Although we do everything to cover our own travel expenses, McLaren flew us to Phoenix to run the 600LT (and 720S Spider, more on the next week) and gave two nights in a hotel.
I'll admit it: I wasn't sure if I would like the McLaren 600LT Spider. I was not the biggest fan of the McLaren 570S, the car it is based on ̵
Veteran McLaren viewers will know from just the name that there is something special about this: in the McLaren speech, LT means "long tail". The first long McLaren ten F1 GTR cars and three F1 GT cars appeared in 1997, with new bodies extending their nose and tail to raise the downforce at a rapid pace.
More recently, the McLaren muted the idea of the 675LT, which used the same ideas for more power, less weight and more aerodynamic downforce for the 650S supercar. The result was a track-focused adrenaline delivery device that beat all the right notes with both the journalists who had to run it and the 500 happy individuals who could buy one before the order book was full. In fact, there was so much demand for the 675LT that McLaren announced that another 500 would be convertibles. These were sold out quickly.
The success of the 675LT, both coupe and spider, did not go unnoticed on McLaren's futuristic HQ in the British city of Woking. If more aero, more power and less weight could inject a very crowded drama into McLaren's Super Series cars, why not use the same attitude on the company's Sports Series cars, the entrance to its carbon fiber supercar? As the 650S became 675LT, the 570S was developed to 600LT, debuting as a hardtop last summer and now as a spider (a name given to sporty horse-drawn roofless cars in the old days).
Once you have passed the retina, you notice that the 600LT is embellished with complicated aerodynamic devices. Carbon fiber channels that channel the air and put it at work at a rapid pace to crush the car on the road. It is actually longer than a 570S of almost three inches, and most of it behind, although the larger front panel gives a little length as well. To my mind, the cars give a much less benign appearance than the 570S, especially on the back, which is dominated by a large, fixed wing upwards and a nonsense rear diffuser below. The revised bodywork generates a useful 100kg downward at 155mph, although we failed to reach enough speed to confirm this.
The McLaren designed the Sports Series to be convertible from scratch, and so the 600LT Spider needed no extra stiffening or extra bracing compared to its coupé siblings. The declining roof mechanism obviously places a small weight of 110 kg / 50 kg to be exact – but that's okay, because the car still benefits from all the light. As a result, the waves brush 220 lbs lighter (100 kg) than the 570S Spider Eric drove a few months ago. (The lightest dry weight for a 600LT Spider is 2,859 kg / 1,354 kg, but with liquids and a full tank of gas one can expect to be closer to 3,100 / 1,405 kg.)
The importance of weight loss is also evident from the interior design. Here the nuts with the option list allow you space for their lack of mass, not the number of degrees of effect adjustment. You could say that McLaren would have released the air conditioner if you really wanted it. Perhaps contra-intuitively, packing everything in black Alcantara rather than leather really raises the 600LT's interior over the more pedestrian 570S.
If I had a complaint then it was that P1-spec light racing chairs pinned my right side when I was in the driver's seat. I noticed no such problem from the passenger seat, and I did not try the super lightweight key seats (which saves 46 kg / 21 kg) for comparison.
Reducing mass obviously improves the weight ratio of a car it also makes increasing power. 600LT's 3.8L twin-turbo V8 is yet another version of the M838T, which has powered every new McLaren than 4.0L Senna. In this configuration, it delivers 592hp (441kW) at 7,500rpm, with a peak torque output of 457ft-lbs (619nm) from 5,500-6,500rpm. (It is called 600LT because it makes 600 metric horsepower.) The wider air intakes, in this respect, as well as the smooth, light exhaust system that now exits a pair of pipes, just before the rear wing. And yes, the carbon fibers in that wing have been protected with a heat-resistant ceramic coating, if you were curious.
Power is sent to the rear wheels with a seven-stage dual-clutch SSG transmission that, like V8, is unique to McLaren. Among its abilities is a "rolling burnout mode:" on a private road or other suitable place, you can also smoke a pair of 20-inch Pirelli Trofeo R tires at just one button press. It is an even more meaningless special ability than starting control, especially if you are the one who pays for new rubber. But I will admit that I am disappointed that I did not find time to try.
Zero to 62mph (100km / h) takes 2.9 seconds (0-60mph is 2.8). Zero to 124mph (200km / h) takes 8.4 seconds and the top speed is 202mph (km / h) with the roof up and 196mph (km / h) with it down. The fuel economy is ranked as 15/18/22 city / combined / highway, which is pretty good for a car like this.
The SSG gearbox will choose its own gear with the best of its own devices, but you do not drive a car like this because you want it to choose the switches. Better to take care of it yourself, via the wheel mounted paddles. Set the powertrain to track for the fastest shifts, and you want the Sport or Track to enjoy the engine's bark on up or down shifts. Yes, it is childish, but a winged, neon supercar is hardly subtle at best times, and the extra sound over the more staid 570S is definitely one of the more effective tweaks.
Likewise, the Handling options are Normal, Sport or Track. As with previous McLarens, you can set these regardless of the setting you selected for the powertrain. Honestly, I couldn't tell much about Arizona's fine surfaces. Even in Track, the ride was never particularly tough and was always well-attended. The car rides slightly lower (-0.3 inches / -8 mm) than the 570S, on stiffer faces (+13 percent) and rear (+34 percent) springs, and its anti-rods (+50 percent ahead, +25 percent behind) are very stiffer. The suspension legs and stands are borrowed from the current Super Series car, the 720S (more that this time next week), which also cuts a good 22.5 kg from the car's uneven mass.
Rising through handling modes reinforces double valve adaptive dampers in each corner, and it also alters the threshold values for engagement with the car's traction and stability controls. However, changing modes does not do anything for steering. McLaren is a little outlier because it still uses electrohydraulic power steering, and the company says it's judged the ratio of 600LT perfect. The car is very weighty, with a lot of feeling and feedback coming in from the front wheels (like the ears, dressed in 600LT-specific Pirelli Trofeo R tires).
We could dive deeper into the 600LT's track management. Located next to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona Motorsports Park offers a great blend of medium and low speeds with the backdrop of the F-35A, which takes off and lands so often. It turned out to be gentle, changing properly and with a little hassle, even when the groove slowed down into a hairpin. I was instructed to use the edges as much as possible to show off the resilience, something more than one of us accidentally tried on a certain cattle rider on the unit there.
Even in Track, 600LT's electronic safety net (called Proactive Chassis Control) has your back. This was evident in my last few rounds when Charlie (the superlative instructor) pointed a button to activate Dynamic mode. Now the car stopped flattering my driving style and revealed how I needed a more progressive gas drip out of the same hairpin. I imagine that my smile would only have gotten bigger with more time getting to know the car in Dynamic on the right track, but the demands on the aircraft only gave me some 20-minute sessions.
The price of all this extra honey over the standard 570S Spider is not insignificant. The 600LT starts at $ 208,000, which sounds like a horrible mass but is actually quite competitive with peers such as the Porsche 911 Turbo S Convertible or Ferrari Portofino. If you want an easy focus on a 600LT Spider, be prepared to cough up at least $ 265,500, and it doesn't take too much enthusiasm on the options list to make the first digit a three. If it still sounds tempting, there is good news: Unlike the 675LT, this hard McLaren is not a limited production run and up to 20 percent of the sports production at Woking can be 600LT models in 2019.