McLaren 675LT: Review, part two

For this second instalment on the 675LT indulge a more personal take. Because away from the launch event with its carefully managed track access and manufacturer oversight an extended road drive gives time for proper reflection.

Just the day for 675hp and rear-wheel drive
Just the day for 675hp and rear-wheel drive
If the MP4-12C got off to a hesitant start and the 650S reflected growing confidence gained from the P1 the LT is arguably the moment McLaren's Super Series comes of age. They're very different cars but like the Aventador SV it also suggests perhaps you don't need all that electrical assist gubbins to make a truly heroic 21st century supercar after all... Hurrah for that!

No surprise then that the Longtail proved itself suitably thrilling on track. That's the easy bit, relatively speaking. But leaves some questions hanging. Like can a taste of that intensity survive at civilian speeds on the road? And why the hell did the press cars we drove on track have the optional front axle lift and parking sensors that this one does without?

A wrong turn in the centre of Brecon gives me an agonising opportunity to ponder this last one. Somehow I've ended up having to thread the LT through a gap between two buildings barely wider than the engorged side intakes and wider rear wings. 20mm extra in the rear track? At this moment I'd happily do without, ta. There's not the lock to make the turn before the beautiful new lightweight wheels grind themselves along the kerb, meaning I'll have to do another Austin Powers 50-point turn and back up, distance between bodywork and abrasive stonework gauged by hope and guesswork. Open the door, sit on the sill and attempt to spot my way back with feet contorted on pedals? Risky and rather pretentious. But I'm going to have to get out and move that bin anyway so I may as well open the door.

Stitching reflection not at all annoying...
Stitching reflection not at all annoying...
We make these mistakes...
And if I clear this I've got the van choking the exit to the road and the owners thereof to negotiate. Now, if I'd been in a Ferrari at this point they'd have probably moved the van alright. Just to make the gap a bit narrower. But one of the nice things about being in a McLaren, even a bright green one, is that people seem to rally behind the home team and there's less emotional baggage. Obligingly the van is moved, thumbs are raised, grins are grinned and I'm on my way again. Now, just as long as there aren't any speed bumps ahead... SKERRRFFF. Oh. There are.

Consumer tip number one if you're among the 500 buying an LT and plan to drive it on the road? Phone your dealer now, confess your parking neuroses and option the front axle lift and parking sensors back in. Sure, it'll cost you man points, Β£3,730 and Β£2,730 extra respectively. But it's got to be cheaper than scraping the bodywork. Oh, and if you spec a pale coloured car avoid the temptation for body-coloured contrast stitching. Looks Gucci in the showroom. Reflects on the screen directly in your line of sight on the road. The motorway schlep gives me plenty of opportunity to ponder whether I want to unpick it stitch by stitch. Or just take a black marker pen to the lot.

Those on outside get better soundtrack
Those on outside get better soundtrack
Practical irritations aside is there any point trying to assess a car this potent on the public road? After a Friday night commute and weekend of giving passenger rides to friends, family and neighbours I've got some quality time in the LT to find out. I've got an appointment at Llandow, the length of Wales to navigate and the whole morning to do it. Scenic route it is then. you don't have to
Trundling along the M62 the increased NVH over the 650S is obvious enough, tyre roar wearing after a while, the more rigidly mounted engine buzzing through the Monocell carbon fibre tub and the wheel tugging this way and that through the truck grooves. The fiercer springing is evident too but leaving the Active button untouched and the gearbox in auto reveals the LT can mooch as well as it can monster.

Where else to fill up a McLaren Longtail?
Where else to fill up a McLaren Longtail?
That engine - sufficiently different from the standard unit to gain an 'L' suffix to its M838T internal code - still doesn't sound that special though. The flat-plane blare is suitably industrial and purposeful but can't prick the neck hairs like normally aspirated equivalents, even with the Intake Sound Generator. It fights back with sheer punch though, the lag not evident on track more obvious on the road in higher gears but actually rather exciting as it swells, builds and then erupts. A couple of clicks on the downward side of the gear rocker puts you right in the sweet spot for instant response. But sometimes it's more fun to have that momentary sense of anticipation before things all go a bit blurry.

By the time I peel off the M56 and into the B-roads around Llangollen I've had plenty of time to appreciate the minimalism and style of the McLaren interior. It's miles cooler than the Ferrari 488 GTB and the materials feel of higher quality too. Iris seems much improved over early installations and has nice clean graphics, a straightforward interface and clear mapping. Shame about the late calls on the junctions and my unseemly Basil Fawlty-esque ranting when I fail to find the shortcut to cancel an unwanted route.

And it can do tip runs too - result!
And it can do tip runs too - result!
Each to their own and all that but I love the fact the wheel is round, slim rimmed and entirely free of switches, buttons and other unwanted embellishment. It's for steering and shifting gears and symbolic of the LT's focus on the important stuff.

