Tech Support: Computer-Aided McLaren Shatters Expectations at the Track
The Internet comment boards can be an awful place, but sometimes I can’t resist looking. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen complaints about standard anti-lock brakes, traction and stability controls, performance drive modes, and quick-shifting dual-clutch gearboxes. These drivers seem to describe their ideal supercar as having a big engine up front, a manual transmission, and no traction control or ABS. Basically, a 1992 Dodge Viper.
But times change. Today’s high-performance cars are ever-more reliant on computer-controlled traction aides and driver modes, and they’re faster for it. Since its rebirth in 2012, McLaren has drawn a lot of online ire for the role electronic aids play in its vehicles, but I’m not afraid of a little divine—or computer-aided—intervention, especially in a car as capable as the new 2016 McLaren 675LT.
With only 500 coupes and 500 spiders to be made, the 675LT is the closest one can get to McLaren P1 performance without having to drop seven figures on a hypercar. Based on the already impressive 650S and built using lessons learned from McLaren’s GT3 racing program, the 675LT is a leaner, longer, and more powerful track-focused animal. Named for its metric horsepower rating and after the legendary McLaren F1 GTR Long Tail, the 675LT is powered by an overhauled 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-8. Sporting faster-spinning turbos, new camshafts, revamped ECU tuning, and a myriad of other modifications, the McLaren’s mid-mounted V-8 makes a devilish 666 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The eight-pot is mated to a revamped seven-speed twin-clutch automatic, which McLaren says can shift gears in as little as 40 milliseconds.
The 650S was already a light car, but McLaren took things further with the 675LT. Carbon-fiber bumpers and fenders, a titanium exhaust system, lightweight wheels, and a fixed polycarbonate engine cover join the carbon-fiber MonoCell tub. All that combines to help the flyweight 675LT sneak in under the 3,000-pound (1,361 kg) mark, tipping our scales at 2,993 pounds (1,358 kg).
At our dragstrip, the McLaren 675LT proved itself to be a rather charming Brit. It’s reserved compared to a Lamborghini, but it’s perfectly capable of the theater (excuse me, theatre) you’d expect from a 666-hp, carbon-tubbed supercar. Take launch control, for instance. In a car such as a Porsche 911 Turbo S, you simply put the car in Sport Plus, hit the brake, nail the gas, dump the brake, and you’re off. Easy. In the 675LT, it’s apparent that this car comes from the country that gave us Shakespeare. First you hit the Active switch on the center console to turn Active mode on. Next you twist the left-hand Handling mode knob to the left to Normal, the softest suspension setting, which allows the McLaren to squat and put its power down better on launch. Then you twist the right-hand Powertrain knob all the way right for Track mode, the most aggressive setting. Finally, press the Launch button to enable launch control. A message on the leftmost screen on the instrument cluster pops up to tell you to depress the brake hard with your left foot and floor the gas with your right. As the engine surges behind you, that same display tells you “Boost Is Building,” then “Boost Ready,” and then to let go of the brake. Off you go. A 675 launch is like little else; the little V-8 quickly revs up to its 8,500 rpm redline, and the transmission rattles off shifts so fast, you’re hardly conscious they’re happening. With the computer working hard to manage power and grip, the 675LT rockets from 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. Stay buried in the throttle, and the quarter mile comes in 10.5 seconds at a staggering 139.7 mph (225 km/h)—low weight and slippery body work help out just as much as the 675LT’s power output here.
Thankfully, the McLaren is just as capable at stopping as it is going. With its big carbon-ceramic brake rotors and a rear spoiler that can function as an airbrake, the 675LT aces our 60-0 tests, needing only 94 feet (29 m) to stop. The 675LT’s acceleration and braking potential really shine on the figure eight. Thanks in large part to McLaren’s ProActive hydraulic suspension system tying everything together, the 675LT is one of the quickest cars to ever lap our figure eight, needing 22.4 seconds and averaging 0.98 g. That time is just a tenth of a second behind a Dodge Viper ACR with a track setup, and it easily beats fellow European iron such as the Porsche 911 GT3, Lamborghini Huracn, and Mercedes-AMG GT S.
