The McLaren 675LT was pitched to me as the “practical supercar,” for reasons I tuned out immediately because I was too excited to drive a fucking McLaren. Then I had to put that claim to the test.
In one work week using it as my Los Angeles beater I netted a few moments of raw bliss and a lot of inconvenience. Turns out the supercar lifestyle requires more than the car. Call it the fastest social struggle I’ve ever driven.
(Full disclosure: McLaren’s PR agency called me up and asked if I wanted to take a 675LT home for a few days. Later I had more questions, like “Can I have the car again?” Then they stopped calling.)
You may have noticed I only got through one and a half sentences before complaining about this $400,000 hall pass I got into the fast lane. Make no mistake, the 675LT has some truly magical abilities. It can easily outrun your sense of mortality and making your kidneys feel like Newton’s Cradle through a few casually connected corners.
Numbers: 666 horsepower, 516 lb-ft of torque, 2,927 pounds ready to drive. There are street legal cars with better power-to-weight ratios, but you might never see one.
The volumetric efficiency on the engine is outrageous; all that juice out of just 3.8 liters. It’s a V8, twin-turbocharged, and protected by a cover that can only be opened by professional McLaren mechanics. No, really, it says so right in the manual. Granted, the “specialized tool” needed to open the engine bay is just a Security Torx bolt, and the tool for that is available at most hardware stores.
I wonder how many McLaren owners will know that. I knew it because I bought one once, and even though I’m a terrible mechanic I usually try to fix my own failures out of a sense of duty to learn how my car works. Also because I’m cheap.
But the explicit sealing-off of the 675LT’s engine bay sets a tone of superiority. As in, the car knows better than you. Look, but for God’s sake, do not get your grubby fingerprints on it. I wonder if that’s how I’m supposed to feel about other drivers when I’m sealed into the cockpit of this thing.
I’ve driven plenty of expensive cars, and rare ones, but not at this level. You don’t have to know what the 675LT is to appreciate it—the presence is arresting even for jaded Hollywood residents. That said, I’m sure you have time for a quick history lesson:
The 675LT is named as a nod to the McLaren F1 GTR Longtail, a stripped-down and steroidal version of the legendary center-seated gold-engined F1 from the 1990s. While the OG “LT” was a straight-up race car, the 675LT is really two clicks down classified as a “supercar.” But it’s damn close to “hypercar” status with its completely carbon body, steamroller-sized wheels and the superfast steering rack from its bona fide hypercar brother the P1.
The level of engineering that went into this car is unmistakable. Even if you’d only seen a handful of cars in your life, the elegance of construction on this one would stand out. Those with a more refined taste will recognize exceptional chassis stiffness and the robotically precise seven-speed transmission.
But is that what motivates somebody to buy a car like this? I’m actually asking, because away from all that speed and flash and technology, I can’t imagine a life where $400,000 is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a depreciating luxury automobile. Which is why you’re getting so much internal struggle bottled into this car review.
The car is undeniably amazing as a performance tool, annoying as transportation and extremely awkward as a social symbol. Especially when you’re street-parking it between a small apartment, Trader Joe’s and the beach next to the airport.
Regardless of whether or not you appreciate its pedigree or finer points of engineering, I don’t have to be rich to know that somebody buys a McLaren 675LT because of the way it makes them feel. After caring for the car for a week, and each time driving it, the feeling resonating with me most was exhaustion.
The process of driving this car begins when you unlock it. The flock of people who will have gathered to take selfies against all that Napier Green liquid metal and carbon fiber perk up like the seagulls in Finding Nemo to ask you two things: “how much” and “how fast.”
Now in any other city those people might have been confused by a person in rags holding the key to such a car. But here in LA, derelicte is a pillar of male fashion, so my thrift store ensemble didn’t really sway from bystander’s expectations. I could have been a tech millionaire in that hoodie, for all they knew.
Only when I opened the door and spent five minutes contorting myself to insert my ass into the skinny seat did onlookers start to think I must be somebody’s valet.
Don’t worry, your self-consciousness is about to be combusted and blown out the high-mounted tailpipes in a glorious ode to beauty in machinery.
Top speed is rated at 205 mph. The 0 to 60 run is claimed at 2.8 seconds, and 60 back to 0 is advertised at a gut-busting three seconds flat. Basically one tap of each pedal is all you need to inject yourself with severe ecstasy followed immediately by discomfort of equal magnitude. Who wouldn’t pay $400,000 for that?
As you can see the 675LT’s spec sheet is almost as exciting as the photos of it. But actually driving the thing is a pain in the ass. And trying to justify it as any definition of “practical” is like trying to fit it into an LA apartment’s parking garage. Physically impossible, I learned.
Conveniences like air conditioning and reclining seats have been struck in the name pinnacle performance you’re only going to extract in your imagination.
That’s right: pay $400 grand, live without air conditioning.
No air conditioning, but you still get a navigation system, although it’s pretty much just an Android phone stuck to the dash. No air conditioning, but you get a Meridian stereo. No air conditioning, but you still get a special rising front suspension to help the car climb curbs. Not that it works, I still scraped off what sounded like a few grand worth of car every time I pulled into a parking lot. Heartbreaking and, despite my best efforts, unavoidable.
The first time it happened my heart dropped right out of my ass.
Knowing full well that the 675LT barely had enough clearance to make it over a stack of Pogs, I took the extra ten minutes to find a decent gas station with a relatively merciful entrance ramp angle. And the extra two minutes to wait for the car to raise its chin for the occasion.
Creeping up, on an angle, with the trepidation you’d have walking into the basement of a haunted house–CRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
Oh yes, of course people were staring. I was in a fucking neon green McLaren. My beached supercar had already been Instagrammed in the time it took for me to decide whether to back off or plunge the rest of the way up the hill.
