McLaren 675LT Spider: Mountains to the Sea

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We recently completed a 2,750 mile trip in the McLaren 675LT Spider.  The trip only deepened my appreciation for this absolutely brilliant car.  It performed flawlessly across a wide range of conditions, ran smoothly for hours on end across the desert, and did not blink an eye when it then had to sit in barely moving LA traffic.  The wisdom on spec’ing the 675LT Spider with the electric touring seats got reinforced again on a daily basis.  We were able to emerge from each day’s long drive without needing an immediate trip to the chiropractor. 

The trip started in Big Sky, Montana, a skiers paradise in the winter and a driver’s paradise in the summer.  The first day’s drive took us down across the north west corner of Yellowstone National Park, through a few hundred miles of Idaho before dropping down into Utah.  The first 150 miles were well suited to spirited driving as we dropped down from the mountains into the valleys of South Eastern Idaho.  This was the first time I had driven across Idaho and for close to two hours it seemed as if police radar traps were as plentiful as the potatoes.  Once into Utah, we were able to pick our pace back up but the drive itself became significantly less interesting as we hammered down I-15 towards our 1stnights stop in St. Georges.  Lunch was in Provo where we found a great little Bistro, The Black Sheep Café ( @provoblacksheep ), where I had one of the best hamburgers I have ever had.  The last leg of the drive from Provo to St George’s was both uneventful and completely unmemorable until we reached the outskirts of St. Georges.  At which point the scenery changed significantly for the more interesting again. Dinner that night was at 700 Degree Pizzeria (http://700degree.pizza) which I would rate as both average and overpriced.  

Day 2 took us from St. Georges to Santa Barbara.  The first part of the drive down through South West Utah, North West Arizona, and into Nevada has spectacular.  We had the early morning sun with us as we carved our way through the Virgin River Gorge.  This part of I-15 is probably the most spectacular section of a US Interstate Highway that I have driven.  Plenty of elevation changes, not a straight bit of tarmac for more than a few hundred yards, and a recent repave made for a deeply rewarding drive.  While the road demanded constant direction and speed adjustments, moving up and down between 3rd, 4th, and 5thgear allowed me to stay off the brakes and keep the car well balanced. Once we cleared Arizona, it was out into the Nevada desert and down towards Las Vegas.  We had a quick breakfast stop in Las Vegas before refueling for the final push to California.  The massive Ivanpah Solar fields about 45 minutes down the road were both impressive and I believe a potential road hazard given the brightness of the solar towers.  I saw plenty of drivers taking long, distracted looks at the incredibly bright sunlight receivers in the solar towers.  Not surprisingly, the closer we got to Los Angles, the worse the traffic got. Even on a Sunday at noon, LA traffic is bad, and for no discernable reason.  It took us over an hour to clear the outskirts before the final sprint up Highway 101 to Santa Barbara.  Dinner that night was provided by the always reliable Via Vai (https://www.viavaisb.com) in Montecito.  

After a couple of days in Santa Barbara we set off north for the 250 mile drive up to Monterey for Car Week (to be covered in a separate article).  The shifting microclimates of the California coast were out in force as every 20 minutes we seemed to be switching from brilliant sunshine to dense fog.  The first part of the drive-up Route 101 was fairly routine, and we stopped for coffee after about an hour in the little seaside village of Caycous.   The bright Tarocco Orange 675LT Spider parked on the street did create a bit of a stir and inspired multiple camera phones to suddenly appear.  We made one child’s day when we allowed him to sit in the driver’s seat while his father took a picture.  Post caffeination, we put the roof down and headed straight for the Pacific Coast Highway.  

If you’re a petrolhead, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is definitely one of the 10 roads you need to drive in your lifetime.  It is just spectacular, demands complete concentration, and rewards immensely when you get into a rhythm.  I don’t think there was a single straight section of more than a couple hundred yards for the 135 miles from San Luis to Monterey.  In places it feels like you are hanging over the cliffs with nothing but rocks below and ocean stretching to the horizon. Surprisingly for highly regulated California, guard rails were in very short supply and the punishment for overcooking a corner would be both severe, immediate, and very likely terminal.  The McLaren 675LT Spider was completely at home in this environment.  Gear changes were constant between 2ndand 3rd.  The never-ending corners were slow in, balance on the throttle, and then accelerate briefly as your slight line opened up before a quick dab on the massive ceramic brakes.  I now have a new appreciation for how beautifully weighted and rich in feedback the 675LT’s is.  The constant feedback allows you to place the car exactly where you want it.  The amount of grip is extraordinary and not once did the back end step out of line.  I can’t think of a better car than the McLaren 675LT Spider for driving the PCH.

