It pays to look ahead in the McLaren 600LT. Far ahead. You sit incredibly low, laid back a little further than perhaps seems “normal” in the context of most road cars, and the view out is as vivid as an IMAX cinema screen thanks to the low scuttle and slender A-pillars. You feel you could reach out and touch the road. Not that you need to. McLaren has resisted the call of electric power steering, and the simple Alcantara-covered wheel dances in your hands, putting you intimately in touch with the contact patch between tire and tarmac.
The driving environment is so well focused, with every control and sightline honed to help you deal with what comes at you. And for good reason. As the 600LT weighs around 3,000 pounds and produces 592 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, what you perceive to be far in the distance will be under those Pirelli P Zero Trofeos much quicker than you think. Like we said, it pays to look ahead.
But there’s a problem. A distraction. In your peripheral vision the rearview mirror keeps flashing. By the time your eyes flick up and to the right, there’s nothing to see but . . . there it is again. As the sun starts to fade away, the faint flicker in the mirror becomes a fire as two jets of hot blue flame vent from the top-mounted exhausts with every stab of the throttle.
If you didn’t love the 600LT already (and you will), then the realization that it spews flames when the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 is under load and then chuffs two fireballs as you lift off the gas is enough to have you adding up the value of close relatives and fripperies such as your home. This is McLaren cutting loose. Forget thoughts of Woking’s finest being clinical or charmless—the 600LT embraces fury, excitement, and fire, and the result is a supercar of pure intensity. “I like driving formula cars and fast karts more than just about anything,” executive editor Mac Morrison said after taking the car on a few laps. “The McLaren provides the same type of quick responses and tactile feedback as those do. I was talking to myself all the way around the circuit, basically saying ‘what a blast’ again and again.”
Indeed, the mid-engine layout, the rigidity of the carbon-fiber tub, and the minimalist cockpit create a race car vibe, and on track the 600LT delivers. It feels beautifully responsive, there’s less understeer than in the 570S on which it’s based, and the body control is locked down and accurate. However, again it shows genuine interactivity. You can tweak the tail here, provoke the car into gentle oversteer, and lean on the excellent electronics in ESC Dynamic mode to experience the LT right on the edge without too much risk of tumbling over into the abyss. Fly without the clever stability systems, and the 600LT’s consistency remains. Perhaps it lacks the outright traction of the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, but there are no surprises. McLaren’s hard-core road racer is satisfyingly progressive and forgiving.
On the actual road, things get even better. Here you sense how McLaren cares for details immeasurable in lap times or lateral g figures. The light, detailed steering is central to the car’s appeal, and it’s backed up by a chassis that seems to breathe over frost-damaged surfaces and one that glides elegantly where you expect it to feel harsh. The engine is just starting to feel its age. We love the dizzying top-end delivery, but there’s some throttle lag in the low- and midrange, which seems at odds with the scalpel-sharp feel of everything else. It’s not exactly tuneful, either. Even so, the McLaren is absorbing when you give it its head, and it fizzes with specialness even at low speeds.
Still, going slowly does prove difficult at times. “Going fast is oh-so-easy in the 600LT,” contributor Basem Wasef said, “and it has a way of begging you to go even faster.” Others agree. “Man, this thing is so easy to drive at blistering speeds,” editor-in-chief Mike Floyd said. “It’s scary how well it feels in the hands of mere mortals like yours truly.” Even better, the 600LT seems to look after the pilot but never pulls them out of the equation; the electronics aid drivers rather than demoting them. Our Art St. Antoine nailed it perfectly: “I know there’s cutting-edge tech on board, but you don’t feel it. The 600LT comes across as analog. And that’s a good thing. Very natural, very pure, very direct.”
Yes, McLaren has built something special here. Yes, the company appears to bring out a new model every three or four weeks, and, admittedly, using the same architecture across all the models can’t help but raise eyebrows and create a bit of cynicism. However, the speed of evolution is bearing fruit. From tame, slightly aloof supercars earlier in the decade, McLaren has discovered a burning passion for extreme, pared-back, and wickedly sharp driver’s cars within. Those flames are more than just a distraction. They’re the embodiment of McLaren’s inner fire bursting out through every fiber of the 600LT. Is it an All-Star? You’re kidding, right?
2019 Automobile All-Stars
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2019 McLaren 600LT Specifications
|PRICE||$242,500/$308,630 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.8L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8; 592 hp @ 7,500 rpm, 457 lb-ft @ 5,500–6,500 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||17/22 mpg (city/hwy, est)|
|L x W x H||181.3 x 82.5 x 47.0 in|
|0–60 MPH||2.8 sec|
|TOP SPEED||204 mph|