I recently had the chance to drive a McLaren 600LT, which is the high-performance version of the McLaren 570S, which is the “entry level” model in the McLaren lineup in the sense that it has “only” 560 horsepower and a starting price of “only” $190,000. The 600LT improves on those paltry numbers, bringing things up to 592 horses and a starting price of $240,000 or so. It’s also insane.
I borrowed the 600LT from O'Gara Coach, which is now the McLaren dealership here in the San Diego area. They called and told me they have a 600LT in stock, and that I should come check it out, so I did come check it out. What I discovered is that the 600LT is absolutely, fantastically amazing in terms of performance, and precisely the opposite in terms of comfort.
This shouldn't be surprising. For the last 15 years or so, automakers have been making lightweight, limited-production, track-focused versions of their exotic supercars, like the Porsche 911 GT3RS, the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, the Lamborghini Huracan Performante and McLaren's own 675LT -- and so, the 600LT is the latest car in that trend. It's essentially a more focused, more angry, more thrilling version of the 570S -- and while it's almost hard to believe such a thing exists, well, it does.
So I drove it. And what I discovered is that this car is incredibly good at doing the thing it's designed to do, namely provide a thrilling driving experience. I can scarcely remember any modern car I've driven that's as fast, as fun or as immensely sharp, both in terms of steering and overall handling feel. The car truly feels like a go-kart in its ability to change directions and navigate curves and turns. The term "race car for the road" is overused, especially when cars like the 600LT exist. This is really a race car for the road.
The problem is that the 600LT feels like a race car for the road in the other areas, too. The ride is incredibly harsh, to the point where you're getting beaten up for just driving the car down any sort of bumpy road. Even a little reflective lane line bump is harsh and wince-inducing. The particular 600LT I drove, too, had ultra-tight sport bucket seats -- and not only were they narrow and rather uncomfortable, but they provided basically no padding, which only made road bumps even harder.
But then again, that's the point of this car. If you're at the point where you're buying a 600LT, you've probably passed up the Porsche 911, the Mercedes SL, and any Bentley or Maserati, and you've focused on McLaren, and then you've passed up the "regular" version of this car, and you've bought the track-ready model -- so you expect all that stuff. As a result, it's not really a drawback of the car -- just a reality of buying such a focused, narrowly appealing vehicle. It is, indeed, a race car for the road. You won't want to daily drive it.
But when you do find a smooth patch of road, ideally with some turns, you'll be rewarded with an amazing driving experience -- and also an amazing sound, and an amazingly fast transmission that allows you to accelerate, uninterrupted, for as long as you want -- as long as you can -- quickly reaching speeds that are absolutely ludicrous. It's an impressive car in terms of performance, and similar impressive in terms of its difficulty to live with. I suspect 600LT owners wouldn't want it any other way.