Have you ever watched one of those cooking shows where competing chefs have to make a meal with a given set of ingredients?
Engine: Twin-turbo 3.8L V8
Power: 666 hp, 516 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed DSG
0-62 mph: 2.9 seconds
Top speed: 203 mph
Fuel Economy: 24.2 mpg combined (EU)
Price: Starts at US$372,600
It’s a daunting challenge, we’re sure, but what they come up with can be impressive. Well, that’s McLaren in a nutshell.
The Formula One racing team booted up McLaren Automotive six years ago, and everything it has made since has been built around three basic ingredients: a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis, a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Based on those building blocks, the team in Woking, England, has built an array of two-seat, mid-engined, rear-drive supercars that have, despite their commonalities, run an impressive scope in both approach and performance. At no time has that variety been so apparent than on our recent trip to the Canary Islands.
After spending a day behind the wheel of the new 570GT in Tenerife, we got the chance to drive the sold-out, limited-edition 675LT Spider. Both models are, again, based on those same ingredients. But within those parameters, the difference between the two could hardly be more night and day if the Almighty Himself had turned off the sun with the flick of a switch.
ALSO SEE: 2017 McLaren 570GT Review
Sorry, You Can’t Have One
McLaren first unveiled the 675LT in coupe form at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, taking its name and inspiration from the Longtail version of the legendary and dominant McLaren F1 GTR. It’s based closely on the 650S, but dialed up to eleven. Instead of 562 horsepower in the 570 or 641 in the 650S, the 675LT boasts a suitably devilish 666 hp. Enhanced aerodynamics generate 40 percent more downforce. A recalibrated suspension widens the track by 0.8 inches and stiffens the springs by 27 percent at the front and 63 percent at the rear.
The rolling stock is lighter, resulting in less unsprung weight, and the entire vehicle is a significant 220 pounds lighter than the 650S, applying that magic recipe of more power with less weight that has turned so many supercars into fire-breathing monsters. (Think along the lines of the Ferrari 458 Speciale or Lamborghini Aventador SuperVeloce and you won’t be far off.) The net result is a 0-62 mph time of less than three seconds and a top speed in excess of 200 miles per hour.
The manufacturer set out to build 500 examples, priced a shade under $350,000. That’s nearly double the MSRP on the 570S, and a substantial $80K more than the 650S, propelling the Super Series from the company of the Ferrari 488 GTB and Lamborghini Huracan into competition with the F12 and Aventador. The inflated sticker, however, didn’t stop McLaren from selling out the entire production run in the span of two months. With that kind of demand, it’s no wonder that they then opted to build an additional 500 roadsters, priced even higher at $372,600… and sold all of them in just two weeks.
Like a 650S, Only More So
Short of the P1 hybrid hypercar, the Longtail is the most powerful and most extreme road-going supercar McLaren offers – and it feels it. Where the 570GT is laden with creature comforts, the 675LT is focused completely on performance. That much is evident the minute you open the butterfly door and lower yourself into the racing-style bucket that keeps you firmly in place and is covered, like the rest of the cockpit, in grippy Alcantara. It should immediately feel familiar to anyone who’s driven the 650S, but thumb the starter button and it erupts into life with an even more raucous cacophony.
Driving through the same tunnel along our route, the 570S (against which we benchmarked the slightly softer 570GT) echoed splendidly, but the 675LT screamed hauntingly like some streamlined demon from the depths of hell. If the sound of the 650S was a marked improvement over the more muted 12C, the LT takes it that much further again – but that only sets the stage for the performance to follow. As soon as you get rolling, it immediately becomes obvious what priority McLaren had in creating the 675. The suspension feels tauter, the steering more direct, the engine response more fevered, the brake feel more immediate.
The sum total is a raw performance tool, all but completely uncompromised by any real-world concerns such as comfort or usability. Physically it feels as if it’s strapped onto you as much as you are into it, and mentally it feels as though it’s hard-wired into your brain. Just think about being over there, and that’s where it goes. Of course there are a few links (mechanical or biological) in between mind and machine, but if there’s any slack along the way, you can bet it’s to be found between your brain and your limbs, not between the controls and the vehicle’s response.
Reservations? We have a few, but then again, (almost) too few to mention. We’re disappointed, of course, that we couldn’t get one of our own (even if we had the money), because they’re sold out. This writer wasn’t enamored of the particular color of his tester – a shade of gold with a tinge of green that reminded me less of precious metal than it did of the fluids that would likely boil over in a passenger who’d come along for a ride at anywhere close to the supercar’s limits. The Longtail bodywork also incorporates a larger “airbrake” rear wing that deploys under hard braking, which adds a delicious bit of drama to the proceedings, not to mention some helpful aerodynamic drag, but also completely blocks the driver’s line of sight out the rear-view mirror when dragging the anchors – not ideal in a vehicle that, with carbon-ceramic brakes, can stop so much shorter than the vast majority of other vehicles on the road.
The Verdict: 2017 McLaren 675LT Spider Review
Our foremost misgiving, however, was that we didn’t get to spend more time behind the wheel of the 675LT, because the mind-meld that occurred between driver and this particular machine proved intoxicating. Now don’t get us wrong – the same ingredients cooked slightly differently (as represented by the other supercars in the McLaren lineup) make for some fantastic meals. But little else could manage to stimulate the tastebuds and awaken the senses quite like the 675LT. It might not be something we’d want to eat for every meal each and every day – at least not in the same way that we might with the more livable 570GT – but we could stand to taste this particular combination of flavors on weekends. Shame it’s off the menu.