senna.
Corners are the revelation and clearly the 600LT’s natural habitat. It dives for apexes with a savage enthusiasm, the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres delivering what feels like competition-grade adhesion once brought up to temperature. But it doesn’t make hard use feel like a fight, either. The steering is light – McLaren has never gone for workout weighting – but perfectly proportional and the suede-rimmed wheel is alive with feedback as loadings increase. The ride is obviously firm, a point made by a couple of exploratory forays over some of the track’s bumpy kerbs, but the dampers retain iron-fisted control over the body’s mass.
Aero is helping out – the fixed wing and extended diffuser produce a claimed 100kg of downforce at 155mph – but it doesn’t have the drive-on-a-ceiling feeling of the Senna. The throttle response is sharp enough to bring surgery to mind. Pit-lane trundling reveals some lag at lower engine speeds, but the accelerator delivers instant response on track.
Although it’s easy to drive to an impressively high percentile of its towering limits, the 600LT never feels point and shoot. It’s not one of those cars that hides behind its tech. Even with the stability system standing guard, the driver continues to bear responsibility for getting it right. Too much speed into a slower turn provokes understeer, and getting on the throttle too early, or too keenly, produces the sensation of the back end starting to slide, the traction control only doing a certain amount to mitigate it.
The key is definitely to use the carbon-ceramic brakes, which are addressed through a wonderfully firm pedal, to help turn the car, trailing them towards the apex and the proper moment to unleash the fury. Unlike the 675LT, the junior car isn’t snappy or abrupt when it does start to let go. Chase laughs rather than lap times and it can be turned into a tyre-smoking drift machine.
On track, the 600LT feels like an apex predator for any competition remotely close to its price point. Indeed, it feels every bit as exciting as the 675LT. I bet it will make one hell of a car on the road, too.
Blink and you’ll miss it:
Although keen to emphasise that the 600LT is a limited-edition car, McLaren can’t say just how few it plans to build. A one-year production limit for the 600LT Coupé will need to be fitted around orders for regular Coupés, Spiders and the GT. But having sold more than 2000 Sports Series cars last year, we wouldn’t be surprised if the number of 600LT Coupés edges towards 1000.
How does the 600LT stack up beside the mighty 675LT?
To find out what a tough act the 600LT has to follow, we got a prototype version together with a 675LT in the UK. Doing this ahead of the press launch meant that weren’t allowed to drive the 600LT, but even from the passenger seat, it was clear that a common strand connects the two cars, and also that the game has moved on a fair bit in the past three years.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the 675LT was one of the major milestones in McLaren Automotive’s history. Before it, …read more