Supercars are all much the same — chunky steering that moves with robotic precision, contortionist-grade ingress and egress, low-slung postures providing a mole’s-eye view of the world (or a fighter jet’s perspective, depending on how you see it), and a stubborn refusal to betray their true essence until at least 120 mph. And they all fall into their most natural state — howling wolves lunging toward the horizon — at high speeds in controlled conditions at the hand and foot of a deft driver. There, they’re fantastic, giving pleasure so abundantly it’s nearly indecipherable how one is better than the rest. So, how to allocate love to one over another?
Look to design, structure, exhaust notes and the laundry lists of technological tactics in the engine, transmission and suspension. When you look there — and look hard — you’ll find a bounty of variables that can be tweaked and enhanced to make a supercar unique, and uniquely satisfying. That’s why companies that make supercars still manage to squeak out enhanced versions of those same super models, taking whatever limits kept the original from ultimate road domination and kicking any of the weak shit to the curb.
Welcome the McLaren 675LT. This is the $345,000 tricked-out track-ready version of the British brand’s already awfully track-ready car, the 650S ($280,000). LT stands for “Longtail,” in homage to a special edition of the company’s famed F1 supercar from the mid-1990s. That version was a full 25 inches longer than the base model, though the 675LT is merely 1.5 inches longer than the 650S (as if anyone’s quibbling over discrepancies on historical accuracy).
Engine: 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch
Horsepower: 666 @ 7,100 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 5,500
Drive System: RWD
0-62 mph: 2.9 seconds
For the 675LT, the devil lands in the details, and the details in the 675LT are devilishly good. The engine — which is the same 3.8-liter V8, mounted behind the seats and boosted by two turbochargers — is tuned for an extra 25 horsepower and 16 lb-ft of torque, bringing it to a sinister 666 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. The car is also 220 pounds lighter than the 650S — most of which comes from extra carbon fiber panels. That weight loss also came from small savings at every opportunity, like the six pounds saved from using windshield glass that’s precisely one millimeter thinner than on the 650S. Further, the 675LT’s more aggressive aerodynamics, including a rear spoiler that extends at high speed and pivots vertically to enhance braking, generates 40 percent more downforce.
The car’s performance numbers aren’t that much different from the 650S — same 0-62 time of 2.9 seconds and a top speed that’s actually two mph slower, at 205, thanks to the extra aerodynamic fittings — but it corners better and faster and brakes far more aggressively than the 650S. It’s truly designed for the track, where acceleration times and top speeds are only part of the equation. However, when McLaren handed over a review unit fiercely decked out in red and black, with 10-spoke, ultra-lightweight, forged-alloy wheels (19 inches up front, 20 in the rear) a track drive simply wasn’t in the cards. Public roads, preferably secluded, lonely and grandly sweeping, would have to suffice.
The angel on the left shoulder managed to suppress the devil on the right. This leveling happened just by a hair, though, and with every passing mile, its holy protests felt weaker and weaker.
The drive from Manhattan to eastern Pennsylvania was brisk and showy, with the car drawing stares from every lucky bloke (and blokette) with quick enough reflexes to catch sight of it. At a gas station, the luridly up-swinging doors generated awe and ripples of applause from a crowd of enthusiasts. McLaren, much to its credit, has steadily insinuated itself in just the past few years into mainstream consciousness, and is now spoken with the same reverence as Ferrari and Lamborghini. People know what it is, and the cars generate excitement easily commensurate with the brand’s desired place in the automotive pecking order.
That place is well earned. The 650S last year helped McLaren recover from a modestly disappointing reaction to its 12C, which was only its second road car, produced from 2011 to 2014. The $1.3 million P1 hybrid hypercar, also released last year, confirmed the company is capable of producing stratospherically excellent machines, and the new, slightly more affordable 570S is reaching out to the sub-$200k crowd. The 675LT proves it can push its boundaries at any level and for any stripe of automotive aficionado. (It’s entertaining to note, by the way, that even the super-enhanced 675LT comes with its own set of optional enhancements — stuff to push aforementioned track-readiness all the way to track-readiest. You can, for instance, add a titanium roll bar, four-point racing harnesses and a fire extinguisher. You can also equip your ride with three cameras discretely mounted in the front and rear bumper and the windshield. The marketing material suggests the footage can be downloaded for “later analysis,” which is code, of course, for “YouTube uploading.”)
After leaving the highway for the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania, the magic of all of the tweaks inflicted on the 675LT in particular came together. Having driven the excellent 650S along the same route some months ago, the 675LT feels substantially more confident and aggressive. The drive position feels more race car-like than even other supercars, with prominent wheel arches framing your view of the road, and the Sport+ and Track modes have been programmed to squeeze as much out of the suspension and engine as possible, with stiffer cornering and faster throttle response. The steering is firm, the Alcantara-wrapped wheel grippy as all hell, and the carbon brakes and six-piston calipers poised to reel you in when needed.
In drive, the machine perpetually eggs you on. Detecting the rear spoiler blipping up and down in the mirror is nearly as much fun as watching the multi-hued pastiches of fall foliage scroll by in a blur. I wanted more and the car did too — it desired the kind of thrashing only a racetrack could adequately permit. But the angel on the left shoulder managed to suppress the devil on the right. This leveling happened just by a hair, though, and with every passing mile, its holy protests felt weaker and weaker. The car made quick work of anything I threw at it, and its tight tuning and precision control helped me keep everything in check. The 675LT made me feel good, and made me look good. Which, come to think of it, is precisely how the devil works.