Well the car, despite being remarkably efficient for what it’s capable of (22 MPG highway!), needed gas. And I was already “in for a penny,” so to speak.
I blipped the throttle, cleared the hump and landed the car in front of a pump. On the wrong side, of course. (Sigh.) Wing door up and down again. Engine snapped to life like a nightmare monster again. Car moved six feet.
Don’t forget that we still had an audience here. And those precisely-engineered theatrics that make you feel like you’ve just stepped out of pit row at Le Mans, well, they work twice as hard to make you look like a jackass when you have to deal with plebeian problems like speed bumps.
But at least with my dignity dripping into the pavement like the last car’s oil leak, I didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious going prone and shining my phone’s flashlight at any undercarriage I could see.
Had I just conscripted myself to a life of indentured servitude to pay off my new debt to repair this McLaren’s underbelly?
Turns out not. And not because “hey it’s the bottom of the car, who’s going to notice?” (Though I will confess that the thought crossed my mind.)
Despite the 675LT being generally unfit for the civilian usage I was putting it through, the people who drew it must have anticipated the idiocy of pilots like myself who might try and climb curbs. That strip along the car’s chin isn’t carbon fiber, it’s plastic. Cheaper, more resilient, and the source of the terrific noise I’d made pulling into the gas station. Plastic was all I’d hurt, and not even visibly. The only real scars were on my pride and let’s be real, that comes back pretty quick when you’re in a car like this.
Oh, and when our handler at McLaren reads this he’ll be sure to remind me you can order A/C on the 675LT as a free option. So– you can order A/C on the 675LT as a free option.
The point is that the “practical supercar” and “pretend race car” motifs don’t really vibe. They’re also both kind of dumb. It’s not like anyone’s buying this to drive to the track, race on the track, and then ride home from the track.
Why would anyone rich enough to do that put up with the discomfort? The fun is fleeting, believe me. And you’ll never convince me you can feel the ounces saved by fixing the seats or ditching the A/C on the street whether you’re stuck in LA traffic or have the Hollywood Hills to yourself.
This vehicle’s very existence is absurd. Even in the company of super-specialized $400,000 cars.
But the absurd is what we live for.
There is no way to fire this car up without getting excited; that start button is like lighting a fuse on your ego, and if you don’t manage your emotions very carefully, you’re liable to put the thing into a curb or parked food truck or the back of somebody’s Prius by the time the navigation screen loads.
If you managed to get onto the road without overzealously accelerating into a six-figure repair job, you get rewarded with the novelty of seeing people in traffic break their necks to ogle you. That wears off after the first stop light and is replaced with paranoia.
Every lane change, every yellow light you consider accelerating through, every enthusiastic blip off a stop sign, is probably being photographed or filmed and uploaded to the internet by some person you’ll never meet.
But even the seething metropolis of Los Angeles gives way to open roads eventually and by the time you get there, the car will be good and ready to give you another high.
A few hard accelerations and corners and you’ll feel exactly like the driving hero you thought you were when you bought the thing. A few more and you’ll realize, no, you’re not even tickling the car’s limit.
And with that the McLaren 675LT has delivered you what might be the biggest moment in your life as a driver. Will you accept that this car is far more capable than a civilian driver in a public space, or see how far your skills and luck really go?
I’m not ashamed to say I reveled in the safety of staying well bellow the edge of this car’s abilities. It’s still exciting. Probably pretty close to how the car will actually be used on the street by its owners, even.
But reconciling the responsibility of somebody else’s $400,000 piece of property with the desire to give the car an honest shakedown, and satisfy your own voracious curiosity about the car’s true capabilities, that’s a tough one.
Take Launch Control, for example. The special mode that would help harness the car’s full accelerative force into an action even a knuckle-dragging philistine like myself could execute by simply mashing the gas pedal.
Scary in its own right. By myself, in the dark, in the desert, I couldn’t believe the conscience I had somehow just developed. What if an animal jumped out? Or a scorpion popped my tire? Or, the far more likely scenario, I lost control and had turned this rolling work of art into cloud of carbon shivs?
Of course I played with the car. Got loose, got comfortable, scared myself, reeled it in and crept for the next few miles at 5 below the speed limit. This process repeated itself for a good chunk of my evaluation lap over the top of Los Angeles.
The problem with pushing a car this advanced, besides the egregious criminality, is that the speed and stakes snowball so quickly the car can trick you into thinking “you’ve got it” until you really, really don’t.
Squirting off a few stop signs and connecting corners, even keeping to a reasonable speed and staying in the proper lane, is still fun and still draining. Physically, mentally. Emotionally too, if you find the exhaust note as stirring as I did.
And that makes the drive home tough.
You’re over it. The attention is upsetting. The loudness and harshness has soured and when you just want to get home the car becomes a very expensive burden that still requires a very high level of engagement to operate. Even under the speed limit.
Getting into some gas stations or garages is simply not possible, all others must be entered with the care of a museum’s painting duster.
After almost 500 miles in the McLaren 675LT, my verdict is pretty much what you expect. It is an exceptional as a piece of art or a conduit for adrenaline. It is objectively awful as a mode of transportation. And a palpable means of social segregation.
One thing I did not expect was how much that last bit resonated with me. I’ve driven plenty of cars that were “bad” and loved them. My father’s Fiat. My Scout. But while those weird beaters have a charming flippancy to them, the McLaren’s ostentatiousness felt a little grating in the real world.
Status symbols aside, I will never forget the nights I spent alone with this car. Out of the traffic. Away from prying iPhones and squirmy passengers. It was as high as I’ve ever been on the food chain of automotive engineering and had it all to myself.
That was the car’s novelty I appreciated. Too bad that’s such a small fraction of the actual “ownership” experience.