The McLaren 600LT Spider is the first McLaren I’ve driven and not wanted to give back. This is big, and I’ll get to why.
But first, the car itself. The radioactive-green machine you see here is the latest model in McLaren’s ‘Sport Series’ baby supercar range. Bolted in the middle of a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis is the 3.8-litre version of the McLaren’s high-revving, heavily turbocharged V8.
LT denotes ‘Long Tail’, Woking’s equivalent of Porsche RS or Ferrari’s Pista; 600 is power in PS, or 441kW. Based on the 570S, the 600LT is optimised for track use, pinching the double wishbone front and rear suspension from the 720S.
Tracks are also wider, and new, sticky Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tyres measure 225/25R19 front and 285/35R20 rear. Six- and four-piston carbon ceramic brakes, 390mm/380mm front/rear, underscore the 600LT’s apex-predating intent.
While the droptop weighs 48kg more than the Coupe, it’s still 100kg lighter than a 570S Spider thanks to a glut of lightweight components used all across the car – although to achieve the full 100 kegs you have to spurn air-con and get the optional Clubsport Pack.
There’s real downforce (100kg at 250km/h), while McLaren claims 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds, 0-200km/h in 8.4 seconds and a 10.5-second quarter mile. Top speed 324km/h with the roof up, or 315km/h with it down.
Meanwhile it’s been restyled into a car that will infiltrate your smartphone’s Camera Roll like few others. Low, wide, with those twin exhausts exiting right off the engine cover, the 600LT Spider looks straight out of Need For Speed with its classic, exotic supercar styling.
It’s a bit hard to get in and out of, they need to hire some Germans to perfect the interior build quality and iron out some minor refinement issues, but otherwise the interior styling is refreshingly non-derivative and makes you feel like you’ve clambered aboard some alien fighter craft.
The fixed-back seats are d-e-e-p and there is Alcantara on basically every surface. Ride quality is great and visibility is okay. You have to be taught how to operate some of the minor controls.
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The acceleration is generally the first facet of the 600LT Spider’s performance you experience, the one you and your passengers will still be talking about later, and the one you keep going back to for more. It’s a substance you know you should stop taking. It accelerates with a sting in the tail you’ve never felt before. It’s so addictive you’ll be wondering if prison is really as bad as it sounds.
There’s a little rear window between the headrests you can put down, giving your ears direct access to one seriously mad exhaust note. There’s a certain giant-angry-wasp quality about it. Melodic? Tuneful? Not really – just stupidly, embarrassingly loud and with a tyre-hating rage that’ll still be in your memory months later.
The electronics can be reduced enough that you can play with those rear tyres, particularly when cold, with the 441kW – even if you have to adjust to the unapologetically heavy turbo lag. It’s like McLaren asked a Japanese tuning house, specialising in 1000hp Supras and turbos bigger than your head, what it should do to get more power out of its twin-turbo V8.
Once the tyres are warm, traction and lateral grip come to you in a big way, and the ABS threshold disappears further and further down that stupendous brake pedal. The 600LT then eggs you to take bigger and bigger liberties to the point you start to think you really should be on a racetrack, it’s that fast and that capable.
It’s so easy to drive right up to, and beyond, its incredibly high limits, understeer or every type of oversteer available as you want it and ask for it, everything predictable despite the mid-engine layout. It’s a total drug, basically.
Mclaren, to me, has until now felt like a start-up leveraging hard on its Formula One track record in order to be taken seriously alongside manufacturers that have been doing it for decades.
Yes, it brought a mass-produced carbon-fibre chassis to the market and its supercars can out-accelerate most of their rivals, but anyone can wind a tonne of boost into an engine.
I’ve not thought McLaren’s product has matched its hype whenever I’ve been privileged enough to drive one of its cars. I suspected though, it would happen eventually. And now it has.
The 600LT Spider makes me forget the Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Driving it slowly was very difficult. But not as difficult as giving it back.
Top of its class on MOTOR 5 star cars
2019 MCLAREN 600LT SPIDER SPECS
Engine: 3799cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 441kW @ 7500rpm
Torque: 620Nm @ 5500-6500rpm
0-100km/h: 2.9sec (claimed)
Like: Probably the best car McLaren makes – you won’t want to stop driving it
Dislike: Still won’t bother a Porsche for build quality; scary residuals; tad impractical
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars