RAW APPEAL

THREE SUPERCARS CONCENTRATED TO THEIR MOST DRIVER-FOCUSED FORM, OFFER STRIPPED-OUT THRILLS IN THREE VERY DIFFERENT WAYS

BY CHRIS CHILTON + PICS GREG PAJO

FOUR-WHEEL drive and rear-wheel drive; midengined and rear-engined; naturally aspirated and turbocharged. Rarely does a comparison contain three cars so different in the way they go about their business. The common ground is the exact nature of that business. Itís not simply going fast. Any supercar can do that. These cars are only one tiny step removed from the racetrack, and as perfectly at home on it as they are parked at a Cars and Coffee meet serving as a handy armrest while you regale onlookers with tales of track heroics.

ITíS NOT SIMPLY GOING FAST ... THESE CARS ARE ONLY ONE TINY STEP REMOVED FROM THE RACETRACK

From tall stories to long tails, specifically the McLaren 600LT - the latest track-tuned supercar vying for your lottery lolly. Neither McLarenís model naming strategy nor its styling is helpful for beginners, and even clued-in fans have to think twice to be sure about what the new model is. So, to be clear, the 600LT is part of McLarenís entrylevel Sports Series range that until now consisted of the 540C, 570S and fastback 570GT. Like those cars the three-character number refers to the output in metric horsepower, meaning the 600LT has 600ps, or 441kW, from its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8.

The LT bit, meanwhile, riffs on the elongated versions of the McLaren F1 road-car-turned-racer campaigned at Le Mans in the late í90s rather than any colossal increase in actual length.

In its lightest configuration, with all trick options selected, the 1356kg 600LT weighs 100kg less than an ordinary 570S. To go with the lighter weight thereís 100kg more push from aero aids, including a jutting front lip and a fixed rear spoiler whose centre section is covered in a special material to protect it from flames that shoot from twin pipes poking clear of the rear deck. Actually, other supercars shoot flames too, but we canít remember seeing them in the rear-view mirror before.

At $455,000, the 600LT finds itself in clean air between the $379,000 570S that spawned it and the bigger, faster, but supposedly conceptually less focused $489,900 720S from the rung above. And at that price it looks like strong value next to the $483,866 Lamborghini Huracan Performante.

Unlike McLaren, Lambo uses a different tag for the hardest of its cars: SV or Super Veloce for the V12 Aventador, and Performante for the V10 Huracan. The recipe is the same, though. More power, 470kW to be precise from a naturally aspirated 5.2 V10, less weight, and sufficient overall performance capability to carve its name on the Nordschleife leader board. Back in 2017 the Performante was briefly the overall íRing champ, having snatched the title from the Porsche 918 hypercar with a time of 6:52.01sec, though Porscheís 911 GT2 RS and Lamborghiniís own Aventador SVJ have both gone substantially quicker since.

For the record - but not fast enough to capture it - the GT2ís little brother, the $416,100 GT3 RS that weíre testing, rounds the íRing in 6:56.40sec. Or at least it does if you have nuts made of titanium. Like the GT2 RS, the GT3 RS comes with race-spec rose-jointed suspension, air-hungry NACA ducts sunk into the bonnet and a wing like a picnic table, and it sends its power exclusively to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. You can have a six-speed manual on the plain GT3 (itís mandatory on the GT3 Touring), but the RS is PDK-only. Unlike its 515kW GT2 RS big brother, however, the GT3 RS is a turbo-free zone. Its 4.0 naturally aspirated flat-six is good for a comparatively modest-sounding 383kW, but promises more noise and a cleaner throttle response as compensation.

OPPOSITE TOP

At $41,990 the Weissach Pack cuts 28kg from the GT3 RSís weight, including a titanium roll cage

OPPOSITE BOTTOM

A whopping 586kg of downforce is created at 312km/h - or, more downward pressure than a GT2 RS!

THE 4.0 MAKES THE BEST NOISE OF ANY PRODUCTION CAR ON THE PLANET

Despite the aero garnish, itís still shaped like a 911. Which is good, for some. But for another equally fanatical tribe, those same-again looks mean that, even with all the wings and the oversized wheels with their gorgeous centre-lock hubs stuffed so far into the arches it looks like itís on custom-scene airbags instead of boring old steel coils, the RS simply doesnít look like a supercar. It looks like a better version of a $250K Carrera.

