By all accounts, the McLaren 650S is a stunningly capable road car. Fast and powerful when you want, yet comfortable and livable when you need. Like the great McLaren F1 that came before, the 650S fits into your life in a way that few supercars can.
But it isn't the most track-focused supercar out there. Though not lacking in swiftness, it carries a few slight compromises for streetability. The 675LT is what happens when you erase all that and refocus the car exclusively on closed-circuit performance. It's a $350,000, 666-horsepower, hard-edged, weight-reduced, power-boosted, aerodynamically enhanced limited edition that will hurtle you around corners like a rock on a string before throwing you down the straights at terrible speed.
What's it like living with such a machine? I spent a few days with one to find out.
The name 675LT harkens back to the long-tailed version of the McLaren F1, the company's road-going, Le Mans-conquering roadcar of the '90s. Naturally, this new LT does indeed have a longer tail than the 650S upon which it's based. A bigger nose, too, plus massive, carbon-fiber wings front and rear. Despite being noticeably bigger, that new rear wing is lighter, flipping up to provide extra downforce, and extra drag, when you put all your weight on the brake pedal.
Overall the car has shed some 200 pounds over the 650S, while those extra aerodynamic appendages result in a 40 percent increase in downforce, helping to suck the car to the asphalt, magnifying the grip of the meaty Pirelli Trofeo R tires on all four corners.
When it's time to go, an enhanced, twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V-8 churns out 666 horsepower, 16 up over the 650S. It inhales through a pair of massive, carbon ducts just aft of the doors that look poised to suck in small woodland creatures on either side of the road, then exhales through a new, titanium exhaust that has little sense of decorum. I've been in far louder cars than the 675LT, but it is far from quiet on the inside, and certainly easy to hear on the outside.
When it's time to stop, carbon ceramic discs provide prodigious force, backed by an ABS system that's quite happy to make the tires squirm and complain as the car sheds speed. Like the exhaust, the brakes don't really give a damn if your neighbors are still sleeping. Used lightly they will squeal with the sort of note that only race brakes can make.
On the road, around town, the droning exhaust and shrieking brakes quickly try your patience. But, turn up the wick a bit, delve a little deeper into the pedals on both the right and on the left, and all that ceases to matter.
The 675LT begs to be driven hard every day, those brakes making sounds like a whining puppy that's upset because you won't play. Give it the attention it deserves, drive it like you mean it, and the experience is incredibly rewarding. That sound of that lightweight exhaust morphs from slightly crass to a proper wail once the boost and the revs increase. It is a sound that immediately inspires thoughts of GT cars hurtling down the Hangar Straight at Silverstone, or doing their damndest to stay flat up Eau Rouge in Spa. It demands to be driven faster and harder and, should you be lucky enough to have a tunnel on your route, your ears will be treated to the kind of motorsport music that smiles are made of.
The brakes stop complaining when used hard and everything else in the world seems to quiet down, too. Driving either the 650S or 675LT is an unusual experience because the nose is so low that the windscreen seems to terminate at the asphalt. You can see the road immediately in front of the car, like riding a naked motorcycle. This happens to make the 675LT incredibly easy to park nose-in -- at least, as far as supercars go. More importantly, it gives the illusion of flying through the scenery.
It also delivers a genuine sensation of speed even when traveling at modest velocities. After the initial flush wears off, driving your average supercar responsibly is about as exciting as standing in line for an amusement park ride. However here, in the 675LT, that view and the precise feel through the steering make even driving at any speed a compelling experience.
This is all backed up by one of the most advanced, performance-focused electronics systems on the market, a suite of dutiful nannies that will keep you looking like a hero even when you're in way over your head. Successive clicks through the three performance modes seem to make the V-8 progressively more angry. More ready. In track mode, the throttle response sharpens up immensely. Yes, there is some turbo lag to be felt should you be dawdling around on the low end of the power band, but the car more than makes up for it with a prodigious kick in the pants as the revs climb.
Accelerate hard and the rear tires will again start squealing and complaining, traction control system more than happy to let them spin a bit -- just enough to maintain the momentum of the launch. Accelerate hard midcorner, if you dare, and the system again allows the rears to break loose enough to inspire equal amounts of glee and fear before dialing things back. Likewise, charge in too hard before the apex and the stability control will kindly help to pull the nose in where it belongs.
It is a thrilling car to drive, and those systems will ensure that you can appreciate its limits without worrying about leaving any pieces of carbon fiber in the ditch.
On the inside
The interior of the McLaren 675LT is as basic and pared-back as the rest of the car, but the minimalist design and selection of materials make it feel like a very special and dignified place to be. The gull-wing doors open with drama, as all doors should on a car of this price, allowing admittance to a pair of deep, uncompromising bucket seats -- the same seats found in McLaren's ballistic P1 hypercar.
Entry is best done with the seat all the way back or the steering wheel all the way up. Or, ideally, both. Should you fit in the seat, and many individuals will not, you'll be held tight against the prodigious G forces that this car can and will generate, six-point harness the only thing missing.
Around is an expanse of carbon fiber and Alcantara, with touches of aluminum here and there. Pedestrian items like the turn signal stalk and the bulbous air vents are made of the dark metal, which is cool to the touch but warms almost instantly. The cabin is a sensory delight.
Positioned vertically in the center console is a modest-size touchscreen that acts as navigation and infotainment system. It's a bit sluggish, taking 16 seconds to boot after you start the car and a further 10 seconds for the navigation system to initialize. It's competent, but it could use a bit of horsepower injection itself.
Not for everybody
The McLaren 675LT is not a car that will fit into the lives of all -- and that's not just because they're all sold. It's a bit harsh, it's on the loud side and that nose will spend more time scraping bumpy asphalt than a New Hampshire DOT snowplow in the middle of January.
But none of that matters when the net result is this good. The 675LT takes McLaren's race-oriented engineering prowess and brings it to the fore, a series of subtle tweaks that create a streetable track monster that's far more accessible, and far more attainable, than big-brother P1. In a world of overly refined driving experiences, the 675LT is raw and engaging at any speed. Every drive will be a memory, and isn't that what it's really all about in a car like this?