LOSES ITS ROOF; GAINS TITLE OF BEST McLAREN YET

McLAREN 600LT SPIDER

ALEX INWOOD

LOSES ITS ROOF; GAINS TITLE OF BEST McLAREN YET

Model McLaren 600LT Spider

Engine 3799cc V8 (90į), dohc, 32v, TT

Max power 441kW @ 7500rpm

Max torque 620Nm @ 5500-6500rpm

Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch

Weight 1404kg 0-100km/h 2.9sec (claimed)

Fuel economy 12.2L/100km

Price $496,000

On sale Q2 2019

ITíS THE steering that stays with you. And the genius lurking on the other side of that small window behind your shoulder. Donít hesitate, just lower it, even if itís raining. For this tiny piece of glass is the key to transforming the 600LT experience, and a primary reason for buying the Spider over the coupe.

You wonít notice it so much in traffic. Modern McLarens have never sounded soulful and thereís still no beauty or whimsy to the 600LT Spider, but clock an empty horizon, flatten the throttle, and it takes a nanosecond to realise that this is an engaging soundtrack.

It begins as a growl, then after a small pause as the turbos spool and the 3.8litre twin-turbo V8 clears its throat, the top-exit exhausts bellow (theyíre 12.6kg lighter than conventional pipes, and 1m shorter) and the revs lunge towards the redline with a deranged savagery.

The Spider deploys the same, uprated 441kW/620Nm V8 as the 600LT coupe (in fact, the only mechanical difference between the two is a minor damper recalibration to account for the Spiderís additional 48kg, all of which is found in the three-piece roof), and itís intoxicatingly accelerative.

Performance figures are identical to the coupe from 0-100km/h at 2.9sec. The double tonne arrives two-tenths slower at 8.4sec, while the top speed drops 4km/h to 324km/h.

And then thereís the noise itself. Thereís plenty of volume, as youíd expect, but itís the way the note hardens as the revs rise, and the ignition cut cracks and bangs on upshifts (when Sport mode is engaged) that elevates it beyond other McLarens.

For the full-noise 600LT experience you can lower the roof in 25 seconds, but if the soundtrack is a central aspect to the Spiderís character, itís the steering that defines it.

McLaren is one of the few brands still using an old-fashioned hydraulic system and its degree of feedback is a sad reminder in what weíve lost in the move to EPAS. McLaren has the edge over every rival in this respect. The wheel wriggles and fizzes in your hands, and on a circuit, it delivers a sense of connection that instantly gives the driver an extra degree of confidence.

The chassis helps here. Turning a Ďregularí 570S into a 600LT is relatively simple Ė you just add more of everything. Thereís more grunt (up 22kW/20Nm), more aero (100kg at 250km/h), wider tracks, stickier Trofeo R rubber, bigger carbon brakes, and suspension components from the 720S.

The only thing thereís less of is weight. Tick the right options and the 600LT Spider is some 100kg lighter than the equivalent 570S Spider.

McLaren reckons that 100kg is equivalent to an additional 44kW, or a five percent improvement in grip, and the way the 600LT bites, turns and goes is transformational. It makes lesser McLarens feel almost gentle, and it verges on Lotus-like in the way it changes direction. Where many powerful track cars direct your focus to corner exit, the 600LTís masterstroke is how many options it gives you on corner entry. Carry the brake deep into the apex and the balance shifts towards the rear before edging into controllable oversteer.

Is the 600LT Spider as sharp, or as accurate, as the coupe? Without a direct comparison itís difficult to say, though any loses are so small that theyíre practically negligible.

This isnít to say the 600LT Spider is foible-free. Redesigning the rear deck has reduced rear visibility, and despite superb damping, there are moments when the ride can feel decidedly firm.

Yet the 600LT Spider is, quite feasibly, a track car you could drive every day. And therein lies its true brilliance. Itís a car with bandwidth, and one possessing a degree of personality and character that has long been missing from modern McLarens.

PLUS

Sublime steering; searing speed; improved soundtrack

MINUS

Tricky rear vision; some wind noise; roof-down glare on central screen

STOP THAT

Standard-issue carbon brakes (390mm front; 380mm rear) are a highlight. In typical McLaren fashion, the pedal is overly firm but their effectiveness, and resistance to fade, are impressive. Hit the left pedal hard at 200km/h and youí be at a standstill in 121 metres, which is just 5 metres further than the P1. The pedal set is also on a perfeclty flat plane, making it ideal for left- and right-foot braking.

ALEX INWOOD