ďThat,Ē theyíll say, motioning to the Lamborghini, ďis what a supercar looks like.Ē Climb inside and the view through the impossibly raked windscreen is exactly how you imagined it would be in a Countach or Diablo when you were young. Thereís an almost square steering wheel, a configurable TFT instrument cluster and hexagons everywhere. It feels suitably supercar-y, though your 11-year-old self would be disappointed that the doors donít scissor upwards. Your current self is more likely to be concerned by the lack of headroom. As in all Huracans, the seat on this one is mounted too high.

McLarenís 600LT satisfies your young and present selves. Slide a hand along the underside of the side blade that seems to float proud of the body structure, push the release and the door lifts smoothly. Woking doesnít reserve the good stuff for its richest customers. Whether youíre buying a $325,000 540C starter supercar or a $3.2m central-seat Speedtail, you get great doors. LT buyers get a version of the same V8 and a fancy carbon chassis, too, albeit one made from pre-preg carbon rather than the fancy time-consuming hand-laid stuff. And you get a driving position that feels like it was actually designed with the help of a human rather than from a picture of one in an encyclopaedia, plus the option of the very sexy looking carbon chairs lifted from the Senna.

Youíll be needing a comfy seat when we tell you those chairs are part of a $44,000 MSO (McLaren Special Operations) Clubsport Pack thatís basically a load of non-essential carbon trinkets. Terrifyingly, that pack contributed to less than half of the options on our car (ironically, this same car did without either air conditioning or a radio in the name of lightness)

that pushed its price to more than half a million, or right into 720S-with-options territory. Food for thought.

For all its carbon trim pieces and McLaren Designer Interior, the cabin feels more like something Lotus would put in a second-gen Evora if it actually got its act together. Itís not that the quality is poor (though we did have the too-usual Ďkey-not presentí message pop up when it clearly was). Perhaps itís that thereís so little going on in there it feels a bit plain. Just a small instrument binnacle, compact vertical media screen and not much else. Thereís no glovebox and the ergonomics arenít great: the optional nose lift kit to haul the new, longer, lower front-end clear of steeply angled drives should be operated by a dedicated button on the console, but instead you have to wade through some sub-menus using a column stalk.

Maybe McLarenís engineers keep meaning to flag it up for a fix, but then they drive the car and itís so damn good they forget all about it. The 600LT is an absolute masterclass in how to make a sports car ride and handle. At 1356kg this is the lightest car here, 26kg lighter than the Lambo and 74kg lighter than the Porsche. It feels it. You flick the 600LT around like a Lotus Elise, connected to the front tyres by steering thatís arguably the stand-out feature of the whole car.

McLaren says the rack is three per cent faster than the 570Sís, though itís not the extra speed you notice, more the extra clarity in the messages relayed to your hands. Itís light in your fingertips, and busy too, not to the extent that it sniffs out ruts and grooves like the Senna, but definitely busy. Drive it quickly and youíll need to pay attention.

THE 600LT IS AN ABSOLUTE MASTERCLASS IN HOW TO MAKE A SPORTS CAR RIDE AND HANDLE

Both the McLaren and Lambo match 0-100km/h times at 2.9sec - 0.3sec ahead of the Porsche

You feel the LTís extra body control compared with the 570S, but the suspension - conventional steel-sprung rather than hydraulic, like the bigger 720S - never feels harsh, even after youíve upped the suspensionís defcon level from Normal to Sport. Track mode is best left for the track. Funny, that.

The Lamboís not so easy to gel with. Thereís that strange driving position and inferior visibility to knock your confidence. And where the McLarenís steering feels so effortlessly natural, SantíAgataís engineers seem to have got sucked into following their cross-town rivals Ferrari into fitting a hyper-quick rack. You donít have that immediate confidence. Not that it wonít stick exactly - youíre just less sure how things will pan out.

Get out of the Performante and you might dismiss it as a car for a poser. But keep driving and you realise itís so much better than that. Thereís an incredible amount of front-end bite, for a start. And once your brain attunes to the way the steering responds, you start to trust yourself and the car to use it. Thereís not quite the same level of connection you get with the McLaren, but the Performante feels hyper alert, and the fact that all four P-Zero-wrapped 20-inch rims are helping out makes the Huracan feel most secure under power.

Flicking the Anima switch on the steering wheel changes the torque split and also the steering effort, damping and gearshift map. Strada slurs through the gears just fine for around the city, but Corsa is best saved for the track, and even then only when you want to extract the quickest possible time. Sportís more rear-biased torque split makes it most fun.

