We Test Drove The McLaren Drop-Top 600LT Spider, And It's Spectacular

If you like your fresh air in 201-mph gulps, the McLaren 600LT Spider is ready to deliver on your nearest racetrack.
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We already loved McLaren's 570S Spider, the British racing team's ostensible "entry-level" convertible for its sexy lines and Formula 1 pedigree.

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And we loved the McLaren 600LT, the brand's raucous, no-holds-barred track monster that is built on the same underpinnings at the 570S, for its amazing precision and speed, which combine to produce McLaren's fastest-ever production model.

But now, McLaren Automotive has combined the two, creating the 600LT Spider, a $256,500 (base price), 592-horsepower, 457 lb.-ft., twin-turbocharged fighter plane for the road that boasts a three-piece folding hard top that opens in just 15 seconds to let the sun shine in.

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The 600LT gets its designation from its metric horsepower rating of 600 and "Longtail," which is a reference to the company's original model, the McLaren F1. 

That famous '90s supercar had a track-centric variant built with a stretched, long tail, for reduced aerodynamic drag and a higher top speed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race.

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Now, "Longtail" is McLaren shorthand for cars that are built with the racetrack in mind, even if actual differences in length are negligible. In the case of the 600LT, the car is slightly longer than the 570S because the front splitter and rear diffuser protrude a bit further fore and aft.

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The 600LT Spyder has nearly 25 percent different parts from the 570 Spider, which contributes to a weight reduction of 219 lbs. 

Combined with the 600LT's 592-horsepower version of McLaren's 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, this lets the 600LT Spider accelerate to 60 mph in the same 2.8 seconds as the 600LT Coupe we tested previously.

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The folding roof does add 110 lbs. compared to the 600LT coupe, but all the aerodynamic aids remain in place, contributing to the 600LT Spider's 220 lbs. of stability-enhancing aerodynamic downforce at 155 mph.

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The 600LT has two ways of letting its occupants enjoy the sights and sounds of open-top motoring. They can open the entire roof, or, if the weather isn't suitable for that but they'd like direct access to the 600LT's rear deck-exiting dual exhaust tips, they can lower the sliding rear window glass.

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We preferred opening the roof during our testing at Arizona Motorsports Park, if for no reason other than the unobstructed view of the F-35 squadron from the adjacent Luke Air Force Base practicing overhead.

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Out on the highway, we found the Lime Green 600LT Spider is indistinguishable from the Coupe while driving with the roof closed on an uncharacteristically chilly Arizona winter morning. Except that we could open the rear window to enjoy the engine's exhaust note when carving through canyon roads.

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On track, the 600LT Spider provides exactly the same precision of control and feedback as the Coupe, with electronic control systems that let the driver get the most of the Spider's rigid carbon fiber chassis, Akebono brakes and custom Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires.

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In tight hairpin curves, the 600LT Spider's electronic control systems let the driver trail brake into the entrance of turn to transfer weight to the front tires for grip that lets the tail slide out and point the car toward the corner's exit.

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Mid-corner, McLaren's brake steer system applies pressure to the inside rear wheel's brake, which also helps rotate the front of the car toward the exit. 

Once on the gas, with the stability control system switched to "dynamic," the 600LT Spider lets the driver balance the tendency of the rear tires to slide with the gas pedal rather than relying on the computer to cut power and keep the car in line.

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Throughout, McLaren's hydraulically assisted power steering continues to prove its value over the more common electric power steering with its superior feel and feedback for what the tires are doing.

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These are the kinds of thoughtful details that let McLaren's track hero car make the driver feel heroic. 

And now in open-topped form, everyone will be able to get a better look at who the hero is when you pull in to the pits and pull off your helmet.