McLaren’s bold period: up close with the McLaren 675 LT at Geneva

Published: 03 March 2015

It’s the numbers that get you. Because at first glance the statistics surrounding the McLaren 657 LT seem grossly exaggerated. It weighs a full 100kg less than the hardly porky 650S it’s evolved from, its body creates 40% more downforce from 90mph and above, the rear spoiler-cum-airbrake is 50% larger (hence the tenuous LT for Longtail label), half the engine components have been altered and a third of parts in the car as a whole are claimed to be entirely different.

But McLaren isn’t the sort of company to get its facts wrong. Mark Vinnels, McLaren Automotive Programme Director, describes the 675 LT as ‘the most focussed McLaren road car yet,’ and it looks the part.

McLaren 657 LT: a meaner-looking McLaren

The show car’s finished in a prima-like battleship grey (a last minute colour-change, we’re told) and it’s quite something to look at up close. The extra width (its 20mm wider than the 650, with extended side skirts in the name of downforce and hungrier side vents in search of cooling), razor-sharp front splitter and serious new exhaust system poking through the rear cooling mesh have given the LT an attitude and menace that’s somehow missing from the 650S. With the Ford RS200/Ferrari F40-style cooling cutouts in the polycarbonate rear screen there’s a hint of homologation special in there too.

It says something for the LT that the nuclear orange 650S Spider that’s also on the show stand is being mostly ignored.

The 675 LT will be limited to a production run of 500 cars, priced around the £260,000 mark.

Where’s all that extra power come from?

The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8’s had its power output upped to a beastly 666bhp (the 675 name comes from the metric horsepower output), a serious enough figure, but the 541bhp-per-tonne power-to-weight ratio is quite something too. Enough to dispatch 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds and 0-124mph in 7.9. An ignition cut function for the transmission – the first time it’s featured in a McLaren road car – means the LT can change gear twice as fast as the 650S.

Aside from a host of internal changes, the exhaust system has played a big part. It’s completely new from the cylinder head to the exhaust pipe, and made from titanium it’s so light you ‘could pick up the entire muffler with your little finger’, according to Vinnels.

He describes the noise that comes from those new exhausts as ‘operatic.’ McLaren’s been hard at work on the sound, and claims to be leading the way on making turbocharged engines sound as thrilling as possible. Fighting talk given the freshly ’charged Ferrari 488 GTB is but a few stands away.

Where’s all that weight saving come from?

Vinnels told CAR the 100kg saving was the target from the outset; how that would be achieved wasn’t specified. As a result, there have been fractional gains everywhere – ‘squeezing the last drops from a sponge’ as head designer Robert Melville puts it. The wheels have lost 800g each, and now weigh less than the rims on the P1. Vinnels says they’re about as sturcuturally effective as a 10-spoke wheel can be.  

The windscreen’s thinner (down to just 4mm), suspension components are lighter, there’s now a huge amount of carbonfibre content in the bodywork, 3kg have been lost from the electrical system alone, and the interior’s lost various bits of trim.

McLaren’s at pains to describe it as a car that’s lightweight rather than stripped out, though – there’s still Bluetooth, sat-nav, DAB radio and the like, and Vinnels promises its ‘relatively easy to live with’

Anything else I should know about the 675 LT?

It’s easier to switch the traction control system off than the safe-cracking combination of the original 12C, and the car also features a ‘burnout launch mode.’ Vinnels tells us that if you launch it with the steering turned to 90 degrees it’ll pirouette exactly around the badge on the nose. And they say McLaren’s a company without a sense of humour…

 ‘I hate it when people said our cars are scientific and aren’t about emotion,’ he told us. ‘We don’t want the 675 LT to be a caricature, but we want it to get an emotional response.’

We should expect more Macs with the ‘LT’ badge in the future; it’s been hinted this won’t be the last McLaren to carry those two letters, which in the future will be the label for the most serious variants in McLaren’s range. They didn’t take the decision to use the Longtail name lightly; there was plenty of internal debate.

Together with the P1 GTR – which looks genuinely stunning in the green and yellow livery cribbed from one of McLaren’s 1995 Le Mans cars – the LT sees McLaren in bolshy mood. Perhaps ‘clinical’ and ‘unemotional’ won’t be words applied to McLaren road cars quite so much from now on.

Read more about the McLaren 675LT here.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer