The 620R would feel very fast wherever you’d be likely to drive it, but it does need heat in its Pirelli tyres, and a dry surface on which to operate, to assuredly get its ears pinned back.
It’s the kind of car that ought to come with a spare set of wheels fitted with rubber intended for road driving in the cold and the wet because, even though they’re road-legal, those standard Trofeo Rs don’t cope well with either. The irony is that owners may already be budgeting for that spare set of rims anyway, but expecting to keep McLaren’s track-only slick tyres wrapped around them instead. The most sensible thing would probably be to have standard P Zero road tyres on one set and the full track-only slicks fitted to the other.
The 620R holds only a very slender 19bhp advantage over a 600LT, though. We’ve seen considerably less purposeful supercars from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini record markedly faster acceleration figures over the past few years, simply by virtue of having greater firepower – as well, admittedly, as the benefit of slightly better test conditions in which to show what they can do.
On a fairly chilly test track surface, the 620R was actually 0.3sec slower from 0-60mph than the 600LT Spider we road tested last year and needed a couple more tenths to cover a standing quarter mile. It might have gone a tenth or two faster in a warmer ambient temperature, but it would still most likely have struggled to put clear air between itself and the supposedly lesser LT until well past 100mph, at which point its longer spells operating near to peak power in higher gears finally begin to tell.
It isn’t the magnitude of this car’s performance that makes it feel unique, then, nearly so much as the delicious savagery of its texture and feel. Rigid engine mountings and that roof-mounted air intake combine to make the sensory experience of driving this car wonderfully raw and visceral. That factor, combined with the more laggy and boosty delivery of this version of Woking’s V8 than we’re now used to from bigger and pricier McLarens (it needs to spin beyond 3500rpm before really taking off), makes for high drama indeed.
That 3.8-litre motor actually makes the upper harness straps of the driver’s seat vibrate across the tops of your shoulders as it passes about 5000rpm, and other cabin fixtures buzz and zing menacingly at different crankshaft speeds. It’s seriously noisy, then, and every bit as raucous as the Senna’s V8 was. It’s still not exactly tuneful, though, but definitely more enigmatic to listen to than ever before, not least thanks to the rushing and fluttering of air being gulped through the roof intake.