It takes just one little movement of the steering wheel to realise this car has changed massively compared to the one I was driving about 10 minutes ago. Then it’s probably about two corners to suss-out that it’s a completely different car. A full lap to understand exactly what’s been created here.
The two cars I’m talking about are the new McLaren 600LT, and the 570S in which I was doing sighting laps of the Hungaroring earlier today. The starting point for the 600LT may be the 570S, so you might assume these two are quite similar.
The LT has the same carbonfibre ‘Monocell II’ tub. The suspension setup is double wishbone front and rear on both cars. Each has the same 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 mounted in the middle. With the bodywork all either shared with or derived from the 570S, the 600LT looks awfully similar too, despite all the new fancy carbonfibre aero bits it’s sprouted. But it’s pointless viewing the LT as anything more than a distant relative.
Yes, the family connection is clear, and not just because the cabin - which no longer has a glovebox or door pockets, because weight reduction - looks similar to the 570’s. But the 600LT is hardly anything like it to drive. It’s not like comparing Luke Hemsworth to Chris Hemsworth. No, it’s like comparing Luke Hemsworth to Thor, God of Thunder before the latter lost his hammer and had his hair cut.
Even on a super-smooth, FIA-friendly race track, the increase in suspension firmness is immediately obvious. The 570S - always intended as a more road-biased beast - has a tendency to roll and then understeer when pushed on track, but the 600LT’s carbon-clad body barely budges. And that front end will always bite, and bite hard - the turn-in sharpness here is other-worldly.
Traction at the rear is immense, too (the standard-fit Pirelli Trofeo Rs play a massive part in this), but as I find out at the sweeping Turn 4 left-hander, you need to be paying attention when the back does go. Carrying too much speed, I find myself having a sizeable sideways moment on the rumble strip, necessitating a very quick application of opposite lock to avoid becoming more acquainted with this track’s surprising lack of run-off. The LT does not suffer fools even with the ESP partially on, and that’s exactly how it should be.
Woking’s dogmatic approach to steering hasn’t changed - the company is still adamant electric power steering does not give the level of feedback it’s after. A hydraulic setup can still be found in every McLaren including this 600LT, with Sports Series product manager Tom Taylor telling me that efficiency savings are sought out in other areas. Hydraulic power doesn’t automatically make for good steering, but good Lord, it’s good in this car. Fast. Linear. Predictable. Laden with glorious feedback. It’s the sweet, sweet icing on an already delicious cake.
McLaren has managed to make this angry slice of excellence possible partly by pinching bits off other cars. The optional lightweight seats that weigh just 2kg apiece? They’re from the Senna. The huge 390mm front/380mm rear carbon ceramic brakes? You’ll find the same parts on the 720S, and the servo is from the Senna. Then there are the suspension’s double wishbones, which are also nicked from the 720S.
Switching various bits and pieces to carbonfibre - including much of the rear including that huge new diffuser - has saved 7.2kg. 10.2kg has been shaved off the suspension components, and a further 4kg has been lopped off the brakes. A massive 12.6kg has been saved by switching to the shortened top-exit exhaust, and even if you don’t opt for those ‘Super-Lightweight’ Senna seats, the 600LT’s standard chairs are still 21kg less bulky than what you park your bum in aboard a 570S.
I could keep going all day, but the important thing to note is all this reduces the weight by around 100kg, giving a dry figure of only 1247kg. That’s 33kg less than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, a car that the LT feels like a dynamic match for. And praise doesn’t really get any higher than that.
As for the engine, the Sports Series’ V8 is used as a starting point. It has a new engine management system working together with the lighter exhaust - which also gives less back pressure - bringing the total power to 592bhp. The full output is delivered at 7500rpm, while 457lb ft of torque - an increase of 14lb ft - is felt from 5500-6500rpm.
I’ve avoided talking about the noise until now as I’m finding it hard to work out exactly how I feel about it. There’s certainly a lot to like, at least. As I slot back into the LT for my second and final session, track mode is engaged and there’s a fantastic ‘WOB-WOB-WOB-WOB-WOB’ emanating from behind my ears as that perilously close stainless exhaust threatens to explode the thinner rear windscreen.
Foot flat to the floor on pit exit, and there’s an undeniably furious burst of noise smashing through the cabin. There’s a reason I’ve been given a helmet with a radio - I seriously doubt the pro driver sat to my right would be able to communicate without yelling. You certainly can’t fault the power delivery - McLaren has smoothed this out to remove the base engine’s boosty mid-range. The result is a V8 with such a linear attitude, you’d swear it’s naturally-aspirated. An 8000rpm redline certainly helps there.
The problem is that sound just isn’t that memorable a part of the driving experience. For all its volume and the almost brutal upshifts and downshifts of the tremendously effective seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that’s hooked up to it, this eight-banger isn’t something you’ll talk about in the same excited breath as the sublime chassis. Perhaps we’re just overexposed to this particular V8, so prolific is its use in McLaren products. The noise it makes is pleasing rather than mesmeric, and it doesn’t feel quite as quick as I thought it might, although driving on a big F1 track and not touching the road once is going to do that to you.
It is fast, though, something confirmed by the slightly ridiculous figures. With a 0-62mph time of 2.9 seconds and 0-124mph done and dusted in 8.2 seconds the 600LT is comfortably faster than the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and the Lamborghini Huracan Performante. But as far as noise and theatre go, the powertrains of each VW Group car trump the LT’s. The Lambo made CT video editor Alex cry, for God’s sake.
This steroid-injected Sports Series car is also not cheap: the starting price is £185,500, and I’d put money on almost all of them going for comfortably over £200,000 after options. A 911 GT3 RS - assuming you can get hold of one, is £141,346. That being said, the Lambo is £207,925 before you start ticking boxes.
"There's a delicious brutality to the 600LT that's easy to get lost in"
Is the LT worth it, though? Hell yes. If you’re not careful, you could spend all day just drinking in the details. Like the unbelievably long diffuser strakes, partly made possible by the relocated exhaust. The winglets of the lengthened front splitter. All the beautiful carbonfibre work. There’s a delicious brutality to the whole thing and that’s easy to get lost in. You just need to make sure you snap out of it and go for a drive.
Would the 600 be better with more character from the engine? Most definitely. But as an oh-so satisfying precision tool for eating up racing circuits, the LT is fabulous. This is McLaren at the height of its powers, and the results are astonishing.