McLaren 600LT Spider review: just as good without a roof?
The Week puts the hardcore drop-top to the test in Arizona
McLaren has followed last year’s impressive 600LT coupe with a new Spider version.
When we drove the coupe version of the 600LT around Hungary’s official grand prix circuit – the Hungaroring – back in August, we were immediately impressed by the vehicle’s racing car agility and speed.
Fast forward six months and we’re in Arizona to test drive the new 600LT Spider that’s now on sale in the UK. Our plan is to test it out on public roads and on track to see how it compares to its hard-top sibling.
With the roof up, the 600LT Spider looks exactly the same as the coupe version. The only noticable difference is a small seam that runs along the middle of the roof.
The folding mechanism adds a bit more weight – 50kg to be precise. This brings the car’s total weight up to 1297kg.
Aside from the folding roof system, the 600LT Spider is mechanically identical to the coupe. Drivers can therefore expect the same 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine in the drop-top, which develops 592bhp and 457lb ft of torque.
A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox helps the car launch from 0-62mph in just 2.8 seconds, before it reaches a top speed of 201mph with the roof up. This drops to 196mph after the roof has been retracted.
Removing the car’s roof can have a significant impact on the way it handles. That’s because the roof is an integral part of the car’s chassis and losing it can radically change the way the vehicle handles high speeds – a term commonly referred to as chassis flex.
But the 600LT Spider isn’t your everyday drop-top supercar. McLaren has built the 600LT range on an ultra-strong, lightweight carbon fibre tub that helps maintain the car’s rigidity even when there’s no roof in place.
Test driving the lightweight 600LT Spider at Arizona’s Motorsports Park we were keen to establish if there was any noticeable difference between the drop-top’s handling and the coupe’s.
As soon as we completed our first lap of the circuit, it was obvious that none of the coupe’s razor-sharp agility had been lost on the 600LT Spider. The car is a joy to drive at high speeds and provides an almost endless amount of grip.
But you don’t need to be a professional racing driver to notice just how impressive the 600LT Spider is on track.
Near-perfect steering provides plenty of feedback for drivers to assess how much grip the car has when flying through twisty bends. This allows drivers to push a little harder with every lap, encouraging them to brake later and apply the power earlier when exiting a corner.
The only difference we noticed between the Spider and the coupe is when we braked hard at the end of a long straight. With the roof down, the Spider has less stability than the coupe.
That’s because the air flow over the top of the car is disturbed by the open cockpit. This means the rear wing isn’t as effective at it would be on the hard top. Raising the roof on the Spider should fix this, however.
On public roads, the 600LT Spider is far more civilised than expected, especially given its track-honed personality.
While it might seem a little less comfortable than more road-focused supercars, such as the Audi R8, the 600LT Spider’s cabin is a remarkably pleasant place to be while cruising on the motorway.
Engine noise is kept to a minimum while cruising at 70mph in seventh gear so it’s quiet enough for passengers to talk. Even with the roof down, wind noise isn’t as intrusive as it is on other drop-top supercars.
There’s a slight drone coming from the car’s exhausts, which exit just behind the cabin, but the noise was never an annoyance during our two and a half-hour test drive on public roads.
We weren’t impressed by the 600LT Spider’s infotainment system, however, as it isn’t up to the standard of a £200,000 supercar. The navigation mode seems out of date and there were a couple of occasions were we missed exits on motorways due to the system’s vague directions.
This wouldn’t be much of a problem if we could use the brilliant Waze navigation app through Apple’s CarPlay or Android Auto, but neither system is available on the 600LT Spider.
Nevertheless, the car has well and truly captured our hearts, just like the coupe did six months ago.
The drop-top is by no means the most powerful or technologically advanced car in McLaren’s line-up, but it arguably delivers the best driving experience. We have yet to drive a supercar that’s as satisfying to drive on the road and on the race track as the 600LT coupe and Spider.
But our time behind the wheel of the Spider raised an important question. Why choose the coupe over its drop-top equivalent?
While the coupe is cheaper at £185,000 than the Spider, which costs £201,500, there’s little to push buyers towards the hard-top version.
The cars are indistinguishable both in terms of looks and on-track performance, so the Spider holds the edge over the coupe simply because you can remove the roof when the sun decides to come out.
But whichever model buyers choose, they’re in for a real treat. Without a doubt, the 600LT coupe and Spider are among the best supercars money can buy.