With a single exception, I was really impressed with the courtesy of the other drivers on the PCH.  While we ran into multiple RVs, vans, and SUVs, it almost all cases they pulled into the next turnout area to let us pass.  The Massa Rule (Alonso is faster than you) seemed to be very well accepted as we were waived through multiple times.  While we were headed north, I was really surprised by the number of Mustang Convertibles headed south.  Our guess was most were rental cars hired to drive the PCH.  The two car spotting highlights on the drive were a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona and a Ferrari F50, both heading south.  Having owned a Daytona, I have a huge amount of respect for the bravery of the gentleman behind the wheel.  

Despite my pleas for “can we do it again” as we rolled into Big Sur, Mrs. SSO insisted that we keep heading north to meet up with our friends in Monterey.  The closer we got to Monterey, the higher the density of supercars on the road.  At one point we were caught in a traffic jam alongside a Pagani Zonda, with couple of Koenigseggs in front, and a slew of Ferraris behind us.  Don’t think this really happens anywhere else but in Monterey during car week.  What I was delighted to see was the number of McLaren’s driving around.  As mentioned earlier, I will cover the petrolhead sensory overload that is Car Week in a separate article.  The only negative during our time in Monterey was that the small chip in the windscreen, care of a rock thrown up by a large dump truck earlier in the week, had started to crack further.  A bit of superglue and packing tape stopped it spreading further but the net result would turn out to be a $5,500 bill for a replacement.

We started the long journey back to Big Sky mid-morning on the Monday after the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  The choice of departure time was key as it allowed us to miss most of the rush hour traffic headed north to San Francisco.  Our destination for that evening was Elko, Nevada as it was strategically located just over halfway back.  Mrs. SSO did a bit of research on Elko as she was looking for a decent place to eat that evening.  According to Wikipedia, Elko sits in the middle of an area that is best suited to munitions and chemical weapons testing.  We decided to eat at the hotel.  

The drive up through Northern California was quite pretty as you crossed through the Tahoe National Forest.  Entering Nevada, the scenery changed as the highway straightened out, other cars became scarce, and civilization receded behind us.  If there ever was a stretch of highway in the US that should be unrestricted, it is the I 80 in Nevada.  The speed limit for most of the way was 80 mph which actually felt quite slow in the 675LT Spider on a flat straight road with no other traffic in sight.  There are several prisons near the I 80 and one piece of amusement is the “Prision Area –  Hitchhiking Prohibited” signs along the highway.

The final day started early as neither one of us was excited about exploring an area best suited for chemical weapons testing. After a few miles on I 80, we turned north towards Twin Falls, Idaho.  With the blood orange early morning light rising on our right, we made rapid progress up RT 93.  This was not a place you would want to break down as any signs of human life were many miles apart.  Our route took us up and around Twin Falls before heading northeast towards Yellowstone. For lunch Mrs. SSO found a great diner, The Rusty Latern, in Ucon (https://therustylanterndiner.com).  Even before we had sat down to order, a number of locals came over asking excitedly about the McLaren.  For many it was the first time they had ever seen a McLaren which helped ground us in how fortunate we are to be able to own and drive one every day.  The rest of the drive was great as we entered Montana and were back on some of my favorite roads.  The world class passing abilities of the 675LT Spider were on full display as we worked our way up through traffic as most of the remaining route was only one lane in each direction. A couple of washes got the bugs off the nose and the paint work looking decidedly brighter.  A through vacuum then followed before the 675LT Spider was picked up by Leadfoot Transport (@leadfoot_transport_llc) for delivery to McLaren Boston (@mclarenboston) for its annual service and a new windscreen.

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September 2019

1 Comment

  1. Robb Edge says:

    A brilliant read, so lucky to have to roads to use the LT and so nice to see one being used and not sat in a garage. 👍

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