The 675LT Spider is the fastest production convertible ever from McLaren. Do we dare max it during our Middle East test drive?
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V8, twin-turbo, 3799cc||666bhp @ 7,100rpm||700Nm (516lb ft) @ 5,500-6,500rpm||2.9secs||326kph||1270kg (524bhp/ton)||$350,500|
We cannot display this galleryIt’s as I shift from fourth to fifth, watch the speedometer needle leap with almost affronted vigour, and feel the rising wail of the twin-turbo V8 knock my back teeth together, that my mind jumps back to the first time I ever drove a convertible McLaren. It was five years ago, only a couple of kilometres away from where we are now, and as they do today, the early morning rays are beginning to snake over the rocky outcrops that bookend our test route. It was around about this time of year too, now that I think about it.
It may seem an odd thing to grow wistful about – the 40-plus-year careers of my contemporaries no doubt offer more interesting reading – but at the time, it was a big moment for me. The 12C Spider was the first bona fide supercar I ever drove, let alone was entrusted with the key fob. An all-too literal dark cloud though hung over that early morning drive, as did a sheen of fog so thick that the 12C’s V8 strained far fewer muscles than the headlights managed. In 2012, I was less familiar with these roads too than I am today, and opting for a winding mountain pass that ‘looked interesting’ on the occasionally glitching SatNav led to one underbody-shaving road hump after another for a full half kilometre. That the road ended with an Oman border check was particularly cruel, given that I had neither my passport nor documentation for the McLaren itself, and thus had no choice but do the wince-inducing 500m all over again.
“I’m staggered that the 675LT Spider, a hardcore version of the 650S, can be semi-unhinged when off the leash, and yet sublimely comfortable at a cruise”
To make matters worse, and with a fairly ropey photoshoot only just in the bag (minus that all important cover shot, as I later found out), the final nail in my mahogany resting place came when the 12C Spider, lower on fuel than I’d realised, ground to a halt almost two-dozen kilometres away from the nearest petrol station. I’m not sure if you’ve ever attempted to push a $285K supercar and its low hanging front splitter onto an awaiting low-loader, but I can assure you, it isn’t much fun.
Looking back, now more experienced and with a newly acquired charming streak of arrogance, it’s easy to laugh at these misadventures, particularly since today’s shoot is going so well. Chief snapper Hari has already bagged his ‘money shot’ (I’ll leave you to guess which one) and thanks to a suitably revolting 3am call time, the roads are empty enough for me to give the 666bhp twin-turbo V8 multiple squirts when the twisties open up.
There’s more to my 12C reminisces though than geographical proximity. Civilised aggression under acceleration is as much a trademark today as it was back then, even if the performance gap has shifted considerably (more on that in a second). Like 2012, I’m staggered that the 675LT Spider, a hardcore version of the already über dynamic 650S, can be semi-unhinged when off the leash, and yet sublimely comfortable at a cruise. Lowering the folding hardtop roof means the sometimes irritable air conditioning is having to work harder than normal, true, but the twin-turbo V8 rattle that’s ricocheting off both the alcantara cabin and the surrounding mountains is just a joy to listen to. Same story, five years apart.
More than this though, it’s because, like the 12C Spider, this was a test drive I never thought I’d get to experience. Back in 2012 after all, surely I was too raw, too green to be given such a task, and at the time, I made the most of what I thought would be my only taste of McLaren machinery. Today meanwhile, I’ve somehow bagged a drive in one of only 500 675LT Spiders that will ever be made. All of which were sold within two weeks of the order books being opened. Accordingly, the price for the Spider is both immaterial and eye-watering at $435,600, some $55K more than the coupe. And once again, I intend to make the most of it.
“I’ll leave you to start ferreting down the back of the sofa for a little under quarter million dollars in loose change…”
Even despite the legacy created by the F1 GTR LT that competed in the 1997 FIA GT Championship, nobody really expected a convertible 675LT – only the second ‘LT’ in 20 years – to make production. Not even McLaren at one stage, and only the collective requests (read ‘moaning’) of those who’d missed the opportunity to purchase a 675LT coupe meant the Spider was the green lit. Client feedback was so strong in fact that McLaren has since confirmed the ‘LongTail’ range is set to be expanded further still in the years to come, in-line with Mercedes’ AMG division. And on that note, I’ll leave you to start ferreting down the back of the sofa for a little under quarter million dollars in loose change. Back to the Spider.
Mechanically, there’s little difference between the 675LT Spider and its hard-top sibling. Both share the ‘heavily revised 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 that made its way across from the 650S, albeit with more efficient turbochargers and half of the componentry either heavily tweaked or brand new for added grunt. Power and torque remain the same at 666bhp and 516lb ft, and the structural rigidity of McLaren’s second generation carbon fibre monocoque means the hardtop roof adds just 40kg to the coupe’s 1230kg dry weight: 0-100kph is smashed in an identical 2.9 seconds, the Spider lagging just two-tenths behind on the run to the double ton.
“The V8 is fully capable of producing the full beans earlier in the rev range and sustaining its ballistic momentum”
Make no mistake, the Spider is stupidly quick. Plant the right foot and there’s an explosion of forward momentum akin to being punched in the face. Interestingly, in the lower revs, peak torque is limited to 443lb ft, McLaren sacrificing just a hint of low-end violence for a more dramatic torque curve, maximum acceleration and minimum wheel spin. The V8 is fully capable of producing the full beans earlier in the rev range and sustaining this ballistic momentum thereafter, but for a more engaging – almost ‘sledgehammer’ like – delivery, the full fat 516lb ft only kicks in as the needle rises above 5000rpm, delivering a monstrous, mid-range punch as it does so. It’s a setup that could easily come undone with the wrong transmission, but fortunately the gearshifts through the seven-speed dual clutch automatic are equally rapid. Almost brutally so.
Coupled to this are the engine notes rattling their way along the new titanium exhaust system, the warble slightly more emotive than the rather flat, metallic chorus in the 650S. For yet more of that engaging ‘drama’, the ignition cuts in the high revs during gear changes, un-burnt fuel eliciting a racecar-like shot through the exhaust that’s so fantastically over the top, it’s impossible not to love. In Sport mode at least: acoustically the V8 is quite tame when you leave everything in Normal mode.
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