Road test: McLaren 600LT

The new Longtail adds power and aggression to a lineage hardly lacking in those departments

United Arab Emirates, September 30, 2018

Even hard-core fans of McLaren, the British luxury sportscar and supercar maker, have become confused lately by the weave of numbers and letters making up its model names, and the split of the range into three separate tribes (Sports, Super and Ultimate Series). The new 600LT sits at the top of the first group, the Sports Series, which is populated by the 540C, 570S Coupe, the 570S Spider and the 570GT.

The 600LT is the track-focused version of the 570S. The LT bit stands for Longtail, which has denoted a longer, lighter, more powerful, more aggressive derivative since it was first applied to the McLaren F1 GTR Longtail, followed by the 675LT (which sits in the Super Series – keep up).

Both of those were built in very limited numbers, and sold out in three months in the case of the 675LT, and three weeks for the convertible version, the 675LT Spider. And yes, there will be a Spider version of the 600LT.With me so far? Good.

You should also know that the new supercar/hypercar at the very top of the tree will be called the Speedtail (we will see pictures in the next month or so), and that by 2024 all McLaren’s cars, excluding the bonkers Ultimate Series models, will be petrol-electric hybrids. The following year, a pure electric McLaren will be unveiled.

I’m at the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest, which as Formula One’s smallest circuit is the ideal place to try out the 600LT and compare it with the 570S, to see just what a 20 per cent increase in price buys you.

Weight, firstly. McLaren insist that while the power race is important, the weight race is more so. If McLaren built an electric car with the sort of performance they would want for the badge today, it would weigh a not-inconsiderable two tonnes.

So the 600LT has shed 100 kilograms versus the 570S, through the use of more carbon fibre, changing almost a quarter of the parts, adding lightweight bucket seats, replacing leather with Alcantara, and using thinner window glass, so that you can hear the roar of the raised exhausts, which sit above the rear tail.

The aerodynamics have been magnified: there’s a fixed rear wing, a front splitter and rear diffuser to enhance downforce, and the car is 47 millimetres longer at the rear.

The power from the V8 engine has increased by 30hp, to the 600 in the name. The dynamics of the car are focused towards the track: the steering is quicker, the suspension stiffer, and they have taken the brake booster from the McLaren Senna for better pedal feel on the track.

Those are the facts: how do they translate from behind the wheel? I do four laps in the 570S first, to get to know the Hungaroring, with its rapid succession of corners.

That car is no slouch, but the changes in the 600LT are immediately apparent. Not only in the pared-down interior, but also in the extra horsepower. The car is rawer, more grasping under medium to hard throttle, and much louder.

But it is through the corners and under braking that the more dynamic, hard-core character of this car shines. The extra downforce pushes you into the car’s floor, and shunts you sideways into the bucket seat’s firm embrace.

I test the jaw-dropping extent of the brakes with encouragement from the instructor in the passenger seat – I would have lifted off the throttle down the pit straight about 50 metres before he told me to. Instead, it’s 7,000rpm and full throttle all the way to the braking marker, and the car just sinks on its haunches with no fuss, delay or drama.

If ever there was a road car for the track, the 600LT is it. A cynic would say a track-focused road car is a marketing gimmick. I say don’t knock it until you have tried it.

thenational