I normally dress in pretty neutral colors; a lot of blacks, grays and whites - very dull as some might say. But one of my all-time favorite shirts is a pale blue, almost periwinkle-colored, t-shirt with a large picture of the infamous Shiba Inu internet meme, “Doge,” on the front. Below the picture of Doge is text that simply reads “WOW” - fans and followers of the Doge meme will understand. I was wearing that shirt just the other day. I also thrashed a McLaren 675LT on miles upon miles of windy, two-lane highways through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that day. My shirt summed up my thoughts on the car: WOW.
To car people, very few things are as enjoyable as tearing up some twisty backroads through canyons and forests in a supercar with your buddy on a sunny Sunday afternoon - especially when said supercar is the McLaren 675LT. The 675LT (“LT” being short for long tail) is McLaren’s weapon of choice against other hardcore, driver-oriented cars on the market such as the Ferrari 458 Speciale and the Porsche GT3RS. It’s a lightweight, track-focused animal with the ferocity of an angered Honey Badger and looks that could kill, yet it still maintains a ride quality that makes even the most supple of Bentleys feel like a wooden horse-drawn carriage.
Upon climbing into the McLaren 675LT, the differences and improvements over its predecessor, the 650S, begin to show themselves. The driving position of the 675LT is truly perfect. The seats, which are the same carbon fiber shells as found in McLaren’s hypercar, the P1, hold the driver perfectly in place while offering superb support and comfort. The seat backs, although in a fixed position, are raked absolutely perfectly. The alacantara steering wheel and large carbon fiber shift paddles are straight from the P1 and have great feel. For a supercar, the 675LT has fantastic visibility in all directions and the view out of the windshield is very broad. With a press of the start button, the engine barks to life with a sense of urgency and eagerness. The exhaust note of the LT is a tremendous step up from the 650S. It has a much more raw and throaty note than previous McLarens and the note transforms into a very Ferrari-like howl as it gets closer to redline.
Under regular driving conditions, the powertrain settings in Normal Mode and transmission set to Normal Mode and automatic allow the 675LT to be as docile and friendly as your everyday economy vehicle. Most of my drive, however was spent in Active Mode, which sets the transmission to manual by default, with the powertrain and transmission both in Sport Mode. Sport Mode allows the suspension to be a tad stiffer, but still amazingly compliant, and the gear shifts to be a touch quicker along with some added steering weight. The steering feel in the 675LT is one of the best power-assisted racks I’ve ever experienced. Most modern-day supercars have very light, hyperactive steering to allow for better agility and nimbleness. However, these ultra responsive systems often lack any amount of feedback from the road which makes driving these cars feel sort of like…a simulation or a video game; they feel too synthesized. The steering in the McLaren 675LT has this sort of progressiveness to it which adapts to the driver’s inputs through the wheel depending on how abruptly or gently the driver turns the wheel. This allows the driver to corner with the hairline precision and makes hitting every apex seem like child’s play. Along with its sensational steering, the McLaren 675LT has tremendous front-axle grip which makes for neck-snappingly quick turn-ins. Rear-wheel grip is also improved thanks to increased downforce and McLaren’s brake-steer technology which results in ludicrously fast and precise corner exits.
McLaren has not only focused on making the 675LT produce blistering lap times, but also making it the most fun and playful car McLaren has offered since the 12C. While the P1 takes the cake for being the most advanced and fastest car of McLaren’s lineup, the 675LT is undoubtedly a more enjoyable car to drive. This is because McLaren has made it so easy to use more of the car’s power in everyday situations thanks to its remarkable grip and otherworldly traction and stability control systems which seem to break the laws of physics with every corner.
