The most commonly asked question of 2014, also known as ‘the year of the hypercar’, was: ‘but what would it be like if you removed the batteries and the motors?’
This was a natural response to the fact that all three hypercars not only boasted vast power outputs, but also an incremental increase in kerb weight. Hence the line of inquiry – with less weight, surely less power would equal similar performance and bring with it all the known benefits of lower mass?
You see there has always until now existed some kind of supercar hierarchy – the crazy expensive ones were faster than the cheaper ones – there was a vague order. But the 488 GTB threw a grenade on that notion, and the 675 LT has now arrived and popped a small H-bomb into the wreckage. I don’t think I’ve driven a faster or more physical supercar that doesn’t call itself a hypercar. I cannot say for certain, but I suspect the 675 would destroy any other supposed rival both in a straight line and around any given lap. In fact I hear rumours that it can hassle a P1 at a technical track.
The transformation from 650S into 675 LT is both involved and expensive. The engine produces just 25hp more than the base car, but more than half the components are new, so it has a new designation – M838TL. There are new turbos, redesigned heads, new camshafts and rods and a new fuel pump to feed the thing. The result is 675hp at 7100rpm and 515lb ft at 5500rpm.
Hardly big increases, but to the man who is still trying to grapple with the sheer violence of daily life with a 650S, the concept of more power and 150kg less weight than my Spider is hard to comprehend. The claimed figures are 0-100mph in 5.5sec, 125mph in 7.9sec and 205mph flat out. Those are absurd.
Understandably, McLaren has spent some time keeping the projectile earth-bound with a claimed 40 percent increase in downforce. Judged visually, there’s a whole lot more splitter, flicks, diffuser and rear wing, so I’ll assume it’s true.
The tracks are 20mm wider, the uprights are from the P1 and each of the familiar chassis settings, Normal, Sport and Track now have new calibrations and for the first time the electronic systems work independently of the setting – so there is a new Dynamic ESP function that allows a load more slip angle, and you can even switch the thing off completely without having to press twenty seven buttons. The brake steer function does remain operative though.
I was a little fatigued and broken when I drove the 675 and I have to admit I found it uncomfortably fast at first. Am I allowed to admit that? The acceleration is unholy, as is the cornering grip from the Pirelli Trofeo R rubber, as are the brakes – in fact the best word to describe the whole experience is relentless. I don’t need a stopwatch to tell you that it will take care of a 458 Speciale, it’s possibly in a different league for sheer speed.
We’ve always known Woking could deliver a face-bending experience, but its ability to deliver simple smiles is less well documented. The P1 hinted at a chassis philosophy more accepting of fun over pure lap time and the 675 confirms the shift in ethos. And, being McLaren, they’ve not lost any of the sheer speed. With the chassis in track mode and the Dynamic ESP selected you can play with cute little angles under power and under brakes. It feels intuitive and the quicker rack means you catch the car with small inputs. The handling is flat and agile, but then the spring rates are up 27 percent and 63 percent front and rear.
Do you miss a conventional locking differential when you switch everything off? I still do, but the way the system now works – with infinitesimal brake inputs fooling the rear tyres into thinking there is a diff – is so seamless it’s getting hard for even me to feel shortchanged. Certainly with the ESP system engaged I no longer think the car needs a locker.
One note of caution to the lucky 500 who have secured one: when you switch everything off for the first time and sling it sideways, do it somewhere with space to spare. This is a very stiffly sprung, heavily turbocharged, mid-engined machine and for all the work of the men with big foreheads, it’s an animal. It never dances and gratifies you the way a 488 does because it’s angrier and faster.
Occasionally you’ll have a little too much throttle, the boost will spool from nowhere and you’ll lay 150 yards of rubber and your heart will want leap from your chest as you yell some choice Saxon. With the ESP off, this is one of the most exciting cars I’ve driven. Very hard work, but very rewarding. The way the brake-steer allows you to get the car rotated before the apex is especially naughty.
I didn’t drive it on the road, but the numbers suggest it is a little harsher than a 650S. The cabin is simple, but being largely identical to the 12C from 2011, now dates the 675. The carbon buckets initially seem to rest too high, but actually don’t. You can specify all manner of options like a Clubsport Pack and Clubsport Pack Plus and wheels that are lighter than sand and a titanium roll cage and all of it matters naught unless you already have an order placed because they are all sold – for £259,500.
I think beyond being a superlative track car that is perfectly usable on the road, the 675LT is a statement of McLaren’s new confidence. As a nascent company I don’t think we quite knew what to make of it, nor do I think the company itself quite knew what it wanted to be, but this car reeks of self-assurance. It is unlike anything else on sale, and somewhere in that carbon face I can see its sinister grin.