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Having driven the Porsche 911 GT3 RS from Texas to Montana, it was the McLaren 675LT Spider’s turn to carry SSO Jr. (aka Bad Driver) and I on the 1573 mile journey back to Dallas. We needed to bring the McLaren back down as it was due in for its annual service and I really trust the team at McLaren Dallas. As this was essentially the 675LT Spider’s return voyage, after a year’s vacation in the mountains, I had little concern that the car could make the trip. The challenge this time was more on the drivers as we would be doing 1230 miles on day one as we needed to be back in Dallas by 1PM on day two. Unlike on the recent all Porsche trip North where we took 2 cars, Bad Driver and I would be splitting the driving duties on the way South.
As Bad Driver hadn’t driven the 675LT Spider in well over a year, I did need to get him both comfortable and confident behind the wheel of the mighty Mac before we headed off. In the days before we headed south, we took the 675LT Spider out for a few long runs in the valley to get him reacclimated and then headed up into the mountains for a bit more of a challenge. It didn’t take Bad Driver long to get comfortable and he had the McLaren flowing down the road nicely after just a few runs out. The runs up empty mountain roads were really helpful as we worked on sightlines, braking points, and cornering. For a young driver, he is quite smooth and keeps the car nicely balanced. This is a far cry from his brief career in carts when I don’t think Bad Driver ever touched the left-hand pedal and he spent more times sideways than pointing forward.
The 675LT Spider was a great car for Bad Driver to be learning more “spirited” driving skills in. Visibility is excellent, and it is a very easy car to place on the road. The controls are all simple and intuitive. The traction control system is excellent while not being intrusive like some of the earlier systems I remember from 1990s Ferraris. The brakes and accelerator both have great feel and are easy to modulate. The gearbox paddles move with the steering wheel, so you never need to take your hand off the wheel to hunt for them. It is also a car that shrinks around you as your progress increases.
The drive back down, while long, was delightfully uneventful. We set out early on Thursday morning, and made rapid progress from Montana to the Wyoming border. Once in wide open Wyoming, it was Bad Driver’s turn to take the wheel. With nearly no traffic and nothing but wide-open road in front of us, we were able to pick up the pace even a bit more. The car responded beautifully and seemed to really enjoy running at a good clip for a few hours on end. The larger fuel tank and better gas mileage in the 675 vs. the 911 GT3 RS also allowed us to cut the number of fuel stops by half vs. the drive north. At the Wyoming Colorado state line, we switched seats again and I got the less fun task of getting us down to and around Denver at the beginning of rush hour. With traffic slowing to a crawl about 15 miles north of Denver, we opted to take a detour which looped us out to the airport and then back south around the city. This added about 15 extra miles but probably saved us an hour in bumper to bumper traffic.
Once free of the grip of Denver traffic, we got back on the pace down towards New Mexico. A short stop for a driver change, dinner, and gas in Pueblo was extended by a few minutes when a SUV pulled up next to us in the gas station. A family piled out of the SUV and the mother came running up and asked if we would mind if her son took a few pictures of the car as he was a huge McLaren fan and had never seen one up close. We of course obliged before hitting the road again.
The final part of the day 1 drive was the most challenging. Shortly before crossing into New Mexico, the last rays of light disappeared, and we were into a moonless night. While the headlights on the 675LT Spider are outstanding, they do little to illuminate what might be lurking on the side of the road and there are plenty of deer in this part of the country. Once in New Mexico, it was off the Interstate Highway, another quick stop for a driver change, and we were now on smaller roads for the final 200 miles. This was the most intense part of the drive. Bad Driver was on deer watch duty, and I was just trying to get us to the hotel as quickly as possible and in one piece. 1230 miles later, two deer sightings on the side of the road, and after one last pit stop, we arrived in Amarillo for a short night’s rest.
The final 343 miles down US-287 in Texas were uneventfully. It’s a combination of divided 4 & 2 lane highway in the countryside that connects a series of small towns that have plenty of speed traps hiding on the outskirts. We did make it to Dallas by our 1PM target on day 2. What didn’t make it were the thousand or so bugs covering the nose of the McLaren. Over the 1573 miles, the 675LT Spider performed magnificently. It was comfortable, exciting to drive, and a great place to send a day and a half in. Over the course of the trip, we average 26.8 mpg at an average speed of 74mph. Not too shabby.