Having been a professional truck driver and trainer for more than 30 years, I find that you never, ever know it all. There are always new things to learn. My primary goal with this blog is to help other drivers (especially newer ones) with pertinent information and tips to enable them to work happier and more safely. Guest posts, contributors and feed-back are always welcome and wanted!
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Wednesday, June 29, 2016
How would you like to take this McLaren for a ride?
2016 McLaren 675LT Review – Appreciation of an Extraordinary Automobile
March, 2016 I try to avoid superlatives unless the object of said superlatives is, well, truly superlative. In this case, however, they may be applied without reservation. The McLaren 675LT is an extraordinary car, with performance capabilities exceeded by fewer than a handful of very limited production vehicles. Perhaps what makes it most extraordinary, though, is just how well it performs as an ordinary car.
Classified ads for supercars rarely contain significant odometer readings. Ferrari’s own surveys show their customers typically do not manage to cover 3,000 miles a year. Why? A local high-end car enthusiast once told me that most people who own those kinds of “weekend” cars typically own more than one, so none of them get used that much. Another possible reason is that even wealthy folks don’t like paying the five figure regular service charges that come when you start accumulating miles on an exotic car, not to mention how expensive they can be to repair when you try to daily drive them.
McLaren says that its customers report driving their McLarens about two to three times the miles that competitors’ cars get driven. After driving a 675LT on the canyons, freeways and surface streets of southern California, including in rush hour, I can believe that. There’s no back seat, so carpool duty is out, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it as a grocery-getter. There’s a parcel shelf behind the seats and enough room in the trunk up front for a few standard paper-or-plastic bags.
The 675LT even gets decent fuel economy. I averaged an indicated 18.9 mpg. My usage included some standing starts, enthusiastic city driving, a little bit of open freeway, some bumper-to-bumper rush hour stuff, and the canyon run. At times, driving normally, I was flirting with 20 mpg. That’s almost 50-percent better mileage than the Land Rover LR4 I reviewed.
The 675LT is the track focused version of what McLaren considers its midrange car, the $250,000 650S (bracketed by the entry level 570S and the P1 hypercar). It’s about 40-percent different from the 650S, with a front suspension derived from the McLaren P1. Different body panels and aerodynamic aids give the 675LT significantly more downforce than the 650. Much of that improved aero is due to a very serious splitter up front and a ground effects extractor out back. Combine those with the car’s low height and you’re going to need the on-board chassis lift system every time you want to enter a driveway apron or go over a speed bump. Even with the lift system, which lowers automatically at 35 mph, I still managed to scrape a few times. I presume the bib spoiler under the splitter is a wearable part.
The chassis lift is the only thing slow about the 675LT. I didn’t time it, but it needed the better part of a minute to raise. To save time and angry looks from other drivers, you might want to start raising the car before you arrive at the gas station or parking structure. Other than that one quirk, you can treat it like any other car. Well, any other car that is capable of higher performance than most race cars of less than a generation ago.
In some ways you pay more for less — about 200 pounds less than the 650S, just under 3,000 pounds. It has lighter seats (with lightweighting holes), lightweight gas and brake pedals (with their own lightweighting holes), bare carbon on the floor, and minimal soundproofing. You do get more power — 666 horsepower (vs 641 for the 650S) — and better cornering.McLarens are exciting just standing still, but the real entertainment begins when you get behind the wheel, close the dihedral door, belt up, step on the brake, and press the Start button. The computers that control the twin turbo flat plane 3.8 liter V8 fire up the engine (the roots of which trace back to the Nissan VRH racing motor) and give it a blip of the throttle to let everyone enjoy the glorious sound. The slightly lopey idle when the engine is cold could never be mistaken for anything other than a V8. After a few seconds the idle smooths out, but at any speed the exhaust sounds fabulous. No matter the color, the 675LT is is not a discreet car.
The 675LT starts at $349,000 and this example had $50,000 worth of options, including air conditioning and a track monitoring system with three onboard cameras.
