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First drive: McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.

First drive: McLaren 600LT Spider
Surely the new Spider version of the McLaren 600LT can't live up to the coupe's ability?

 



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McLaren 600LT Spider

5 5 5 5 5

There aren't very many high-end sports cars tasked with being both an engaging driver's car and one in which the roof can be retracted. We're not saying that the new McLaren 600LT Spider has no direct and as accomplished rivals, but get behind the wheel of this car for any length of time and you're not likely to want to bother looking elsewhere for your open-topped driving thrills.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: McLaren 600LT Spider
Pricing: 201,500
Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-seat roadster
CO2 emissions: 276g/km (VED Band 151-170: 515 in year one, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 23.2mpg
Top speed: 201mph ('just' 196mph with roof down)
0-62mph: 2.9 seconds
Power: 600hp at 7,500rpm
Torque: 620Nm at 5,500-6,500rpm

What's this?

The seventh ever McLaren Spider. That's what the British sports car manufacturer calls its open-topped cars. Saying all that, and while the opening roof is our excuse for this test drive and article, the 600LT part of the new car's name is perhaps of more importance, as here's a second chance for McLaren buyers to get their hands on one of the most engaging cars it has ever made.

So, a refresher course on what the 600LT is all about is in order. It's part of the McLaren Sports Series and, as the 600LT coupe starts life as the 570S, the 600LT Spider is based on the 570S Spider. LT stands for Longtail, which means it has to live up to is predecessors' focus on aerodynamics (up to 100kg of downforce is produced), weight reduction, driver engagement and increased power. On the latter score, the 600LT uses a 600hp development of the familiar 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8, also producing up to 620Nm of torque. McLaren has managed to trim as much as 100kg from the weight of the 570S Spider (that depends on how you specify it, of course), meaning the 600LT Spider is about 48kg heavier than its hard-topped sibling.

Even so, its straight-line acceleration figures are nigh-on identical, including an incredible 0-62mph time of just 2.9 seconds. And, if you have the roof in place, it'll top 201mph. That roof is a three-piece hardtop that can fold or unfold at speeds of up to 25mph. What's more, the glass panel behind the seats can be raised and lowered independently, acting as a windbreak or allowing the sounds of the V8 behind unhindered access to your ears.

As you can see from the pictures, the 600LT Spider retains the characteristic deck-mounted exhaust outlets of the coupe, reason enough to buy this car, we reckon. You'll need to get your order in quickly, however, as there will be limited build slots in McLaren's manufacturing schedule for its 12-month production run. Prices start at 201,500, though I'll eat my keyboard if any buyer can resist the long list of optional extras and manage to keep the price anywhere near that...

How does it drive?

The 600LT is not designed to be a car the average person would consider using for commuting. Sure, it's road legal and it has some luggage space and, when the roof is up, it's not very different to the coupe inside, but the firmness of the suspension and the blaring of the exhausts make themselves felt within a few hundred metres. A longer cruise sticking to the speed limit is also an exercise in excruciating self-control. And yet, when the road is interesting, you don't need to be doing licence-losing speeds to enjoy this car. The opening roof and rear window of the Spider come into their own in that regard, making it feel like you're driving faster than you are, heightening the sensations and adding to the experience. We expect that most buyers of the Spider are unlikely to spend as much time on a race track with their 600LT as the coupe owners, so this is all good news.

And yet, it turns out that, as lap times alone are not what the 600LT formula is all about, it's effectively just as good on track as the coupe is. The mood is set by the wonderful feedback from the electrohydraulic steering; it's ultra-direct and free from slop, and you can feel the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R (standard fit, though buyers can opt for less dry-track-focused alternatives) tyres at work. The front end is utterly faithful to your inputs and chosen line, though it will eventually run wide if you're an idiot with your corner entry speed. Backing off sends weight forward, but the rear is really trustworthy in this scenario, edging out a little, but not enough to scare the bejesus out of you. And it's all so well telegraphed to your hands that you'll have it gathered up before you have time to think about it. This is a highly intuitive car to drive up to and over the edge of adhesion.

You can get the best out of the chassis by trail braking deep into corners and keeping the weight over the nose until the apex, then rocketing out the other side in a blast of noise from that exhaust system just over your shoulder. In the Sport mode, McLaren's Ignition Cut system introduces distinct bangs on each upshift of the seven-speed SSG, which is highly amusing, but the transmission works more effectively - and faster - when in Race mode. Switch the ESC system into the middle setting ('Dynamic') at the same time and you'll have the perfect car to learn a new circuit in, at considerable speed, but also in relative security. The electronics allow a good deal of rear slip on accelerating out of a tight corner, making you feel like a drifting hero, but they should also save you from an expensive/embarrassing off. Same story with the astounding brakes, which allow you leave it startlingly late before pushing the deliciously solid pedal, yet the car is incredibly planted and stable throughout, even when you're not in a perfectly straight line.

If this sounds like the 600LT does all the work for you, I've failed in my writing, as, while it is exceedingly competent and relatively benign, it is also huge fun to push harder and harder with every lap. Only those that care about how long that lap might take need turn up their noses at the Spider variant. The rest of us can rejoice that there will be more examples of the mighty 600LT in existence.

Verdict

Petrolhead purists and McLaren Longtail devotees of the world: relax. The McLaren 600LT Spider deserves its LT badge and, though buyers that frequent track days are likely to stick with the coupe model, the open version is just as accomplished in reality, marrying exceptional performance and cornering ability with driver engagement that's hard to beat.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 20 Feb 2019









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2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.

2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.2019 McLaren 600LT Spider. Image by McLaren.








 

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