McLarens 675LT (Long Tail), a homage to the McLaren F1 Longtail, was made to fill the gap between the very good 650 and the ludicrously expensive P1. You can basically say that the 675LT is the "mini-P1". When I heard that my expectations rose quite dramatically. Would this car be more special than the other McLarens? Would it bring driver involvement and emotions into the pot that have been missing earlier? To get the answer, I drove the 675LT for two whole days.
The 650 is a great car, it's insanely fast, practical and good in almost every possible way. The problem is that it's missing something, that thing that makes you love it, the thing that makes you want to drive it just for the sake of driving. I wanted to love the 650 but I just couldn't.
To make the 675 the McLaren boffins took the 650 took it apart and threw 33% of it away. To put the new car together, a lot of parts was taken from the left-over bin of the P1. The engine itself shares only 50% components from the 650. They also fully embraced the philosophy that you should add lightness to make the cars faster. The windows are 1mm thinner than usual and that saves almost 4kg. The rear windows are 0.5mm thinner and that saves 500grams. This shows the obsession that is this car. After shaving here, making stuff thinner there and taking stuff away completely here, the scales showed 100kgs less than the 650. They did alter that philosophy and added power as well. It now produces 675hp. Which is an awful lot in a car that weighs less than a Golf. Then they added a 50% larger air brake in the back so it could be called a "long tail".
The car in front of me was papaya orange, the only color that should be available for McLarens, with a lot of carbon bits on it. Matte carbon fiber splitter, gills and diffuser are the first thing you notice on a walk around it. The whole body is carbon fiber to keep the weight down and price up. To enter the car, you open the slightly embarrassing but exceedingly awesome dihedral doors by pushing a small button on the underside and they effortlessly flow upwards. To get in and out of the car is an art and should be practiced several times before you do it on video.
Everything is naked carbon fiber or alcantara. It gives a solid and a very premium feel. It seems like the interior was built for and around the driver. When you close the door, it feels like you close the canopy in your Jet Fighter just before take-off. All the knobs and buttons are pointed at the driver and there are knobs on the driver door, enhancing the Jet fighter-feeling even more. The handles and switches are beautifully sculpted and everything seems well put together. The steering wheel is perfectly made for hard driving; you can't drive without your hands automatically moving to the correct position. The paddles are a beautiful blend of style and function. A bit longer than other McLarens makes them much better for someone like me. I have quite small hands. They also have a solid "clicky" feel to them.
The dials are a mix of digital and analogue, with a big rev-counter in the middle, and the digital speedometer is positioned out of the way a bit to the right where it does not annoy you. To the right, you have temperature gauges on a screen, as well as it shows what setting the cars mood is. Which we will come to later.
To the left there is a computer interface where you have odometer and other useful information you don’t really need when you really use the car. I really like when the panel are stretched out, like the reflex sight on a Fighter plane. It's all in the details.
The start procedures are quite easy if you have driven any modern car with keyless start, depress the brake pedal and push the start button on the console. The engine rumbles to life in true V8 fashion and gives a nice feel in the chest when you stand outside. The 675LT is equipped with McLarens flappy-paddle double clutch seamless 7-speed gearbox which has, like most cars nowadays, one sequential mode and one automatic. The default setting when you set off is the automatic mode.
The first seconds you drive the 675 it actually feels like a normal car, except for the small but still roomy, cozy cockpit and the low ride height. As a happy enthusiast and not a racing driver, I think the steering in the 675 is as immediate as in the 458.The nose goes where you want it to go, no questions asked. It’s a baffling feeling that is really hard to explain. Steering is light at low speeds, but there is still feel to it. It gets heavier the faster you go. The throttle pedal is just heavy enough and the brake pedal has a surprising amount of feel to it as well. First thing me and my tame racing driver I had with me noticed was an extraordinarily bad turning radius. It's almost funny that to make a U-turn on a normal road you need to do a 100-point turn. It was a bit of a WTF moment.
Between the passenger and driver, there is a console.
The console consists of two twistable knobs labeled; “P” and “H” There is also buttons on the nobs; saying “Aero” and “Manual” The “Manual” button is straightforward enough, it changes from automatic to manual gearbox or vice versa. The “Aero” lifts the airbrake a bit so it becomes a small wing. The problem with that is you can’t see what’s behind you. Not that you need to in a car like this.
On the knobs, “P” is for “Power” and here you can set the ferocity of the engine and its components. On “N” which is for “Normal” the engine is nice and hums like a cat, no dramatic noises and the gearbox shifts seamlessly and effortless. On this mode, you can really use the car as a long-range tourer. The road noise sure is hard to filter out, but in this mode the engine is extremely undramatic If you change to “S” which is “Sport” the engine character changes at an instant. Throttle response is enhanced, shifting is more ferocious and you hear when the engine sharpens up a bit and breathes more freely. In this mode, the ignition will cut when you shift gears. This makes the car emit an intoxicating bang when shifting up. When you change to mode “T” which is “Track” the engine noise changes to a monstrous, deep, rumble that you really feel to your bones. Now the engine really feels alive. Shifting times are sharpened even more. The car now shifts gears in around 40 milliseconds, which is immeasurably quick.