The standard AC delete drives home the fact that the 675LT is a track focused car, not a luxury car, though I doubt any get delivered without cabin cooling. Under the mats, the floor is bare carbon fiber, but the wide and tall sills of the carbon fiber tub are carpeted. The rest of the interior, including the steering wheel, is upholstered with premium Alcantara.
Again, it’s not a luxury car. It’s noisy. With so little soundproofing, you hear gravel hitting the belly pan as you drive. You also hear the big Pirelli P-ZERO Trofeo R tires thumping and grabbing the pavement. The engine’s radiators and cooling fans are just over your shoulders and you immediately know when they kick in. They also suck in debris like small bits of gravel and the odd plastic coffee cup lid.
The interior is minimalist and just what you need to operate the car. Surprisingly there are a couple of cup holders, but they are located in front of and below the somewhat floating center stack, making them almost inaccessible. You’d spill your coffee. It took me a while of fumbling around to find the 12 volt tap to charge my phone, because it’s also on the back side of the pass-through center stack.Though not luxurious, the 675LT isn’t uncomfortable. The fixed back carbon seats are a little snug for my chubby tuchas, and ingress and egress is a bit of a chore, but after a couple of miles I settled in and felt pretty much at one with the car. I understand that McLaren offers larger seats if needed. Ergonomics when driving are superb. The carbon fiber shift paddles rotate with the manually-adjusted steering wheel. To save the weight of motors, the seats’ fore and aft adjustments are manual. The dual-clutch transmission is controlled by buttons and has no parking pawl, so you must remember to use the electronically controlled parking brake. Fit and finish were very good with the exception of a noticeable amount of orange peel in the paint on the top surface of the rear spoiler. Considering how well paint flows out on horizontal surfaces, that was surprising, though I later found out that the car that I drove was a pre-production validation car.
There are three modes each for the drivetrain and suspension: normal, sport and track, all controlled with switchgear that makes me think of a mashup of Fender amplifiers’ “chicken head” knobs and mil-spec gear. Feeling that the normal setting for the suspension was a little bit soft, for the most part I kept things in sport mode and didn’t find the ride to be too stiff. I also kept the DCT in Drive, rarely using the paddles. I wanted to concentrate on driving — and besides, McLaren knows more about shifting than I do.
I was cautious while driving the 675LT on the unfamiliar mountain road loop recommended to me by Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire, but I was able to make good time through the canyons without going anywhere near the car’s limit. My friend Mr. Baruth may drive other people’s $400,000 carsat, or over, the limit, but I like to approach them with a little more common sense.
Truth is, you don’t have to push things to go fast. Steering was very neutral, with no real sense of understeer or oversteer. If the radius of the turn tightens, you just turn the wheel more and it simply goes where you point it. The 675LT’s steering is the quickest I’ve ever seen on a road car, just two turns lock to lock, and very precise. At 70 mph, a millimeter’s movement of the steering wheel’s rim changes the car’s path — though the car is not twitchy or darty at all. The steering is variably power assisted, with a feel and precision that is now the standard by which I will judge other cars.
Driving the canyons in this car is the proverbial E-ticket ride. The comparison with amusement parks is deliberate. The McLaren corners so well that it’s sickening, literally. The G forces gave me motion sickness so bad that I had to stop a couple of times. Not wanting to make things worse, I headed down out of the mountains to the Pacific Coast Highway.
Unfortunately, the urge to purge came upon me at a point on the PCH where there was no shoulder on the right due to falling rocks. Fortunately, a small turnoff appeared on the ocean side of the road just as a break in oncoming traffic opened up and if there is any car capable of dive bombing, it’s the 675LT. I got the driver’s door swung up and out of the way just in time. I hope that my effluent didn’t violate any of California’s environmental regulations. The state has some beautiful places to be sick. Manually activating an automatic spoiler is the height of automotive douchebaggery, particularly when driving around town. However, I was driving someone else’s 666 horsepower, rear-wheel-drive car at 70 mph in the rain. I put up the spoiler to see if I could feel the difference and indeed the rear ended hunkered down a little, tightening up the grip noticeably. The car handles so well that I really wasn’t giving the carbon ceramic brakes much of a workout, even in the mountains. Just to check them out I deliberately stopped for a couple of yellow lights while driving in the city. They’re a little bit noisy when cold, but they’re very effective and easily modulated.
