It's easy to create shock and awe by simply rattling off the statistics associated with McLaren's latest high-performance machine, the 600LT. It's fast—very fast. It'll do 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds on the way to a 10.4 second quarter mile before reaching its 204-mph top speed. And it's light, boasting a curb weight of under 3,000 pounds when configured just so, a savings of 220 pounds versus the 570S its based on. And my god is it grippy, outfitted with bespoke Pirelli Trofeo R rubber and various aero bits that stretch the overall length of the car by 2.91 inches.
But in the increasingly crowded realm of mind-blowing automotive performance, the numbers are starting to lose their potency. To stand out, a performance car must be more than the figures on a stats sheet. And now that this low-slung coupe has left my driveway and is on to its next adventure, I can say with certainty that the 600LT is more than just a collection of impressive numbers. It is a truly coveted object. I miss it. I long for it.
The truth is, when it comes to a car like this, the numbers never tell the whole story because they miss the intangibles, the qualities that create an emotional bond between car and driver. The character. The look and feel. The things you reflect on later that put a smile on your face. Fact is, sports cars don't get much better than the McLaren 600LT.
The 600LT is the latest entry in the Sport Series of McLaren road cars. First introduced in 2015 with the 570S, the Sport Series represents McLaren's most accessible models, both in terms of usability and pricing, versus the Super Series models like the 720S, and Ultimate Series cars like the P1.
While models like the 570GT sought to add a dose of practicality to mix with better ride quality and more cargo room, the 600LT takes things in the other direction. The "LT" in the model name stands for Long Tail, a designation first given to the hair-raising 675LT as a nod to the original McLaren F1 GTR 'Longtail' race car from the late 1990s. As such, the 600LT sees a primary design focus on track performance, and the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Even at a glance it's obvious that the 600LT's mission differs from its Sports Series brethren. The aesthetic enhancement comes by way of the aforementioned tweaks to the bodywork, a collection of carbon fiber bits and pieces that enhance both the downforce and the curb appeal of the 600LT. The rakish kit gives the car a purposeful, sinister look, highlighted by a fixed rear wing and a diffuser that looks like it was snagged from a McLaren GT4 race car.
The promises made by the bodywork are backed up by the rest of the Long Tail package, too. Spring rates increase 13 percent up front and 34 percent in the rear versus the 570S—even stiffer than the ones used on the 675LT—while anti-roll stiffness is up by 50 percent and 25 percent at the front and rear, respectively. The 600LT's carbon ceramic brakes are borrowed from the 720S, while its brake booster is derived from the one found in the Senna for more consistent performance.
Of course there's more power on tap as well. The mid-mounted 3.8-liter twin turbocharged V8 now churns out 592 horsepower and 457 lb-ft, up 30 hp from the 570S, and it's hooked up to a compact, top-exiting exhaust setup, a system which saves weight and shoots flames from the rear deck of the car on command. It's every bit as cool as you're imagining it is.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
After settling in at the helm, the first surprise is how good the outward visibility is. Mid-engined sports cars have always required a lot of compromise in that regard, especially when it comes to seeing what's behind the car. Yet the rear glass is remarkably usable, even with the fixed wing in the mix, and it makes driving the 600LT in Los Angeles traffic less of a harrowing affair.
The next surprise came from the suspension. With all the added stiffness you'd rightfully expect a no-nonsense performance car like this to deliver insufferable ride quality on pock marked city streets, yet the 600LT feels like it could be daily driven without much fuss. It's no Escalade, but it's also a far cry from the harshness you'll encounter with many of the 600LT's track-tuned rivals. Credit the re-tuned adjustable dampers for this small miracle, and keep the suspension in Normal mode on all but the smoothest pieces of tarmac.
While not quite as seamless and refined as Porsche's PDK or Ferrari's DCT, the 600LT's seven-speed dual clutch handles everyday driving with little protest when left to its own devices. But it was clear that this gearbox yearned for a workout, so I ditched the urban sprawl and headed for the San Gabriel Mountains, familiar stomping grounds that would allow the 600LT to stretch its legs a bit. The increased pace prompted me to dial up the 600LT's suspension stiffness and lock the gearbox in manual, paddle-shifted control, and that required reacclimating to McLaren's slightly wonky control setup.
As with all newer McLarens, the Active button must be set to "On" in order to make any changes to the car's current drive mode settings. Once that's done, the pair of dials above the Active button start running the show, allowing you to change the suspension stiffness, traction control settings, and gearbox behavior on the fly. The Sport damper setting is more than enough for a spirited driver on road surfaces found in the Angeles Forest, though I have no doubt that the Track setting has its place on a fast, nicely paved circuit. Dialing up Track mode on the Powertrain knob puts the transmission at full attention while also changing the gauge cluster's digital display to make it easier to keep tabs on the revs. Even though the 600LT is turbocharged, this mill doesn't tap out until 8000 rpm.
Acceleration, as you might expect from a car with a sub-three-second sprint to 60 and a mid 10-second quarter mile time, is quite brisk. Here the dual clutch is in its element, firing off paddle-shifted gear changes with immediacy and satisfying authority. Though it's a step behind the sheer insanity of the 720S's four-liter, and the bark of the boosted V8 is not quite as sonorous as the naturally aspirated V10 in the Huracan Performante, the sensory overload provided by the 600LT at wide open throttle is nothing short of breathtaking, and it's bolstered by the confidence that the Trofeo R rubber, unyielding brakes, and the communicative, hydraulically-assisted steering provide.
Even with a performance envelope this vast, the 600LT somehow feels completely manageable. The car will ask you to push harder, brake later, and get on the throttle earlier. Acting on those suggestions hints at the deep well of performance still waiting to be exploited, but outside of an extended road course session, there's little hope of ever experiencing the full breadth of what the 600LT has to offer.
McLaren says that production of Coupe and Spider variants of the 600LT will be capped at 20 percent of all Sports Series production. With a starting price of $240,000 and as-tested at $309,310, it's safe to assume that some examples of this single-year model will be squirreled away in garages around the world in hopes of turning a tidy profit on a future collectible.
And that would be a shame. Like all great sports cars, the McLaren 600LT doesn't just beg to be looked at, it begs to be driven. Your last thoughts of the day should be of that engine yowling its way to redline as the view out of the windshield starts to blur, and getting on the brakes for the next corner as the exhaust barks out fire with each downshift.
The 600LT is the stuff dreams are made of, and you really can't put a price on that. I mean, unless you're McLaren.