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2019 McLaren 600LT coupe performance review

By Scott Newman | Photos: Nathan Jacobs, 16 Feb 2019 Reviews

2019 McLaren 600LT coupe review

Woking whips up a tasty supercar treat

In many ways the McLaren 600LT is like a pavlova. Both are light, more than the sum of their parts and very, very tasty. It takes a mere handful of ingredients and a simple recipe to create Australia’s favourite Christmas dessert, and a similar process has transformed McLaren’s Sports Series into a fire-breathing, tyre-burning supercar of the highest order.

You’re probably aware that LT stands for Longtail, a homage to the McLaren F1 GTR Longtail that raced in the late ’90s. It’s a bit of a misnomer in the case of the 600LT, its rear elongated by just 74mm whereas the original F1 GTR was 641mm longer than the car on which it was based. Other dimensional changes include a ride height drop of 8mm and an extra 10mm of front track.

A recalibrated ECU and new top-exit exhaust system lifts outputs to a healthy 441kW/620Nm, an extra 22kW/20Nm over the 570S. Of more importance is the weight reduction. McLaren claims a 100kg diet compared to the 570S, though the actual figure depends on the spec of each car.

Nonetheless, it’s an impressive loss, with weight shaved from a number of areas. Forged aluminium suspension wishbones and uprights are 10.2kg lighter, aluminium brake calipers and stiffer carbon-ceramic discs from the Super Series shed another 4kg, while forged alloy wheels – 19.0 by 8.0-inch front; 20.0 by 11.0-inch rear – delete a further 17kg.

Fixed-back carbon racing seats delete 21kg while ditching carpet cuts 5.6kg and exposes the carbon-fibre floor, which does look better than the welded aluminium you find in Ferrari’s lightweight models. You can even see the wiring harness snaking its way out from underneath the driver’s seat. The aero addenda, consisting of a front splitter, longer rear diffuser, side skirts and fixed rear wing, is all crafted from carbon fibre and results in 100kg of downforce at 250km/h.

To look at, the 600LT’s interior is all business, covered almost floor to ceiling with Alcantara, though our test car is fitted with air-con, sat-nav and a stereo – in this case an excellent 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system. All this eats into its weight advantage over a 570S, but makes the car far more useable on a day-to-day basis.

Happily, the 600LT is not a hard-riding skateboard; even with thinly padded race seats there is enough suspension compliance to easily pass the everyday driver test – it’s even relatively quiet until you hit coarse-chip tarmac, at which point the Trofeo R semi-slicks create a hell of a racket.

Those lightweight seats may be an issue, though. Hopefully they are available in varying sizes, as neither photographer Nathan Jacobs or I are large gentlemen, but we are wedged in tight. Anyone with wider hips (ie, women) or of larger stature simply wouldn’t fit in our test car. That aside, the driving position is brilliant and I love the way it essentially forces you to left-foot brake. The nose lift ruins the stance but is vital in avoiding expensive scraping noises on driveways and such.

Press the start button and there’s a lengthy whirr of starter motor before the M838TE 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 awakens with a blare. It’s loud but tuneless at low rpm, the combination of a flat-plane crank and forced induction giving it the aural appeal of an old Nissan SR20 inline-four with a cannon exhaust, thankfully without the drone.

Before you even begin to investigate its performance, the 600LT feels more special than its Sports Series siblings. Firstly, it looks incredible, the heavily raked profile and contrasting carbon panels giving it real supercar presence. On the move the Alcantara-clad steering wheel gently jiggles in response to bumps or cambers, while your already limited rear vision is further obscured by heat haze from those top-exit exhausts. 

Press the throttle and there’s a long enough delay to wonder what’s happening before all hell breaks loose. To call the 600LT laggy is a step too far, but it doesn’t have the immediate response of a 488 GTB or GT2 RS

Presumably it’s the result of fairly large turbos, as the torrent of power that is unleashed all the way to 8000rpm is insane. The claimed performance numbers are comical: 0-100km/h in 2.9sec, 0-200km/h in 8.2sec, 0-400m in 10.4sec. Those figures put it virtually on par with the 720S, but while it doesn’t quite feel as supernaturally rapid as its sibling, it’s better for it.

There’s still enough power to make your head spin, but it doesn’t dominate the experience like in the 720S. As crazy as it sounds for a car capable of mid-10sec quarter miles, the whole package feels beautifully homogenous.

There’s outrageous grip and traction, though enough sheer grunt for third-gear oversteer to be easily available, the superbly calibrated ESC subtly mopping up any over-exuberance. The steering is sublime, heavy at low speeds but so communicative that once you’re somewhat accustomed to the speed you can throw the 600LT into corners and feel the tyres gently smear across the road.

A quick couple of words on the gearbox – it’s perfect. In Track mode upshifts are seamless and downshifts are nicely mechanical, accompanied by vicious cracks from the exhausts. The brakes, too, are astounding; a little dead initially, but with benchmark power and feel in hard use.

Under heavy load the engine also comes alive, the dull buzz quickly morphing into a sharp racecar-like growl. The slight lag makes for a more challenging drive, but arguably a more involving one. Having to accelerate early and time your inputs accordingly is simply part of learning to tame this beast.

There are a couple of issues: the steering kickback that blights all McLarens is lessened, but not eradicated and the lack of an LSD results in occasional inside wheelspin. By far the biggest issue, though, is not the length of the tail but the height of the nose. If there’s not an F1-style wear plank under that expensive carbon splitter there needs to be, as time and time again it headbutts the tarmac.

As such, the 600LT comes tantalisingly short of a perfect score. On track, where there are no bumps to disturb its composure, it probably deserves one. Nevertheless, McLaren has created an intoxicating supercar that, even with the seemingly obligatory $100,000 options spend, significantly undercuts rivals from Ferrari and Porsche. It’s currently the best car Woking makes.

All about the drive on MOTOR reviews

2019 MCLAREN 600LT COUPE SPECS:
Engine:
 3799cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 441kW @ 7500rpm
Torque: 620Nm @ 5500-6500rpm
Weight: 1356kg
0-100km/h: 2.9sec (claimed) 
Price: $455,000

Like: A top flight supercar that feels more special than the model on which it’s based
Dislike: Nose way too low; an LSD would help; steering kickback still present

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Nemesis

Lamborghini Huracan Performante
5.2-litre V10, AWD, 470kW/600Nm, 0-100km/h 2.9sec, 1382kg, $483,866

Similar in approach but very different in mechanical execution, the Lambo using a bellowing atmo V10, all-wheel drive and clever active aerodynamics. Both easier to buy than a Ferrari 488 Pista.