It corners and stops well. How does it go? Like a four wheeled literbike. Given 666 horsepower, of course, one is tempted to make references to devilish levels of power. There is no turbo lag, just speed. The DCT shifts almost instantaneously and downshifting is accompanied by throttle blipping. A sport bike is the closest analogy that comes to mind. You know how on a motorcycle you can pass a vehicle by accelerating into a spot in traffic, something you can’t do with most cars? It can be done with the 675LT.
More impressive than the quoted standing start time of 2.9 seconds for 0-60 mph is how quickly the McLaren gets from normal freeway speeds to arrest-worthy speeds. Standing starts need to overcome inertia; rolling starts don’t. Seventy to 80 mph is nearly instantaneous. Sixty to a buck ten brings to mind images from space movies.
The 675LT is a wide car (though when the doors are open you can tell just how narrow the main carbon fiber tub is) but I didn’t feel uncomfortable in traffic. The front fenders arch right over the tires, so you know exactly where the car is positioned and where you are going. I could see more of the hood than I can in my 2015 Honda Fit. Visibility towards the rear is better than I expected. While the view through the center mirror is limited by the polycarbonate clear engine cover (and obscured even more when the spoiler is up), there are 3/4 windows behind you and very large side mirrors so blind spots aren’t the problem you’d think they’d be. If you’re worried that there’s a car in your blind spot, there’s always the go fast pedal. You’ll be there before they will.
When McLaren introduced the 675LT at last year’s New York Auto Show, they showed it in a beautiful dove grey color. The 675LT they loaned me was a bit more conspicuous: a bright — almost orange — red. I’m not used to complete strangers taking videos of me when I drive. When I pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu for photos with the Pacific’s surf in the background, a couple of Korean tourists stopped to take photos of the car, me and the car, and then one of each of them with me and the car.
My disclaimer of “Not mine, not mine” didn’t seem to make a difference. In a town where Lamborghinis are common, the McLaren 675LT is still a rare sight. Just 500 coupes and 500 spyders will be made. You need a special car to attract attention in car-centric southern California. Right after I picked up my rental at the airport, I saw a Lamborghini Aventador and BMW i8 within seconds of each other. Teslas are almost as common as homeless folks with their grocery carts. This McLaren, however, continues to attract attention from everybody up to and including the Gallardo Spyder driver whose mojo was clearly impacted by having to share the road with a hat-wearing bearded fellow in a long-spoilered supercar.
It would be a shame, however, if someone bought a 675LT just to impress other people. It’s a truly extraordinary automobile.
Getting lost in the mountains put me ten miles past the 200 allotted to me for my test. The McLaren folks reassured me that it wasn’t a problem. Surprisingly, some McLaren press loans come back with fewer than the allotted miles. Lord, what fools these mortals be! As long as the total mileage (there was about 6,700 miles on the loaner when I got it) ends up less than planned, however, the folks at McLaren are not concerned. They told me that when it’s done as a press car, it will go back to the works at Woking and be completely refurbished before it is delivered to a customer who has already spoken for the car.
There are $400,000 demos? I was told that my loaner wasn’t one of the 500 serialized coupes, but rather one of five pre-production validation cars. How is selling a car like that legal? My guess is that the customer lives outside of the jurisdiction of the EPA or European regulators, likely someplace where said customer may be a member of a ruling elite. I’ll never likely be a member of the ruling elite, and don’t think I could ever get completely comfortable driving a $400,000 luxury car like a Rolls-Royce, but I could get used to driving a McLaren 675LT.
Disclaimer: McLaren provided the car, a tank of gasoline and insurance. I paid for my own transportation to and from Los Angeles just to be able to drive the 675LT. I have yet to find someone who doesn’t agree that I would have been a schmuck to not do so.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view over at Cars In Depth. – Thanks for reading – RJS