On the other knob, “H” for “Handling” you can set up the suspension and traction control. If you choose the “Normal” mode the car is smooth and absorbs surprising amounts of bumps on the road. If you use the car in the “Normal” setting anyway. The traction control also is as its most safe setting, helping you survive when you foolishly put down your foot a bit too much at the lights. When you change to “Sport” the ride gets harder at an instant, you can feel more of the road. The traction lets you drive more like a lunatic, but still watches over you. However, when “Race” is set, it turns to a completely different animal. You can almost feel the color of the lines on the road. There is so much feedback to the driver that you are almost emotionally overwhelmed. The traction control in this mode is on a freer setting. It will let you exit the corners with a slip-angle, but it will not let you kill yourself. This is how a traction control should behave. It should interfere when you want it to. Where it saves you, not hinder you. (I’m looking at you, Ferrari 599).
The power plant is a 3,8 liter Twin-Turbo V8 that produces ~675HP and 700NM of torque. It has a titanium exhaust system to add more lightness and electrical instead of pneumatic turbos to keep the turbo lag to a minimum. This engine in a car that weighs 1250kg, makes the 675LT like nothing I have ever driven. The bonnet of the car is actually locked. You need to have a special tool to open. This is because McLaren does not want you to go fiddling with their baby with your inexperienced fingers. I would never trust myself anyway.
When you drive it normally on the road, it’s as undramatic as my Golf R32. Except the road noise, the bucket seats, the 4-point harness and ride height. You can cruise around the roads like any other car. However, when you put the knobs in track, something completely different emerges. When you push down the accelerator pedal, you will hear a low whine when the turbos start to inhale more oxygen to feed the hungry cylinders. If you quickly release the pedal again, it almost sounds like the car gives away a deep “sigh”, disappointed that you did not let it stretch its legs.
Out on the highway we tried to give it a bit of a stretch. I have always thought that the Tesla P90D is a seriously quick car. In the 675, you have about the same power but you have a cool 1000KGs less to carry around. The effect of that is profound. When you give the 675 all the throttle it wants, it takes a fraction of a second for the turbos to spool up and the sensation that comes next is absolutely insane. I have never sat in a car that goes past 200km/h like this one does. It just never quits pushing. At 140km/h the rear wing comes up automatically to help you stay on the road, the problem is that you can’t see what’s behind you but at that moment I did not really care. As I slowed down, I was in shock. How could a car be this quick? After a couple of kilometers, me and my tame racing driver I had with me found a quiet road to try out the launch control. You push the button called “launch” on the console. Then the text “awaiting throttle” pops up on the screen. Left foot on the brake, right foot plants the accelerator pedal on the floor and the letter change to “building boost”. When the revs reach about 3000rpm, the car started to sputter, crackle and spit flames. The letters finally change to “boost ready”. Me and my co-driver looked at each other and giggled. Then I released the brake pedal. Let me give you some numbers.
0-100km/h in 2,9 seconds. 0-200km/h in 7,9 seconds.
In a road legal car, that is just unreasonable. You feel it. Quite violently. As you release the brake pedal the car slams the clutch and it catapults forward, the computer helps the car accelerate as fast as the physics allows. After a time that was way too short, the speed was insane. The way this car gains speed is biblical in every way. It feels effortless.
After that whiplash-event, we slowed down and waited for our intestines to go back to their original position and then took the next exit and took a smaller road so I could show the car some corners.
What followed next was mesmerizing. I drove cautiously at first on the normal mode. I was ok, a bit slow on the responses but it was ok. Then I switched it to “track”. It became a different animal altogether. It responds to all my inputs, it goes exactly where I want to go and exactly as fast as I want it to go. It was emotionally overwhelming to drive it on a road like this. It feels alive, it feels… Perfect. It maybe sounds weird, but I got a lump in my throat and my eyes started to water. It was you and the car, it feels like and extension of yourself. You feel the grip, you feel the tires, you feel the torque, it makes you laugh, it talks to you, it wants to be driven, it shows emotion, it has passion.
It has a personality, it has a soul.
After that small road I drove it to a car park. I got out, and sat down next to the car. Amazed of what I just experienced. At that moment, I did not care about the insane performance numbers, I did not care about the price or all the technology and computer power it possesses. All I cared for was the feeling of automotive perfection. There is only one other car that I have fallen for and that’s the GT3 RS 4.0. This is what a sports car should feel like. I never thought I would feel like this about a modern sports car, but I do. I’m sorry but I don’t really know what more to say. Just imagine if it had a really crisp manual. I would probalby cry.
I truly think that this is one of the greatest cars ever made. This car has what have been missing from McLarens after the F1. The soul.
I love it. McLaren is back.