HIGHLAND EXPLORER – 675LT SPIDER

In the Scottish Highlands, we test the new 675LT Spider, the lightest open top McLaren road car to date.

 

The McLaren 675LT Spider, the second modern-day ‘Longtail’, is a supercar that could so easily be defined by facts and figures. Cast your eye over the impressive spec sheet and you’ll spot 675PS (666bhp) and torque that peaks at 700Nm (516lb ft), both produced by a twin-turbo V8 that revs to 8500rpm. 

That eight-cylinder engine, too, is mid-mounted in a carbon fibre chassis, and 35 years after McLaren pioneered the use of the composite material in Formula 1™, it means the 675LT Spider has a dry weight of just 1270kg. In part that’s because of the light, stiff and strong nature of the MonoCell – which offers inherent advantages superior to aluminium or steel structures – but lightweight engineering flows through the 675LT Spider.

Carbon fibre spreads its influence beyond the chassis, and the bodywork, from the extended splitter flanked by front wing end plates to the new ‘Longtail’ Airbrake, are formed from the lightweight material so familiar to McLaren. A titanium exhaust cleaves away weight too, ditto a revised electrical system. The more powerful engine is lighter as well, the windscreen thinner, the louvred rear engine cover now polycarbonate, and together the detail changes have discarded a wholesome 100kg.

Pair that more powerful engine with the lightweight chassis and the result is a power-to-weight ratio of 532PS (525bhp) per tonne. Pin your right foot to the floor and 0-100kph (0-62mph) is dismissed in 2.9 seconds. Doubling that speed only takes another 5.2 seconds, and then the 675LT Spider will run on and on to 326kph (203mph). Even the limited production run, just 500, stands out, especially when you discover every single example was sold within two weeks of being announced at McLaren’s 2015 Winter Ball. Which is where we could leave the 675LT Spider…

Yet figures, which would have once been used to settle pub arguments but instead now fuel internet forums, shouldn’t be allowed to define the latest Super Series model. Reducing it to mere digits does it a disservice; focus upon the objective aspects and you’ll miss the subjective tangibles that the 675LT Spider is literally brimming with. 

 

 

Lift the trademark McLaren dihedral door, step past the carbon fibre sill of the MonoCell, and as the lightweight carbon fibre racing seats – first seen on the McLaren P1™ – embrace your hips and hug your shoulders, you feel immediately connected with the 675LT Spider.

Depress the Engine Start button and those sensations only amplify. The upgraded V8, shared with the 675LT Coupé, features 50 percent new components, including more efficient turbos, a new camshaft and lightweight connecting rods, and a faster-flowing fuel pump and delivery system – so along with the increased power and torque, the throttle is now more responsive to every input from your right foot.

Breathing through the titanium exhaust, with a unique ‘crossover’ muffler, the noise from those eight cylinders is louder too, but also crisper, and more complex, a beautiful cacophony of mechanical music. And with stiffer engine mounts, with each flex of your right foot, you don’t just see the needle in the rev counter rise, don’t just hear the noise increase, but you feel it through your body as well – and we haven’t even engaged first gear yet.

The 675LT Spider is, of course, even more impressive on the move, and it exhibits its talents openly. Not only will your fingertips delight in the textures of the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, but the sensations flowing from it as well, up from the stiffer Pirelli P Zero™ Trofeo R tyres, through the newly designed Ultra Lightweight 10-spoke forged alloy wheels, the revised suspension derived from the McLaren P1™, straight to you, seemingly unfiltered from the road.

It’s best to isolate each element of the 675LT Spider in this way, breaking it down into understandable and digestible nuggets of information. Try to recall the driving experience as a whole, and you’ll be lost in a list of superlatives.

And that’s before you use the 675LT Spider’s party trick. Up until this point you could mistake (though that’s no bad thing) the 675LT Spider for the 675LT Coupé, because the carbon fibre MonoCell means no additional strengthening is needed in the conversion from hardtop to convertible. Which means there’s a mere 40kg weight difference between the 675LT Spider and the 675LT Coupé, and with an identical chassis configuration, the driving experience is identical.

Until the electrically retractable folding hardtop (the sole reason for the weight difference) quietly concertinas itself away beneath the tonneau cover, adding a limitless dimension to the driving experience. The wind rustles the tips of your hair, the cent of pine trees rolls into the cabin, and the noise from the twin circular exhausts envelops you.

 

 

On the spectacular roads that weave through the Scottish Highlands, the 675LT Spider is the ultimate companion, able to entertain at whatever pace you pick. Cruise with the roof down and you’ll delight in the feedback from the steering, the increased grip from the unique tyres and 20mm wider front and rear tracks, and the ability of the ProActive Chassis Control (PCC) to smother the road’s imperfections and undulations despite spring rates 27 percent stiffer at the front and 63 percent at the rear with the racetrack in mind.

Or move the Handling and Powertrain dials from Normal to Sport, or even Track, and you’ll transform the 675LT Spider into an edgier, rawer proposition. Then you’ll appreciate how incredibly sharp the turn-in is (with steering quicker even than that of the McLaren P1™), how precise the throttle is, how quick the gearshifts are, just how much power and torque the engine has, yet how much traction and grip the chassis has in reserve.

It’s an utterly immersive experience, completely involving, clearly the most exhilarating open-top McLaren supercar ever produced – and yet the 675LT Spider also pulls off the trick of never irritating the driver, never subjecting them to the harshness that sometimes comes coupled with a vehicle also engineered to excel on a racetrack. For a road car – and a Spider at that – which embodies the ethos of the McLaren ‘Longtail’, with a focus on light weight, increased power, track-focused dynamics and driver engagement, it is a truly remarkable feat.

 

 

More information on the 675LT Spider is available here

 

 

 

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