Sticks like...
The feel is up there with the best too. There's not the over-assisted hyperactivity of the 458 and 488 or the gluey feel of the variable rack systems used by Lamborghini. Indeed the weight at lower speeds might be a bit of a shock for many in this day and age. But the pay-off is superb feedback and trust in the front end. Subjectively I'd say the weight under way is similar to that of an unassisted Lotus steering wheel, the sense of agility and focus much the same.

Product development boss (and, guess what, former Lotus man) Mark Vinnels says they worked hard on steering feel, admitting that "everything is working against you in terms of power, tyre width." A benchmarking exercise against undisclosed 'old' cars sounds like it paid dividends. This shows in the brakes too; in a previous conversation Chris Goodwin said his aim for pedal feel is to replicate that of his M1B Can Am car and even on standard ceramics they seem to have nailed exactly that.

Exploitable and fun on the road shocker!
Exploitable and fun on the road shocker!
On the track McLaren's stubborn refusal to follow the crowd and fit either a passive mechanical locking diff or an active electronically controlled one does mean a less playful feel than equivalent Ferraris with their F1 Trac diffs and Side Slip Control. They'll still argue Brake Steer is faster and more effective but if it's less fun on the track you feel the benefit on the road and as the rain lashes down through central Wales the feedback is such you can feel the system smoothly distributing the drive torque side to side. Even when you let rip on Trofeo tyres on a wet surface there's a softness to the edges of the power delivery that gives you confidence it won't snap unexpectedly.

Rapid doesn't do justice to these snatched moments of acceleration when conditions permit. This thing is so, so fast. Normal chassis and Sport powertrain are the preferred settings for road use, the former giving enough compliance for all but the choppiest tarmac and the latter the most assertive shifts thanks to the Ignition Cut. It's faster with Inertia Push in Track mode but more aloof with it. And when it bangs and pops it feels like it was because you've been working for it, not just because the ECU mapped it in. Even if it probably did.

Yes please, we'll have one...
Yes please, we'll have one...
Shock result
On the public road sightlines, a sense of social responsibility and (inevitably) speed limits play a bigger part in how much of this performance you can actually use. But where the likes of the 488GTB and Huracan can leave you feeling a little unfulfilled unless you're pushing the boundaries of all of the above a most surprising thing happens in the LT.

Ever driven a supercar at a fast road pace, taken your eyes off the speedo for a second and felt that 'oh no, not again...' sense of dread when you see the numbers flash up? They're just as surprising in the LT. But for how low they are.

Yes, the 675LT really is fun to drive (relatively) slowly. And that, above all else, is the real revelation. Even at speeds the car's potential suggest should feel pedestrian there's so much detail in the feedback you still feel part of the fun. Lotus comparisons again. In terms of B-road feedback and sheer sense of exuberance there's a real Elise-like effervescence to the LT through the corners, combined with expletive inducing acceleration between them. Which is just as addictive as it sounds.

Best supercar on sale? Could well be...
Best supercar on sale? Could well be...
So you'd think a Spider version would be the same but more so and possibly even more exciting, right? Not in the product plan we're told, solemnly. We're not working on such a car. Then a pause. There is a lot of demand though, they say. A hell of a lot of demand.

Gutted you didn't bag yourself one of the 500 coupes? There might yet be another chance to bag a taste of the Longtail magic... Doorstep your McLaren dealer and don't give up until he puts the call in. It'll be worth it.

Little snippet of vid...

3,799cc V8 twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (SSG), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 675@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@5,500-6,500rpm
0-62mph: 2.9sec
Top speed: 205mph
Weight: 1,230kg (dry; 1,328kg DIN without driver)
MPG: 24.2mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 275g/km
Price: Β£259,500 (Β£280,770 as tested, comprising Napier Green 'special paint' Β£0; 'carbon exterior trim package' Β£7,890; carbon fibre roof Β£7,500; 'stealth' badges in carbon fibre Β£0; 'stealth' wheel finish Β£1,170; carbon fibre wheel arch liner Β£2,330 and 'visual carbon fibre' door mirror casings Β£2,330)

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[Source: McLaren]

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Comments (77) Join the discussion on the forum

  • JHBlyth 02 Aug 2015

    I can't imagine how fast that thing is. It must be as quick on road as a P1?

  • sege 02 Aug 2015

    Concentrating on delivering feedback to the driver results in a more satisfying car on the road? Who would've thought it! Well done McLaren.
    Looks great, goes like bonkers stink, drives great...sounds like they might have built a bit of a modern classic.

  • Blackbird425 02 Aug 2015

    A lovely thing but I think the exhausts spoil the rear view, and how long before Mclaren replaces this one?

  • Piers_K 02 Aug 2015

    So 'benchmarked against' and favourable comparisons with Lotus on steering feel, how does the switch gear compare with a Porsche winksmile

  • Krikkit 02 Aug 2015

    I thought this car was ridiculous compared to the 650S, but ever review I've read it seems like they really took a huge step forward in making it fun and rewarding at sensible speeds... Shame they're only making 500!

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