First seen in the P1, the 675LT has a stability control mode called “ESC Dynamic” which acts like Ferrari’s “E-Differential.” In layman’s terms, when the stability control is set to “ESC Dynamic,” you can make the McLaren 675LT transform from a grippy, corner-hugging monster to a tire-shredding, sideways-skidding hoonmobile that will give you a taste of what it’s like to be Chris Harris on every corner without letting you crash. It really is like training wheels for anyone looking to learn how to drift a half-million-dollar car. You can also turn the ESC (electronic stability control) off which will completely eliminate any interference from the traction or stability controls; we will get to that in a bit. So, because the “ESC Dynamic” setting allows for such a great amount of slip angle before interfering, what is it like to go sideways through a corner on a canyon road at 90mph while lighting up the rear tires as smoke fills the view in your side mirrors during corner exit in a 666 horsepower supercar? Let me explain.
After driving the McLaren 675LT in a well-behaved manor for several miles, (“I’ll behave and drive maturely” are always the famous last words.) I became very comfortable with the car and really got into a groove with it; maintaining a steady momentum through a tight and twisty ribbon of a road outside of Grass Valley, California. The powertrain and transmission settings were in Sport Mode with Active Mode enabled so gear could be changed manually. I also had the ESC in dynamic mode, because, why not? Corners became an addiction to me and I greeted each upcoming curve with even greater anticipation than the one before. The process of taking each turn became a fluid procedure that felt like the most natural and exciting series of events and it all went something like this:
Brake moderately into the corner while flicking the left shift paddle to downshift as the exhaust popped and cracked like Zorro’s whip with every gear change. The exhaust crackle, the robust engine note, and a suggestive growl that accompanied every downshift all combined to produce a spine-tingling sound that echoed off the canyon walls. Turn in when the apex is located and let the LT’s gorgeous rear end rotate around you, managing the slide and angle with your throttle and steering inputs. The 675LT will get just sideways enough for the thought, “I lost it,” to cross your mind when it miraculously finds just the right amount of grip to straighten itself out. Bury the long-throw throttle and launch perfectly out of the corner. Lather, rinse and repeat and you’ll find that the 675LT is one of the most capable and mind-bindingly entertaining supercars on the market today.
What is so enjoyable about the LT is that even though the driver aids help you and make you look heroic, they don’t hinder the experience of driving. Not once did I feel like the car was doing all of the work for me; it just felt as if the aids were there to give me that little nudge of assistance just when I needed it, but allowed me to be in control while having the confidence to really play with the car. I think it’s also necessary to add that I never, in my whole time driving the 675LT, wished that it was offered with a three-pedal, fully-manual transmission. I’m not sure my mind would be able to cope with this car if it had a manual transmission; it’s just so intense as it is…and that’s saying a lot.
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to turn the traction and stability control completely off. Admittedly, I kept it in dynamic mode for nearly all of my drive the sake of safety as this car belongs to a friend of mine. However, at one point, I was stopped on a straight section of empty road. I put the transmission and powertrain settings into Track Mode (which really firms up the suspension, I might add) and turned all of the traction and stability control off to try out what McLaren calls, “Spinning Wheel Pull Away - For the driver who wishes to demonstrate maximum drama on pull away.” Or you can call it Burnout Mode - that works, too. Once the wheels are all pointed straight and the car is stopped, simply pin the throttle to the floor and the 675LT’s rear Pirelli Trofeo R tires suddenly become the world’s greatest smoke machines as two jet-black tire marks are left boldly scarring the pavement as the LT launches into hyperspace. The tires will keep spinning and the smoke will keep billowing for as long as you desire; all the way through third gear or you crap your pants and let off the throttle - whichever comes first. Just be aware that burnout mode could cause permanent and uncontrollable smiling along with occasional random bits of giddy laughter. And tires…it will cost you in tires.
As a mature driver’s car, the McLaren 675LT is really as good as it gets in today’s animalistic supercar world. It will be as grown up and polite as you command it to be and will impressively conquer every bit of tarmac you put it on, or it will be as childish and as playful as a Shiba Inu, like the one on my shirt. Regardless of your skills or capabilities as a driver, and whether or not you are a boulevard cruiser, a garage-queen collector, or a well-seasoned track day regular, the McLaren 675LT will leave you saying, “WOW.”