New McLaren 600LT 2018 review

The new hardcore McLaren 600LT sits above the 570S in the brand's Sports Series range, but is the extra power worth the extra money?

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

The McLaren 600LT is a more hardcore proposition than the 570S it’s based on, thanks to its stiffer suspension set-up, fixed-back racing seats and stripped-bare options list. But those are minor sacrifices; the 600LT rewards with astonishing performance and an even more involving and engaging driving experience.

McLaren's new 1,036bhp Speedtail hypercar is the talk of the automotive press this month, thanks to its sky-high list price and astonishing performance figures. We can’t wait to drive it, but for some there’s an even more exciting model joining the range right now: the Mclaren 600LT. 

The brand’s Long Tail badge is reserved for the more hardcore models in its range, and this new model follows the sensational 675LT in the series. While that car was a more focused version of the 650S supercar, the 600LT builds on the smaller 570S and sits at the top of McLaren’s Sports Series range.

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The name hints at the extra power that has been added as part of the overhaul process. It’s 30bhp up on the 570S, with the 3.8-litre V8 that sits behind the seats now producing a total of 592bhp. There are a few styling tweaks to give the car a more aggressive look as well, although the 600LT remains fairly subtle - at least, as subtle as a near-600bhp two-seater performance car can be. The main additions on the outside are the carbon fibre roof, fixed rear wing, front splitter and rear diffuser.

These add-ons mean there’s an extra 100kg of downforce at 155mph, which gives you an idea about how McLaren expects its customers will use the car: on the track. The special Pirelli Trofeo R tyres, beefier brakes and suspension tweaks are all focused on making the 600LT faster around a circuit. A weight saving of around 100kg over a standard 570S helps that extra 30bhp go further, too. But one of the McLaren 570S’ most appealing features was how well it worked on British roads. Can the more hardcore 600LT match its sibling for fun on the road?

From the moment you drop into the deep bucket seats, there’s no question that the 600LT is a more hardcore, focused machine than its sister car. The cabin is similar, although it’s missing features such as air-con, sat-nav and even a radio as standard. Those items are available as extras, however, and since there’s a screen already fitted, the weight saving is likely to be tiny. Just add them to the options list and be done with it.

The V8 engine is slightly more purposeful than the similar unit in the 570S, and at low revs it sounds rougher. The engine has never been hugely characterful, and doesn’t feel anywhere near as sweet as a Porsche 911 GT3’s high-revving motor. The McLaren’s engine doesn’t howl or sing, but it does get smoother and louder the harder you rev it.

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It’s very effective, though, and the noise it makes is just about the only thing that might make you think twice about buying a 600LT; everything else about the driving experience is just sublime. The 0-62mph time of 2.9 seconds is a hint at how rapid the LT is, but it won’t prepare you for how brutal it feels once the engine is on boost.

On cold, wet roads the Trofeo R tyres don’t provide much grip, and the 600LT’s abundance of power means it can feel nervous in these conditions. But as the roads and tyres warm up, the McLaren transforms. When it’s able to put its power down, this Long Tail is a seriously fast car. The ultra-agressive gearchanges give it an extra sense of urgency, too.

The adaptive suspension is stiffer than the set-up in the 570S, and at low speed it thumps into potholes. The low-speed ride is no worse than any of the latest hot hatchbacks, however, and the faster you go the better it gets – to the point that it feels more comfortable at 60mph than some family cars. A 570S is a better car for using every day, but the 600LT’s more communicative set-up is worth the trade-off.

The steering is among the best in any modern car: it’s light enough that making inputs is comfortable, and weight is added naturally through corners. There’s so much feel and feedback from the front wheels that it's a joy no matter how fast you're going, and you can place the car accurately in your lane. It doesn’t feel unwieldy on the road, and it never fights back over bumps or potholes. The wheel has a wonderfully thin rim, too, so it feels great in the hands.

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