The son of seven-time world champion Michael is edging closer to an F1 drive
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What’s this? Our first taste of the McLaren 600LT. There’s something so exciting about this car, so rich in potential. Why is that? Well, here’s a few reasons: the first LT, the 675LT, was an utter belter (my favourite McLaren road car of the modern era), the 570S this is based on is already a complete honey and as a concept it’s easy to get your head around because it’s not too complex. Now, I want to concentrate on giving you a flavour of what it’s like to drive the 600LT, so if you want to know more about the technical details, let me point you in the direction of Paul Horrell’s superb piece. In short, here are some highlights: £185,500, 205mph, 23 per cent new parts, 96kg lighter than a 570S (1,247kg dry), faster lapping than the 675LT and 0-124mph in 8.2secs (we’ve timed a 720S at 7.4, a 570S at 8.7secs). Does it feel faster? Wrong phraseology – it feels more urgent. Much. I haven’t yet had the chance to dig into exactly what has been done to the engine, but throttle response, turbo lag, the way the revs flare and die when you blip the pedal, the noise it makes… this all speaks of considerable engineering focus.
It also has a secret burn-out mode (as does the Senna). Disable traction, stiffen and tauten it all up, line it up with the steering straight – as you do on the start line of Goodwood’s hillclimb – and then, with your foot off the brake – simply smash the throttle to the bulkhead and hold it there. There’s a small delay while the 600LT prepares itself and then a spike of revs, a dump of clutch and you’re off, with both furiously spinning back wheels and forward momentum. And provided you don’t lift or dab the brakes, you can sustain this for as long as you like. Just pull the paddle when you approach the 8,000rpm mark. And do it again when you need third. I have to say the appetite it still had for wheelspinning up to and beyond the motorway speed limit caught me unawares. Need more practice. And tyres.
Is that relevant to a car like the 600LT? Yes. You might think this car is track-focused, all steely glare and single-minded intent. And yep, I dare say it’ll do the track precision stuff very well indeed, but even within the mile-long confines of Goodwood hill I reckon it’s a more richly rewarding, playful and good-natured car than that. It feels happy. First corner then. We’re back under control, although I’m aware the super-heated rears will now have less grip then the fronts. Doesn’t matter – both front and rear ends are hugely communicative, so I can recalibrate on the short straight between one and two, and having been tentative through one, I already know I can be easier on the brakes into two, carry more speed and get on the throttle earlier. The car is that transparent that in the two or three seconds between those corners I already have a far clearer idea of what’s going on. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a car come to me that quickly before. Really? It’s ridiculous trying to make a full review out of a quick, panicky punt of a car you’ve never driven before, in a setting of massive intimidation (Goodwood doesn’t make heroes, merely claims scalps), but the 600LT does definitely cut through both atmosphere and nerves to feel trust-worthy, sharp, quick and agile in a way that takes it beyond the 570S. The noise from those top exit exhausts helps – not only the extra closeness, but the crispness. It’s not the most beautiful noise, but the sharpness and energy of it suits the car, and each whipcrack downshift is accompanied by a crackle from the exhaust. Not overrun pops or burbles, but sudden stabs of sound. According to my passenger, McLaren 570 GT4 racer Joe Osborne, when the cats get really hot, you get flames above the rear deck… The steering, as is so often the case with McLarens, is what I remember afterwards for its clarity, and the way the suspension rode the nasty bump on the top straight that comes just before you arrive in the top paddock. The whole car felt urgent, yet manageable; feral, yet friendly. The kind of car you’ll get a huge amount of satisfaction from just driving, any time, any place. Just need more seat time.