But not as much fun as the GT3 RS. Pushed to call it, weíd say the McLarenís steering shades the Porscheís for driver involvement at all speeds, not only when youíre working the rubber. But the GT3ís is right up there with the best. And as with its 911 Turbo brother, the RS steers from both ends. The fourwheel steering tech on the back axle is a brilliantly integrated system. The only time it feels obvious is at parking speeds where it helps turn the car in spaces tight enough to make a small hatch feel supersized. In every other situation it shifts almost imperceptibly between steering with and against the front wheels. Go over-ambitiously hard and the lack of front- end weight manifests itself in a whiff of understeer. But through the quick stuff itís absolutely locked down.

03 cockpit details

PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS

1. COG CONTROL Wheel-mounted paddles, like 600LT, easier to use than the Lamboís columnmounted items

2. VERY ENVIOUS You can colour-code the interior to match the exterior

3. GET A HANDLE Fabric door pulls seem to pull the wrong way

LAMBORGHINI HURACAN PERFORMANTE

1. SURPRISE AND CONFUSE In classic Italian illogical supercar style, you press the window buttons down to raise windows

2. THE LOUD DIALS The 12.3inch cockpit graphics are hard to decipher in Corsa mode

3. MOOD SELECTOR Anima switch toggles through Strada, Sport and Corsa modes

Mc LAREN 600LT

1. ROUND-ISH THING The 600LT has the best steering feel - and steering wheel

2. CHAIRS Carbon-fibre seats are from the Senna and are part of the Clubsport pack. Theyíre also hard to get in and out of

3. BIG, SCARY NUMBERS No 720S-style rotating display, but graphics are clear

THE LAMBO SOUNDS RAW, URGENT AND A LITTLE BIT INTIMIDATING FROM THE MOMENT YOU START IT

Compared with the old GT3 RS, the spring rates are massive: doubled at the front and 50 per cent stiffer at the back. The body control is impeccable but the PASM adaptive dampersí stiffer mode can make a really tough back road feel choppier than Bass Strait, and the rose-jointed suspension that helps make the steering feel so special also makes running over a catís eye feel like youíve run over the rest of the cat, too.

Work the flat-six through the last 1000rpm to the epic 9000rpm redline and you might wonder whether that cat got caught in the drivebelt on the way under. Between 8000 and 9000rpm the 4.0 makes the best noise of any production car on the planet. But itís a rarefied treat. The PDK íbox disguises the sixís modest 470Nm of torque by dropping gears at the lightest brush of right pedal, keeping the engine working, and moving you so fast that youíll normally run into traffic before you unlock the best bit. Given everything, the RS will hit 100km/h in 3.2sec, but we really do mean everything. The engine responds crisply from low revs, but little happens below 5000rpm.

But if youíre of a lazier disposition the Lambo pulls harder from low revs thanks to its extra 1200cc, and the combination of four-wheel drive and an extra 87kW helps it chip 0.3sec from the 911ís 0-100km/h time. Itís the Performanteís V10 that defines the car. It sounds raw and urgent and a little intimidating from the moment you poke your finger through the gimmicky flap to reach the starter button to the moment you reach out to grab the gorgeous forged carbon shift paddles. It sounds even better than the Porsche through much of the rev range, and matches the GT3 RSís turbo-free throttle response.

And itís here, against this kind of performance, that the McLaren comes unstuck. The 600LT is a fantastic car, one with its own character and a personality that separates it from the other cars in the McLaren range. Dynamically, itís got this test all sewn up. Itís stupendously fast: as quick as the Lambo to 100km/h without the benefit of four-wheel drive, and delivering thumping mid-range acceleration once the turbos have inhaled a lungful.

But comparison tests are brutal arenas and you simply cannot drive a GT3 RS or Performante then climb into a 600LT without wishing the McLaren sounded more exciting or that it had a purer connection between your right foot and the back wheels. Is that how you should be feeling about a car touted as one of the most exciting sports or supercars on the planet?

Maybe flat-chat on track, with a helmet muffling the sound and turbo lag disguised by a quick-thinking dual-clutch transmission, neither matters. But for all their posturing, these cars still need to excite on the road, not just on track. Yes, the 600LT kicks like an anti-aircraft gun when the turbos spool, and yes, it shoots flames, but a fireworks show isnít the same without the bangs.

The GT3 RS isnít perfect, but given itís the cheapest here it arguably doesnít need to be. The Porsche wins because it immerses you in the action - and in every aspect of it - in a way the two rivals canít quite manage. Above all, thereís a purity to the GT3 RS experience, an authenticity, that lifts it above its rivals. This is so much more than just another 911.