2019 McLaren 600LT Spider First Drive: A Supercar Set to Stun Your Spouse
When you let your wife review a brand-new 592-horsepower supercar, everyone wins.
While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working as an automotive journalist, the person who most benefits from my profession is my wife, Rashna. Living in New York City, we don’t own a car, but my beloved gets downright giddy when I float various loaner options for road trips. She gravitates towards supremely luxurious grand tourers and high-end sedans, like the Bentley Mulsanne Speed we borrowed to visit her parents, and tends to scoff at the legions of supercars we’ve sampled. The Ferrari 488 received poor marks for its difficult ingress and egress, and a lack of massaging seats. Our Lamborghini Huracan Performante tester’s bright Rosso Mars hue drew a groan: “I’m going to be all over the Internet,” she sighed, slinking low in the seat as the umpteenth phone targeted us on the highway.
But she’s from England, and has always had a soft spot for McLaren, so when the British supercar maker invited her along for the launch of the 600LT Spider, her eyes widened. And when the reps offered her a stint behind the wheel, on bucolic Arizona desert roads and on a closed race circuit, she readily accepted.
Turns out, the missus has scores of salient thoughts when it comes to reviewing such a super steed. “It looks very intimidating,” Rashna said, walking to our Lime Green Elite 600LT. “Any bump or scrape and that’s going to be expensive to fix,” she quipped, pointing to the carbon fiber accents glistening around the exterior. Following a walk-around, she nodded in approval. “It’s got a much nicer flow to the design than a Lamborghini. All of the elements blend nicely.”
She inquired about the top-mounted exhausts, a clever move by McLaren engineers which both reduces weight by requiring less piping and frees up space for a larger rear diffuser. McLaren takes maximizing the noise from that mid-mounted 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 very seriously; it's also added special piping that pushes the exhaust noise through a membrane (to filter out gasses) into the cabin. Taking off, the glorious growl filling the cabin drew a smile from Rashna.
“That’s a nice touch," she said. "It sounds great in here.” Indeed.
The black-leather-and-Alcantara-drenched interior gives it a “far more luxurious feel than a Lamborghini or a Ferrari,” and she liked that she had control over the “easy-to-use” multimedia interface—an act that can admittedly be tricky for passengers in the driver-focused Huracan or 488. Plus, the multi-adjustable sport seats made for a comfortable ride, even when I had the active handling switched to the stiffest Track setting. Her interior gripes were limited to a lack of a glove box (fair) and the fact that with the top down, the angle of the infotainment screen meant it was frequently washed out by the glare of the Arizona sun (very fair; reading the GPS screen was challenging).
On a deserted country road, some 30 miles out from Arizona Motorsports Park, she jumped in the driver’s seat and took off, albeit trepidatiously. “I had a hard time telling how fast you’re diving, because 80 in this car feels like 40,” she said. “I’ve learned not to pay attention to your speed. If I did, I’d just freak out,” noting that whenever she looked over, the 600LT Spider was “way over what you should be going.”
Still, my wife has a need for speed, so before long, the speedo was registering above the county limit. “It’s confidence-inspiring,” she said, tipping into the throttle more. “I think I feel so safe because of the carbon tub.”
The core of any McLaren is a carbon fiber MonoCell tub, which serves a dual purpose as weight reducer and rigidity enhancer. Trimming extraneous kilos and grams is vital when you’re in a weight-reduction war, and McLaren’s clinched the top spot on the podium yet again when stacked up against the 600LT Spider’s competition. The Lamborghini Huracan Performante Spyder clocks in at 3,322 pounds, while the Ferrari 488 Spider comes in at 3,130. The dry weight for the (lightest-spec’d) 600LT Spider? A lithe 2,859 pounds. That scale score enables a quicker sprint from 0 to 60 miles per hour—2.9 seconds, as compared to the Lambo’s 3.1 and the Ferrari’s 3.0. That time means the 600LT Spider is also just as fast to 60 as the 600LT Coupe, though loses one-tenth of a second in the tear to 124, which arrives in 8.4 seconds.
The 592-horsepower engine produces 457 pound-feet of torque, which is delivered in sledgehammer fashion. “Though it’s very linear. It keeps building as long as you keep your foot down,” Rashna noted. Hauling ass is easy; stopping a screaming road rocket can prove more challenging, but Rashna had no issues with the 600LT’s platter-sized, carbon-ceramic stoppers (plucked from the pricier 720S), aided further by a brake booster inspired from the even pricier McLaren Senna. A deep dive and the nose plummeted, drawing an impressed smirk from my wife.
“These are perfect,” she said. I explained the brake vectoring system the 600LT employs—grabbing the inside wheel in a turn to help thwart understeer. “That’s nice," she said, "but I just like knowing we’re going to stop in a hurry.” (Fun fact: the braking distance of the Spider from 124 miles an hour to a dead stop is only 16.5 feet longer than that of a P1.)
At the track, McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt’s wife, Mia, gave Rashna some pointers before her first-ever track stint. Mia, who not only races in McLaren’s GT4 series but won the championship last season, allayed Rashna’s fears; in short order, my wife was stuffing a pillow in the bottom of the race buckets—“I’m too low!”—and headed out on the circuit. Her first laps were timid, as she got the hang of things, but when she came in, her praise was immediate.
“This thing is a beast,” she said, tugging off her helmet. “It slices through the corners. Some cars, you feel the edge is right there and you’re going to slide off, but I had all the confidence out there.” Credit there goes to both the aero bits that impart the same amount of downforce as the Coupe—220 pounds at 155 miles an hour—and to the custom Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tires, which McLaren claims afford a greater cornering speed than the 675LT. Her second stint saw her crack 100 on the speedometer, and grinning even more. “I didn’t put the car to its limits, but I was able to go to mine,” she said.
Then she swapped seats with the pro driver instructor for a hot lap to experience the full power of the 600LT. Most of those guys like to showboat when it’s their turn behind the wheel, and her pilot was no different, drifting the car around the longer carousels and some of the sharper hairpins. “Even when it was sideways, it felt balanced; like he could push it in any direction he wanted to with just a little steering adjustment.”
After, Mia took Rashna out for another hot lap. “She’s a fantastic driver,” Rashna later said. “She drove the track line, so it was cleaner and a lot smoother, but it was interesting to see that the car is so adaptable. If you want to aggressively thrash it, you can, and you’ll be just fine. But if you want to drive fluidly, it’s equally happy to do that. It can perfectly match your driving personality and style.”
Then came the words McLaren would undoubtedly love to hear the most: “It was so good, I actually forgot we were in a convertible for a second.”
The 2019 McLaren 600LT Spider, By the Numbers:
- Base Price (Price as Tested): $263,193 ($313,441)
- Powertrain: 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8, 592 horsepower, 457 pound-feet; 7-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel-drive
- EPA Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city / 22 mpg highway
- 0-60 MPH: 2.8 seconds
- Roof Removal Time: 15 seconds
- Rashna’s Parting Thought: “Do we have to give it back?”