Flying down the front straight of the famed Hungaroring race circuit at 150 miles an hour inside McLaren’s new track weapon, the 600LT, on your first lap is a harrowing experience.
Brake boards mounted on your left count down the remaining asphalt you have until imminent disaster. 300 yards. 200 yards. The wall beyond the track, your potential demise, is growing exponentially larger. The voice of the factory driving coach, seated beside you, tears through the speaker in your helmet: “Don’t lift!” He knows that you’re rightfully scared, and that you’re starting to come off the accelerator. Your brain screams, Jesus, when the hell will we start to slow this missile?
“Not yet! Not yet!” Does this man have a death wish?
Somewhere around 150 yards from the end of the straight, just as the alarm bells in your skull reach full crescendo, he yells his permission. A deep dive into the brakes-a system boosted with an electric vacuum for better feel and continuity-and the front end of the 600LT plummets. Substantial g-forces yank your body forward. It feels like the seat belt may slice you in half like piano wire.
Smoothly, lest you upset the delicate weight distribution, you turn in. The Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires dig in the front, while the back of the 600LT effortlessly rotates around, flinging you against the carbon fiber shell seats. Just as you’re marveling at how nimble this $242,000 supercar is, your coach’s voice rises: “Power! Power! Floor it!”
McLaren’s engineering department relishes in laughing in the face of challenges. Past triumphs have included the three-seat F1, the P1 halo car, and even fabricating body armor for secret billionaires. The gauntlet this go-around was starting with its 570S base coupe and making it larger while simultaneously shedding the equivalent weight of a pro linebacker, deftly upstaging the recently-launched $1,000,000 Senna for a fraction of the price.
The LT, or Longtail, sees 1.9 inches tacked onto the butt of the 570S, and Pinocchio-ing another 1.1 inches from the nose. Beyond a bigger base, 30 more horses are galloping in the 3.8-liter V-8 twin-turbo behind your head for a total of 592-horsepower. A huge honking fixed rear wing that couples nicely with the front splitter and larger rear diffuser to afford some 220 pounds of downforce at triple-digit speeds. Clever nips and tucks see some 220 pounds of weight sloughing off, if you’re open to forgoing the stereo, navigation unit, splurge for those $6,000 carbon seats and deleting the air-conditioning. (Track-day denizens beware: after two laps with the air-con blasting, your back will still be slick.) A top-mounted, flame-spewing exhaust shaves off 28 pounds. The grand sum at weigh in? A smidge under 3,000 pounds.
But what do all those integers mean? That McLaren’s created a lithe and powerful behemoth that will keep your heart rate in the fat-burning zone.
McLaren has always made cars that can bring you right up to the brink, let you flirt with the precipice and then dance right back and the 600LT embodies this ideal. (Hell, the car’s marketing tout is “The Edge Is Calling.”) It’s a darling among the pro driver set because it’s well suited for any driving style. Drive hard but clean, and the 600LT is poised, composed, and compliant, even when being thrashed over track curbing. In the hands of one the of the 600LT’s development test drivers, and it’s like a wild lion reuniting with a trainer; savage, playful, yet respectful. A stab of the gas mid-corner sees the hindquarters wiggle across the asphalt, but it’s graceful and easy to hold the oversteer with some careful throttle modulation.
That bi-turbo powerplant adores living high in the revs, providing heaps of torque (457 lb-ft, to be precise) early and sledgehammers you all the way to 7500 on the tachometer. Up there, the engine sings loud and strong, announcing your arrival from several turns away. The coaches will tell you to let it run all the way out before asking for the next gear, which comes with a fierce snap; short-shifting is not your friend in the 600LT.
The brakes, however, are indeed your buddy. Carbon-ceramic discs are bitten by lighter calipers straight off the more expensive 720S, and they provide the ultimate stopping power. Under heavy braking, the 570S goes light in the rear, adding some drama to the affair. The 600LT is resolute and assured under a heavy left foot. You. Will. Stop.
The sum of all of these parts is confidence. The 600LT allows you you fly faster and push deeper. You’re not just on the edge; you’re able to look over and still spring back. Which is why, after a few laps, when the corner’s fast approaching and you’re at full tilt and you coach is yelling for you hammer on, you oblige.