Choosing A Favorite McLaren

The launch of the McLaren 765LT prompted me to contemplate which is my favorite McLaren. Not the best, not the most comfortable, not the fastest, not the most extreme, not the horrible “if you can only have one” quandary, but simply which one is my favorite. Now “favorite” in my mind is something that is earned over time. It’s a label that comes after multiple years of ownership. Its built through drives in wide range of different conditions and across many great road trips. As such, the 2019s additions (720S Spider & Senna) do not qualify for consideration as they are far too new to have built up the required compendium of experiences. That leaves seven other eligible candidates from the last 8 years (Our McLaren History). 

For those that know me well, the choice of the 675LT Spider as my favorite McLaren will hardly come as a surprise. The McLaren 675LT Spider just puts a huge smile on my face every time I take it out. The first time I drove our McLaren 675LT Spider I got out thinking this was the best car McLaren had built. It felt incredibly well put together and I was comfortable driving it hard very quickly. The configuration we decided upon was anything but subtle combining rather bright Tarocco Orange paint work with an orgy of carbon fiber. We spec’ed our 675LT Spider for road use with long road trips in mind. As such we opted for the more comfortable electric heated seats, electric steering column, vehicle lift and the full leather interior. I would have preferred the manual racing buckets, but Mrs. SSO was fairly prescriptive when it came to the seats referencing a not so pleasant 10 hours she once spent in the F40’s utilitarian buckets crossing the Swiss Alps. I also had the car fitted with the normal Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires vs. the track focused Trofeo R’s. While the Trofeo’s are great in the dry, rain is not their friend and we have spent plenty of time driving through major downpours on various road trips. 

When it comes to driving the 675LT Spider, confidence inspiring does not even begin to sum it up. The 675LT Spider does exactly what you ask of it, instantly. You feel like the 675LT Spider shrinks around you the faster you go. It lets you know exactly what it is doing at all times. The car just sticks to the road and the steering is perfectly weighted. On a tight demanding mountain road, rapid progress in the 675LT Spider comes smoothly, with minimal physical effort. Your hands never move off the steering wheel. Going around a corner, the 675LT Spider stays perfectly flat and there is no feeling of weight trying to move out of line around behind you. Gear changes are executed with a single flick of the index and middle fingers and a loud bang from the back lets you know the shift has been immediately executed. A quick short pivot on the heel of your right foot moves you from the accelerator to the brake. Turbo lag is minimal and the power very linear from 2000 rpms right up to the redline. The 675LT Spider feels glued to the pavement and I have never had the rear move out of line. Highly sophisticated with a very polished rawness are the words I would use to describe the 675LT Spider.
To date, our McLaren 675LT Spider has spent parts of its life in the flatlands of Texas, the mountains of Montana, and the rolling hills of New England. The types of roads you can find in the latter two are the ones I enjoy the most. Lots of curves and elevation changes both challenge and help highlight the exceptional capabilities of the McLaren 675LT Spider. Right foot, fingers, and arms are all constantly in motion as driver, car, and asphalt are in intense discussion as the changing geography serves up constant challenges.
During its first assignment up in the New England states, the 675LT Spider was used for multiple road trips to visit our sons at their respective Colleges. On one of these trips when we were crossing from Vermont into New Hampshire, we ran into a biblical downpour. The waves of water coming off the back of the 675LT’s wing were truly spectacular. Limited visibility dictated speed but through it all, the 675LT Spider remained firmly planted despite the rivers of water running across the road. On a later trip when we were driving from Vermont into upper New York State we had one of those magical drives across Route 11 and Route 30 where traffic disappears, and the weather is perfect. The 675LT Spider just flowed down the road, roof down, effortlessly. Steering, braking, and gear changes all just happened intuitively.

As good as the 675LT Spider was up in New England, it feels like it was designed for driving the mountain passes that surround our place in Montana. Wildlife adds in an additional level of complexity and you always need to be on the watch out for everything from deer to moose to big horn sheep and just about everything else in between. The McLaren 675LT Spider excels at the constant changes of direction, rapid acceleration, hard braking, and quick gear changes. The steering is perfectly weighted and incredibly precise. This allows you to put the car exactly where you want it. The 675LT neither under nor oversteers and the back-end stays glued to the road. On public roads I normally leave the handling in “normal” as I want the maximum amount of “nannying” as the long hard winters leave plenty of loose gravel on the roads. The transmission alternates between “sport” and “track” as I prefer the quicker shift times and enjoy the loud “crack” you get when shift up near the redline. While the large carbon-ceramic brakes are outstanding, so is the engine braking and in many cases a couple of pulls of the left-hand paddle is more than effective enough in scrubbing off speed going into the next corner. Opening the roof just increases the enjoyment of the whole experience. Especially with the top down, the 675LT sounds terrific and you can hear the engine soundtrack bouncing off the cliff walls. Six hundred and sixty-six horsepower makes passing almost too easy. Threading the 675LT Spider through a line of slower moving traffic heading up the mountain can be a fun bit of a sport.

One of the most memorable drives in the 675LT Spider was in California on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The 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 2nd and 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 before repeating the process. The PCH gave me a new appreciation for just 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, which is absolutely critical on a demanding road carved into the side of a cliff. The amount of grip is extraordinary and not once did the car step out of line.

Over many miles and multiple highly memorable experiences this man and that Tarocco Orange machine have completely bonded. The McLaren 675LT Spider is a car that I have complete confidence and trust in. Will it always be my favorite McLaren, only time will tell, but it certainly is now. Will the Senna or 765LT Spider replace the 675LT Spider as the favorite? Check back in a few years.

P.S. For the record, Mrs. SSO has a bit of a difference of opinion, her favorite is the 720S Spider.

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March 2020

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