It’s not often you say a McLaren lacks precision, feels lardy or doesn’t inspire confidence. However, all those things became apparent when driving the 570S and 600LT back to back.
We were at the Hungaroring to put the latest, and possibly finest ever McLaren to the test. First, we needed a benchmark and having driven and fallen slightly in love with the 570GT a few years back; it was its sportier brothers turn on track, the S.
After a few laps in the 570, it didn’t come across as a track-honed machine. While they are delightful pieces of British engineering an ingenuity on normal roads, it just didn’t make you want to push on. Hitting kerbs felt like abuse; the brakes weren’t as sharp and instant as you’d expect, pedal travel just that bit too far, its suspension was a tad soft, you couldn’t lean on the tyres in the corners with the speed you’d like.
In all honesty, my laps in the 570S were on the cautious, slower side of things.
Now the 600LT is a road legal, track-honed beast. It’s gone on a diet, and if you spec the £5k lightweight seats from the Senna it can be up to 100kg lighter, those seats account for a massive 21 kg of that.
It looks almost identical to a 570S, the large fixed rear wing (weight saving) is the only real tell. You’ll also note those incredible (yet somehow) street legal top exit exhausts, but apart from a smattering of carbon, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.
Yet the whole car is 74mm longer thanks to an extended front splitter and lengthened rear diffuser. It’s not just about length though; this new bodywork has been aerodynamically optimised to produce 100kg of downforce at 155mph. It’s also 8mm lower than a 570S, and the front track is 10mm wider.
Power from the 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 has been bumped by 30BHP making the namesake 600PS or 592 BHP; torque sits at 620 Nm which gives a 0-62 time of 2.9 seconds. Top speed is 204 mph.
Hopping straight into the 600LT I dawdled down the pit lane, checked my mirror, all clear, then planted my foot firmly to the floor.
Acceleration felt markedly quicker, but as soon as I was up to pace, it was hard on the brakes followed by a swift turn in for the first corner. Back on the throttle and a flick of the paddle was met with a bang and a shove from behind.
Feeling like we’d been rear-ended the exhaust cackled and cracked in approval. This was the ‘Inertia Push’ technology which is enabled only in track mode. It uses the momentum of the flywheel to dump torque just as the next gear is selected. It’s violent. But addictive.
No sooner as I hit third gear I’m braking again; this corner is much faster though, just a dab of the anchors is needed. We’re taking this corner far quicker than in the 570, there’s no tyre squeal, and I get on the power again mid-corner. Christ this rubber is grippy.
And so it should be, the 600LT was developed with bespoke Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres. Made especially to handle increased cornering speed, it outpaces the previous 675 Longtail in that department.
Halfway around the lap my co-pilot, pro racing driver Josh Webster says ‘Wow, you’re on it, it’s like you’re a different person’. And that’s how the 600LT makes you feel; it inspires you to put all your faith, confidence and spiritual belief into it from the off.
It just screams race car, most sports cars can be quick on track, but when you start to push them, they get a bit fluffy around the edges, like the 570S. On normal roads you’ll (hopefully) never find that limit, but on track it soon becomes apparent.
As the laps piled on corners became quicker, braking later and kerbs slammed ever harder. Oh, and that’s another thing, hitting kerbs in the 570S just felt like abuse. The poor McLaren would shudder and shake as I rode those small white and red mountains. Do the same again in the 600LT, and it just took it in its stride, it was built to be ploughed into concrete on a regular basis.
Something that’s always been a little on the spongey side with all the McLarens I’ve driven previously was the bite of the brakes. They don’t quite have that instantaneous feel to them as you get in say a Porsche GT3, there’s always a smidgen of vagueness in the initial pedal travel. To remedy that they’ve taken the brake booster out of the Senna, which gives an increased response from the first touch. Not only that, but the feedback is also significantly improved, the more you apply pressure, the more braking you get straight away. Perfect.
McLaren has created an ultimate race weapon at a price point which competes with the track-honed models from Ferrari and Porsche. Those smaller 570S dimensions, increased aero and parts bin borrowing from the Senna have made the 600 genuinely worthy of the Longtail monicker.
Production is limited to just 12 months from October 2018, so get your order in quick.