Loch Lomond, Scotland: Consider that the number of days per year that it rains in Scotland greatly outnumber the days when the sun shines and you’ll begin to understand my initial trepidation towards testing the open top version of one of McLaren’s fastest rear-wheel-driven cars to date on the winding roads that line this otherwise charming country.
And yet, it was while negotiating these slippery-when-wet real world roads that the new McLaren 675LT Spider came into its own, entrenching itself as one of the finest sportscars I’ve driven to date.
Not content with McLaren’s decision to build the 675LT as a limited-run, coupe-only, model it was the Woking-based company’s fast-growing and clearly enthusiastic customer base that directly influenced the decision to lift the lid on a further 500 (sold out) Spider units.
A homage to the legendary McLaren F1 GT Longtail, the 675LT was designed to offer its few lucky owners increased power and aerodynamics, combined with optimal weight savings (up to 100 kg), when compared with the 650S in order to deliver maximum driver engagement – admittedly with a focus towards track-day use.
As with a number of previous Spider models in McLaren’s growing portfolio, one of the many advantages of building vehicles around a high-strength carbonfibre (tub) core is that little, if any, of the impressive rigidity offered by the coupe version is lost by removing the roof. In the case of the 12C and 650S Spider models launched to date (expect a 570S Spider soon) the option of being able to stow the roof away has only increased their appeal.
With the road ahead disappearing into one of the darkest clouds I’ve ever seen and fat raindrops beginning to attack my windscreen, my instinct to slow to 40 km/h in order to seek cover under the single-piece folding roof on the 675LT Spider is checked by the exhilaration of having crisp, eight-degrees Celcius, Scottish air brushing the top of my head and the enchantment of a frenzied, turbocharged V8 exhaust note engulfing the cabin.
Realising the value of such an alluring exhaust note within the world of supercar ownership, McLaren set about engineering a crossover design for the 675’s titanium exhaust system. The result of this additional 60 cm worth of piping (30 cm per bank) is not only a 19 kW increase in power over the 650S, but also a significantly heightened aural experience.
Although the rear window of the 675LT can be lowered with the roof in place to allow a good dose of exhaust note to filter into the cabin, I wasn’t taking any chances with its potential impact on the soundtrack to this driving experience. Instead I stubbornly relied on maintaining pace in order to keep myself and my Alcantara-clad interior dry.
Fortunately, pace is what the 675LT Spider has in abundance. Despite weighing 40 kilograms more than the Coupe, the claimed 0-100 km/h sprint time for both cars remains the same. It’s only in the dash to the 200 km/h mark where it concedes 0,2 seconds to the Coupe.
Engineered to be progressive rather than spine crushing in its power delivery, there’s a welcome fluidity to the way in which throttle inputs are translated into increased haste. That said, the rare occasions during my test drive when I was able to keep the 675LT’s throttle planted – unleashing the full 497 kW/700 N.m of go-forward via whip-cracking 8 500 r/min gearshifts – proved to be some of the most exhilarating of my 18-year-long career.
But that’s not why the 675LT Spider is my new favourite supercar.
It was actually in the moments between these rare bursts of exuberance where the car really impressed. Whether adhering to the strictly policed, 48 km/h speed limits through quaint villages, or forming an orderly queue behind a tourist bus, not once did the newest McLaren feel anything but composed, brilliantly well-rounded and… alive! From a near perfect driving position and with the powertrain left in Sport mode (if only to enjoy the corresponding ignition-cut gear shifts) the Spider offered as much involvement and intrigue at cruising speeds as it did with the taps fully open.
With damper settings revised to accommodate the Spider’s adjusted weight distribution compared with the Coupe, the 675LT Spider, even when fitted with its optional bespoke 20-inch wheels and relatively unforgiving, P1-sourced racing seats, took most road imperfections (including some aggressively upright cats eyes) in acceptable stride.
Even at moderate (by supercar standards) speeds the 675LT’s superbly fast steering rack (even quicker in its reactions than that of the P1) combines with tenacious levels of grip to reward its pilot with impressive precision and poise – each enthusiastic stamp on the well-modulated brake pedal filling the rear-view mirror with a massive “long-tail” airbrake.
Without having driven the 675LT Coupe, yet realising the negligible impact that the addition of a folding roof to the package has, this is the first car with my name on its tail that I crave to own over anything else currently on the road.
Four lucky South African owners await delivery of their 675LT Spiders.