► Harder, faster, stronger variant of the 650S
► Trains its sights on Ferrari’s 458 Speciale
► A full 100kg lighter than 650S, with more power
Long tail, huh? Doesn’t look like much of a plumage to me?
You’re thinking too literally. To stay competitive in sports car racing, the original F1 road car turned racer had to develop all of its skills. The result was a lighter, harder, more aerodynamically efficient car whose bodywork extended rearwards, hence the name. So although the 675’s bodywork is all new (and all-carbon aft of the B-pillars), and now features a full-width pop-up airbrake, the LT tag on the new car denotes a car that’s stronger all over. Expect to see McLaren roll out the LT badge again for a harder version of its new 570S baby sports car at a later date.
Talk me through the key differences between this and a 650S.
McLaren is at pains to point out that this is far more than a remap and a new spoiler. More than a third of the components are different from those that make up a 650S. Focus on the engine and that grows to one half. It’s essentially the same 3.8-litre V8 but modified to spin faster and rev further. Power is up from 641bhp (650ps) to a devilish 666bhp (675ps) and a new gearshift strategy means only the ignition, and not the fuelling, is cut during cog-swaps in the upper two of the three power modes, halving shift times.
Aero mods include a new front bumper and winglets, along with entirely new rear bodywork that’s grown to give a wider track and cover rear radiators twisted outwards to pull in more cooling for the new engine. All told, downforce is improved by 40 percent. The hydraulic suspension remains, but is massively stiffer, and linked to a quicker steering rack. And McLaren managed to cleave 100kg from the 650’s already far from tubby kerb weight for a 1328kg total. That was a tall order and meant hunting out fat everywhere. The multi-spoke wheels are lighter than the P1's, for instance, and 3kg disappeared from the wiring harness.
So just how hardcore is this new McLaren?
If you’re expecting it to feel raw like the company’s GT3 racer, you’re wide of the mark. Stung by criticism from some quarters that its cars are too useable (read: boring) McLaren desperately wants this one to be seen as a real riot; witness the gratuitous sideways-fest promo video and new ‘burnout’ mode. But this is still a properly driveable car, and that’s a good thing as far as we’re concerned. All of the visibility and much, though far from all, of the 650’s ride comfort remains intact. And though the engine sounds much tougher, you’ll not be crying out for Ibuprofen after five minutes as you would in a 458 Speciale.
Can you really notice that extra power?
Doesn’t sound like much, 25bhp, does it? But in this context, it might as well be four times that. Why? Because the new engine spins so much faster and because when you factor in the mass reduction, the power to weight ratio jumps from 449bhp per tonne to over 500. Ignore the fact that the 2.9sec 62mph time is unchanged from the 650’s, or the top speed has actually fallen by 2mph to 205mph, a corollary of that new bodywork. Plant your foot and when the turbos spool up you get a genuinely terrifying kick in the back that feels like it belongs to cars from the class above. To 100mph (7.9sec), the LT is half a second faster.
Do the same with Track mode engage on that Power dial and you get an additional push when the next gear drives home. What you never get in any modes is the virtually lag-free performance demonstrated by Ferrari’s new turbocharged 488. This is old fashioned turbo stuff: exciting, but not for the impatient.
Does the rest of the car feel much different?
You’ll know you’re not in a 650 within 5m of pulling away. The new steering, quicker even than a P1’s, but never requiring any kind of acclimatisation period like a Ferrari’s does, is standout brilliant. It feels much meatier than its lesser brother’s, and linked to the sticky road-legal, but definitely dry-biased Trofeo tyre (worth 6 percent more grip), it means there’s more feel and far more precision. Body control too is far beyond what a 650 can deliver. This is a great road car, but you really need to get on track to find out what it’s capable of, and to indulge in the new super-lenient ESP modes (mapped differently in Sport and Track).
What’s not to like?
McLaren was surprised how supple the ride turned out and considered stiffening it up further, but there’s no doubt that the LT is far less comfortable on short wave stuff than a 650S. Spotting police failing to keep up in your rear view mirror is tougher too when that massive rear spoiler has risen to its aero setting. And though the bucket seats (available in two width fittings and swappable for ’leccy comfort seats so fatties can enjoy too) and driving position are superb, getting in and out over that high sill is awkward unless you slide the seat rearwards every time.
The 675LT is a brilliant bit of kit. Visually, the new rear bodywork has done wonders for a design still suffering from the inherent dullness of the original 12C, and dynamically, it’s a giant leap over the 650. The engine’s not as charismatic as a 458 Speciale’s – and neither will that car’s successor’s be – but contributes to a car that’s almost as multitalented as the base 650 and even more engaging to drive.
But it’s not cheap. An ordinary 650S costs £195k, but step up to the LT and you’re looking at a £259,500 bill, and that’s before options. Our test 675 with various carbon bits and the telemetry pack was a £290,000 car. And that is a whole heap of cash when the sublime 458 Speciale only cost £208,000 and Porsche’s 911 GT3 is a comparatively Perodua-like £100k. If you’re still agonising, let me put you out of your misery. McLaren is only making 500 675LTs and they’re all spoken for.