► 600LT Spider driven
► Only 50kg heavier than the Coupé
► Lightning performance
This is the open-top version of the track-focused 600LT but, like all McLaren Spiders, losing the roof does not dilute the performance edge. Think of it as a racer without a roof – very easy when you consider how many track cars are open. It’s a Spider that prioritises speed over misty-eyed roadster romance.
LT – for long tail – is the McLaren shorthand for track-focused specials. It began with the long-tail GTR racing version of the iconic 1990s F1, and more recently saw the 675LT, one of the most satisfying fast cars I’ve ever driven. As with the 600LT (and the 675LT), this new Spider doesn’t really have a ‘long tail’ – though McLaren will proudly point out that total length is a little more expansive than the 570S Spider on which it’s based, and the bigger rear wing does give the impression of an extended rear body. (It’s actually 47mm longer at the rear.) Rather, LT is shorthand for racetrack prowess and speed and, as we’ll soon see, the 600LT Spider is not lacking in either.
How is it different from the 570S Spider?
Almost a quarter different, if we look at the parts content. The new components are mostly to reduce weight, improve aerodynamics and boost power, up 30bhp.
It’s 100kg lighter than its Sports Series open-top brother, with a dry weight of a very minimalist 1297kg. The key changes to cut mass are carbon racing seats (saving 21kg), lighter forged alloy wheels (saving 17kg), the removal of air conditioning (12.6kg) and new and very distinctive top-exit stainless steel exhaust pipes (also 12.6kg). New titanium wheel bolts save 0.42kg and thinner glass saves 1.4kg. Every little helps.
Body changes include longer and wider front splitter, deeper side sills, extended rear diffuser and bigger fixed rear wing, and lengthened rear bumper – all made from carbon fibre. Carbon ceramic discs are standard to reinforce the track-car character, as are the Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tyres.
The 592bhp engine uses the 3.8-litre version of McLaren’s familiar twin-turbo Shoreham UK-built V8, rather than the newer 4.0 as fitted to the 720S. The distinctive top-exiting exhausts have one metre less pipework than a 570S Spider, which reduces engine back pressure – and sounds fabulous. Stiffer engine and transmission mounts enhance connection between car and driver.
And how is it different from the 600LT Coupé?
Not so different, apart from the open roof – and that’s part of the 600LT Spider’s magic. Mostly, open-top versions of sports cars add weight – because of the extra strengthening necessary to maintain rigidity – and hurt handling and ride comfort (because there is never quite as much torsional rigidity as on a hardtop coupé).
The McLaren signature carbon tub has significantly more rigidity, and less weight, than conventional steel or aluminium chassis. The upshot is that no extra chassis reinforcement is necessary for Spider use, and weight gain is minimal – just 50kg more than the hardtop Coupé. That extra weight is due to the folding roof and its mechanism. Performance is barely affected: just 0.2 sec slower 0-125mph and the same 0-60mph time (a real supercar-like 2.8sec). Roof up, maximum speed is 201 (196mph roof down). For the hardtop, it’s 204.
What’s it like on the road?
Surprisingly good, for a track-focused car. It is firmer and noisier than the sweet 570S: there’s more tyre thrum and engine groan and growl, though it’s not unpleasant. Still, if you have a long motorway journey ahead and a choice of cars (most owners will), you wouldn’t choose the 600LT. The HMI system is old school and pretty rubbish – the 720S features a newer system – and reflections from the open roof rendered it almost unreadable in the Arizonan sun.
The upsides are many. There is a wonderful urgency about the powertrain, and the V8 and seven-speed ‘box complement each other beautifully. The ride comfort (especially in Normal mode) is surprisingly good. The paddle gearshifts are fast and the engine sounds great as revs build, with that inspiring exhaust ‘crack’ during a gearshift – magnificently amplified by those rear pipes exiting up high only a metre of so behind your head. What a sound!
As with all McLarens, visibility is good for a top-end sportster, and the driving position and steering are superb. Nobody understands enthusiast drivers better than McLaren. The folding roof also works well enough, although the latest 720S Spider has a faster and newer mechanism.
And on the track?
Utterly brilliant. Superb turn-in, terrific grip, wonderful steering, and both Pirelli tyres and carbon ceramic brakes can withstand a great deal of punishment before they start to overheat.
So many sports cars have either too much power for their traction (all hypercars with 800bhp-plus, including the P1) or too little power to really entertain on a fast track. The 600LT Spider has the perfect balance. It’s breathtakingly fast – as a sub-3.0sec 0-60 time indicates – yet has superb grip, handling and braking. Rarely have I had so much fun on the track.
Plus, you don’t need to be Lewis Hamilton to go really hard and enjoy. It’s a forgiving and a surprisingly benign car, even in max-attack mode with traction control neutered. The engine is strong and serenades with its roar. Throttle response is razor sharp, and so is all feedback (especially in Track mode). Only when driving gently in a big gear at low revs is any lag noticeable before those swift-spinning twin turbos energise the V8.
McLaren 600LT Spider: verdict
The 600LT Spider is a wonderful track car and an accomplished – if hard-edged – road car. Avoid Grand Touring-style long range cruises and it copes just fine. Plus any discomfort on A-roads or motorways will soon be forgiven when you encounter a winding lightly trafficked secondary road or, even better, a racing circuit. This really is a car where track day patronage is essential.
Used thus, I’d list the 600LT Spider as my favourite modern McLaren. It is richly entertaining yet surprisingly usable. Blindingly fast yet unexpectedly capable. Go-kart agile yet brutally powerful. And I’d choose the Spider over the Coupé. There is no discernible reduction in speed, handling or entertainment compared with the Coupé – plus the added charm of wind-in-the-hair pleasure.