From £261,5559
The limited-edition 675LT gets a new variant: the open-roofed 675LT Spider

What is it?

Special. Open. Unavailable. A McLaren 675LT Spider. When McLaren launched the 675LT coupe, it said the car had a significant breadth to its character. That, yes, the 675LT was a track-focused variant of the 650S – 100kg lighter and 33% new, stiffened, lightened, honed, poised – but that it was still at the habitable end of the supercar scale. 

It was a car that remained comfortable on bad roads, McLaren’s people said. It was a car whose seats remained cosy even over long distance, they said. Whose satellite navigation and stereo and air conditioning worked a treat, they said. And then they said: “Here’s Silverstone. Fill your boots.” So we never found out about the rest.

Today is different. Today is the chance to see the side of the car that McLaren said existed, but that we were too busy exploring the Longtaily side of things to notice. LT, Longtail, is the McLaren equivalent of Porsche’s GT3, you see. Silverstone brought out that side of it. In fact, the LT coupé, as we discovered last year, was turned up so far that it felt closer to the P1 than the 650S. Its handling was liberated. It was wild, fast and indulgently enjoyable.

These things are important to note because today’s drive is on the road only, and it’s raining heavily. The speed limit is 60mph and the car’s capable of reaching it in 2.9 seconds. Its own limit is 203mph. That’s a little lower than the coupé because this is the Spider – convertible to you and me – version of the 675LT that was inevitable from the moment McLaren sold all 500 coupes it intended to make, and found the phone hadn’t stopped ringing. Just 500 more, then, they said, we’ll make you 500 Spiders. The theme is the same, though: McLaren’s hope is that it feels the same to drive as the LT coupe.

Like the coupe, then, the 675LT Spider is 100kg lighter than the 650S Spider, which means it’s 40kg heavier than the respective coupe. The roof is electrically operated, and there’s also a back window which can be lowered separately, if want to allow in only more exhaust noise, not air or rain. The titanium exhaust you’ll be hearing more of is shared with the 675LT coupe, as are the vast majority of other changes: suspension that is 20mm lower, a front track 20mm wider, downforce increased by 40%, and spring rates increased – 27% at the front, 63% at the rear – to cope with increased aero load, and steering that’s quicker than a P1’s. All very ‘GT3’, is Longtail. We’ll use the name again, they say. (I rather like the idea of a 595LT, I say.)

What's it like?

What, a car that’s bigger and more powerful than a McLaren F1, on streaming wet roads, at up to 29.6% of its top speed? More fulfilling and rewarding than you’d credit. No, opportunities to explore the full ability gamut aren’t there but, we’re assured that its character is the same as the coupe, and we believe it; because in every way possible to ascertain, the Spider feels to me precisely as the coupé did last year. 

The seats are figure hugging yet comfortable – a bit firm to cross a continent, but fine for crossing a country – the cabin is purposefully Alcantara-trimmed, and somewhere in the 100kg of weight loss has entered more road roar and noise. All of this is fine, to the extent that if the 650S’s eventual replacement is a bit more like the LT, that’d be quite nice, thank you.

Back to top

So too is the ride. The LT retains the adjustable stiffness to its dampers, but on the road, you’re best leaving them, unsurprisingly, in Normal. Occasionally the LT will crash over a pothole but by and large it’s as comfortable as a sports saloon car, only with far more impeccable control of its body. Its steering is divine, too. McLaren retains hydraulic steering and lives with the Co2 burden, and it’s worth it: fast without being nervous; communicative without ever being corrupted. Lotus would be proud of it. 

You don’t need to turn up the powertrain’s angriness on the road either, but it’s worth it, just for the extra pops you get from the exhaust when shifting gears. In Normal mode the fuelling is cut during shifts; in Sport mode the ignition is cut during shifts but it’s still fuelled, so it goes bang when the sparks restart. In angriest Track mode it keeps the engine spinning between upshifts, rather than encouraging the revs to drop, so that residual inertia makes acceleration even fiercer as the next gear engages. 

I’ll be honest, acceleration is fierce all the time.

Elsewhere, the 3.8-litre, heavily turbocharged motor is only a little more entertaining than its derivatives are in other McLarens. Which means its impressiveness comes from its explosiveness at higher revs and big throttle openings, rather than the sound it makes as it does it. More impressive than the noise, in fact, is the operation of the traction and stability control systems. This is a car whose power could overwhelm its rear tyres at any given moment – you suspect in just about any gear, in conditions like these. But when the rears spin, and they do, there’s no virtual slap on the wrist, just quickly regained traction and steadily allowed acceleration.

Should I buy one?

Too late, alas. Like the coupé version of the LT, the phone rang off the hook quickly and all 500 Spiders are gone. Which is a pity because despite the conditions I’m convinced that the Spider is every bit as enjoyable as the coupe; although, strictly speaking, the coupé, being the hard topped and original 675LT, still feels the purer of the two, even if there’s precious little objective evidence of it.  

Back to top

And its breadth of character makes the LT far more rewarding than you’d credit to drive on the road, at barely 30% of its potential. It presents you with its engineering and lets you feel its integrity, even though you’re not exploring it all. They’re good cars, ones that let you do that, and come away impressed. Like a Lotus Elise, Caterham Seven and, yes, Porsche’s GT3s, the LT has the mark of a great driver’s car.

McLaren 675LT Spider

Location Scotland; On sale Now; Price £285,450; Engine V8, 3799cc, twin-turbo petrol; Power 666bhp at 7100rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 5500-6500rpm; Gearbox seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1360kg; Top speed 203mph;  0-62mph 2.9sec; Economy 24.2mpg; CO2/tax band 275g/km / 37%

Watch our review of the McLaren 675LT

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Ravon 13 April 2016

Fuel flap

Witnessed the extraordinary sight at Spa Francochamps last Friday , of a young man with his two day old 675 LT having to lever up and break off the fuel filler flap of his car because the release mechanism had failed ! The car looked really nice, the whole finish and panel fit on McLaren's seem to have improved dramatically over the last couple of years, but if I'd been in the lucky position to own that particular car, I'd of asked McLaren to realign the front boot lid so the gaps were the same on both sides.