Weight is down, by a significant amount. McLaren claims 100 kilograms even, meaning the 600LT should be 220 pounds lighter than the 570S. The splitter, sills, diffuser, and rear wing are all made from carbon fiber and coincidentally produce that same 220 pounds of downforce at 155 mph. The aluminum control arms—snatched from the 720S—help save weight, as do the forged aluminum wheels. Things then get a little confusing in terms of absolute weight numbers because McLaren’s in-house tuning arm, MSO, offers two packages to further lighten the 600LT, Club Sport and Club Sport Pro. For instance, you can opt for a carbon-fiber roof, or you can get either Club Sport packs and the roof comes standard. Expect actual weights to be all over the map. According to our scales, the 570S weighs 3,188 pounds. If the 600LT really is down 100 kilos, that’s 2,968 pounds. Extremely light by 2018 standards but not without precedent, however, as the 675LT clocked in at 2,993 pounds.
Learning a new track well enough to start evaluating a car is tricky. For me it was lap 13 of the Hungaroring, the satisfyingly complex F1 circuit located in the suburbs of Budapest, when things began to click. I’d done five laps in a 570S, both to learn the track and also to establish a baseline against which to evaluate the new car. Then came six laps in the 600LT, with a McLaren instructor barking in my ear—which confirmed that the theory and practice of trail-braking are kept in distinct locations in my brain.
After lunch and a relaxing walk around the Hungaroring itself, something else clicked. I could sense the superior threshold braking in the 600LT compared to its stablemate. McLaren took lessons learned (and a brake booster borrowed) from its Senna hypercar and imbued the 600LT with some utterly fantastic binders. Not just in terms of stopping power—there’s plenty of that—but in terms of balance, precision, and adjustability. Oh yeah, confidence, too. For instance, at the end of the big straight, I was easily traveling 150 mph in the 570S. However, slowing down for Turn 1—a second-gear corner—requires a big pedal input. In the softer, heavier, less brakey 570S, the car slows down fine, but it also squirms around a fair amount. The 600LT? Not even a little. The new car brakes hard, stable, and true. The ABS software has been retuned, too. If, as the old chestnut goes, a car is only as good as its brakes, the 600LT is excellent.
Looking beyond stopping, the newest baby Mac is pretty damn good. Steering is precise and intuitive, and because it’s still hydraulic, it feels especially lovely. Back when the Super Series cars consisted of the 650S, we strongly felt that removing that car’s hydraulic suspension and replacing it all with fixed dampers made the 570S a much better driving car. So much so that we named the latter our 2016 Best Driver’s Car. The 600LT starts there and jumps way up. The damping is better, the turn-in is sharper, high-speed stability is rock solid—this is a serious driver’s machine.
But besides the $30,000 price of the snorkel (and $242,500 starting price of the car), power is the one area where the 600LT doesn’t deliver. I know, I know—I’m super spoiled. But, as our own Chris Walton has so presciently said, “700 horsepower is the new 500 hp.” And the 600LT produces fewer than 600 ponies. Is it all in my head? Possibly, as the thing’s weight-to-power ratio is quite great (just over 5 pounds per horsey). However, its power-to-dollar ratio ain’t all that, and no matter what McLaren says, I refuse to believe that most 600LT owners will primarily use it on the track. I’m basing this off the large number of my Porsche 911 GT3-owning buddies who routinely cite insurance reasons as their excuse for never, ever letting their cars touch a racing surface.
Now, if Macca’s claims are to be believed, 60 mph will arrive in 2.8 seconds and the quarter mile in 10.4. I have no reason to doubt any of those numbers, but during the course of my 12 laps, the 600LT never felt especially quick. Perhaps I’m just used to how the 720S gets things done? Or perhaps that’s how almost all cars no matter the power feel on the straight parts of tracks.
When you get right down to it, the 600LT is basically a Senna minus 197 horsepower and the kooky-looking but deadly-effective aerodynamics. I may have even heard a McLaren employee (or three) state that the 600LT is actually better to drive than the Senna, even though of course the Senna would decimate its little sibling on any track, anywhere. Like I said, McLaren has a problem on its hands. The company’s boffins keep surpassing the previous car with the current one. That’s a good problem to have.