With all that performance potential, we were quite eager to see what Randy Pobst could manage around Willow Springs Raceway. The McLaren, simply put, was staggeringly fast. Its 1:24.29 lap was the second fastest we’ve ever posted around Big Willow, just behind the mighty Porsche 918 Spyder’s 1:23.54 record. “I think we can get in the 23s easy,” Pobst said after his lap. He was fond of the 675LT’s firm chassis, accurate steering, and, of course, its 4.5 pounds (2 kg) per horsepower weight-to-power ratio. “The power really makes it a thrilling ride. It reminds me of the P1 a lot—you can tell it’s the same personality. It doesn’t even feel that much slower. It hauls the mail! It just rocks!”
Ever the perfectionist, Pobst found a little room for improvement. For starters, he felt that getting to the McLaren’s tremendous braking power took too much effort. And then there’s the issue of mechanical engineering versus software engineering that has so plagued every McLaren review dating back to the MP4-12C. “I would say McLaren’s software engineers are as involved with the driving experience as its mechanical engineers are,” he said. “I can tell McLaren is getting to a whole new level of stability control, but at the same time I feel less and less like I was the one driving. I know I’m leaning on that traction control a lot, and that bugs me. I don’t like using my crutch when both my legs are good.”
Pobst may not like the computer intervention, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m not a tenth of the driver he is, so I don’t mind the digital aides helping every once in a while, especially when they’re as unobtrusively integrated as they are in the McLaren. After a day spent tossing the 675LT around the canyons, I only saw the traction control light flicker at me once or twice. Otherwise, I was left enjoying Track mode’s instantaneous throttle response and lightning-quick shifts and the perfectly weighted steering.
The 675LT’s performance in the canyons isn’t exactly surprising, but its road manners sure are. Left alone with the modes set to Normal on the highway, the McLaren is quite nice to drive. The ride is exceptional for a supercar, cabin noise is relatively quiet, and visibility is surprisingly good, too. The McLaren doesn’t stutter in stop-and-go traffic, either—the car is seemingly just as happy slogging it at 14 mph (22 km/h) as it is accelerating past 140 (225 km/h).
The McLaren isn’t perfect, though. My list of complaints is rather short, however: A pre-production prototype fuel line-clamp failed after the track session, giving us starting issues; the engine cover rattles when the engine’s cold and idling at 1,500 rpm; the seats get uncomfortable after a few hours in the saddle; and the infotainment system works about as well as you’d expect a 3-year-old Android tablet to. But what supercar is perfect? Who would want a perfect supercar anyway? Aside from those small eccentricities, the 675LT is a remarkable supercar that even at nearly $400,000 USD still manages to punch way above its weight class. Some may bemoan the computer intervention, but the average drivers should welcome it, as it helps make the McLaren’s world-beating performance attainable to even the most ordinary of us.
|2016 McLaren 675LT|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$399,271|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.8L/666-hp/516-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2,993 lb (42/58%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||179.0 x 82.5 x 46.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||10.5 sec @ 139.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||94 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.09 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||22.4 sec @ 0.98 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/22/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||211/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.06 lb/mile|
675LT Leaves Shelby’s Snake in the Dust
Back in the day, the 0-100-0-mph test was a common performance benchmark. Legend has it that Carroll Shelby was the first to boast that his Cobra would take less time to make the trip to the century mark and back to a standstill than your car would need to make it to 60 mph. His much-disputed claim was 13.8 seconds. With that test in mind, in our April 2000 issue we picked one of five extant McLaren F1 LM supercars and enlisted “veteran McLaren driver Andy Wallace—one of the elite cadre of drivers who contributed to a McLaren juggernaut that took first, third, fourth, fifth, and 13th places overall and stormed to a 1-2-3-4 sweep of the GT category at the 24 hours of Le Mans, when the car debuted there in ’95. Toss in a full factory support staff, sophisticated Datron timing equipment, and a suitable venue in the heart of East Anglia, and you’ve got the makings of a great day, indeed.” Mind you, tires weren’t what they are new, launch control wasn’t part of the program, and the Big Mac didn’t have ABS. The resulting 0-100-0 time of 11.5 seconds broke the record and shattered the Shelby brag by a whopping 2.3 seconds. Which got us thinking: What would the latest, greatest McLaren 675LT do? It decimated the revered mark by another 2.2 seconds, requiring just 9.3 seconds total. Chris Walton
Additional photos of the McLaren 675LT: