McLaren 675LT Spider first drive, CAR+ June 2016 | CAR Magazine

McLaren 675LT Spider first drive, CAR+ June 2016

Published: 09 June 2016 Updated: 10 June 2016

► New McLaren 675LT Spider tested
► 500 to be built but all sold already
► Spider is just like the coupe: superb

McLaren didn’t plan to make this car. The 675LT story was supposed to begin and end with last year’s sublime coupe (CAR, October 2015).

But sheer customer demand for an open-air Spider version has added this rather special postscript. And that demand has easily outstripped supply; little more than two weeks after the 675LT Spider was announced, the entire 500-off production run was already sold out. If you don’t ask, etc…

‘LT’, of course, means ‘Longtail’, McLaren’s new label of choice for its most hardcore road models and a tenuous link to the old F1 GTR’s dramatic Le Mans racer evolution of the same name. The 675LT Spider does what it says on the (carbon) tin, exchanging the 675LT coupe’s fixed head for a folding roof mechanism.

It’s ever so slightly heavier and less slippery through the air than the LT coupe, but otherwise it’s exactly the same car, right down to its titanium wheelbolts. That means an exhaustive re-engineering of the 650S the LT’s based on. McLaren claims a third of components have been changed; many of them within the powertrain, with a long list of lighter, low-inertia internals, new turbochargers and an all-new titanium exhaust system.

Power is up, to a wicked 666bhp, and weight is down, by a scarcely believable 100kg. ‘Taking a lot of weight from a car already made as lightweight as possible takes seriously obsessive behaviour,’ says the 675LT’s project manager, Mark Gayton. Worth it? There’s proof of the (sugar-free) pudding in perhaps the LT’s most head-scrambling statistic: 0-124mph in 8.1sec.

Much of the bodywork has shifted shape in search of downforce, from the knife-block nose to the 50% larger airbrake, just about justifying the Longtail moniker and causing a total eclipse of the rear-view mirror when it pops up under heavy braking. With its own set of fussier 20-spoke wheels and colours, including eye-catchingmetallic snot ‘Solis’, the LT Spider doesn’t have quite the same escaped-GT-racer vibe as the coupe, but still, it’s quite a thing to behold. 

Quite a thing to drive, too. Swing the door upwards and Fosbury Flop into the best driving position of any mid-engined car on sale today, the LT’s standard one-piece bucket seats dropping you deeper into the carbon tub (where the lion’s share of the car’s rigidity lies – the Spider’s barely any floppier than the coup).

The new exhaust system sounds zestier, less industrial than a 650S, with a musket-like crack! on upshifts, a by-product of the LT’s race-derived ignition-cut function. The new, faster steering rack (quicker even than the set-up fitted to the P1) is gorgeous, overflowing with feel; the stiffer suspension (by 60% at the rear!) supplies racing car-like body control yet, incredibly, retains much of the 650S’s limousine-like ride quality; and, of course, this car is cartoonishly fast.

Around 20% of the throttle pedal’s travel is enough to decimate more or less everything else on the road. It feels more involving, more exciting, more special than a 650S. £70k more special? Well…. yes. On the face of it, giving an ultimate, track-focused supercar a weight-adding, rigidity-robbing folding roof seems a bit silly. But putting the driver in the open air adds an extra dimension to the driving experience – all the better to experience the LT’s very special skillset on the road. Turns out the customer is always right, after all.

The specs: McLaren 675LT Spider

Price: £285,450
Engine: 3799cc twin-turbocharged V8, 666bhp @ 7100rpm, 516lb ft @ 5500-6500rpm  
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 2.9sec 0-62mph, 203mph, 24.2mpg, 275g/km CO2
Weight: 1270kg (dry)  
On sale: Sold out  

Love: You’ll really want one 
You can’t have one 
Every bit as special as the coupe
Rating:  *****

Read more from the June 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By James Taylor

Former features editor for CAR, occasional racer