Even before I had driven the McLaren 600LT through six countries along a meandering 1370-mile route, I knew what to expect.
I knew it would be searingly fast. I knew it would be freakishly agile and steer beautifully too. What I didn’t yet know about the most potent Sports Series model was that, after driving it from Budapest to London in 36 hours, I would hand over its key not with a heavy heart, but with a very real sense of relief. But that’s still to come.
At 8am on a Tuesday morning in the Hungarian capital, there is only anticipation. In Ceramic Grey, the 600LT looks almost violently purposeful. I can’t bring myself to love the way it looks but it’s necessarily fussy because all those contrast- carbon flicks and wings and vents are there for a reason, either to aid cooling or to manipulate the air so that it flows not under the car to try to lift it up, but over the top of it so that it presses it down into the road. At 155mph, the 600LT generates 100kg of downforce compared with neutral lift for the 570S.
Its extra 30bhp isn’t significant but those top-exit exhausts are borderline erotic. The 600LT has more carbonfibre bodywork than the 570S as well as thinner glass and trick suspension components, all of which means it is lighter by as much as 100kg. The chassis has been tweaked, too, the springs stiffer all round, dampers retuned and anti-roll bars firmer.
Our car is missing one important Longtail upgrade. Rather than the ultra-tacky Pirelli Trofeo R tyres on which customer cars will be delivered, it has less track-focused P Zeros. This morning, that seems like a pity. Come bedtime, it will not.
We’re in Budapest because the 600LT’s international media launch at the nearby Hungaroring grand prix circuit is winding down and the cars need to be returned to McLaren’s HQ in Woking. Most will be loaded onto a transporter and repatriated that way, but this particular one will be driven. I wish we had the time to point its prow not directly home but out towards the furthest reaches of Eastern Europe.