By Sue Callaway
May 26, 2016

Since British carmaker McLaren rebooted in 2009 to build road-going sports cars again after a multi-year hiatus, the company has introduced several new models, from the entry-level 570S to the hyper-performing (and at $1.1 million, also hyper out of reach) P1 hybrid. Slightly above mid-range is the 675LT.

I drove the coupe version recently to see if it could hold a candle to my number one, all-time favorite high-performance car: the now-legendary McLaren F1. McLaren produced the F1 from 1992 to 1998 and only built 106 examples. The F1 is visceral, raw, blinding, precise—and refreshingly unfettered by too much technology.

The 675LT and the F1 share some DNA: a mid-engine layout and a carbon-fiber-intensive structure. But the F1’s V12 is gone in favor of a V8, as is the F1’s novel center-position driver’s seat—a layout that made the car feel like an enclosed Formula 1 racer. (Note to McLaren: bring it back.)

A few upfront basics about the 675LT: It is faster, lighter, and more aerodynamically capable than the 650S, the car below it in the current lineup. In fact, even just the 675LT’s numbers are good enough instead to force a comparison to its 727-horsepower big brother, the P1, which attains zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds.

What numbers? To start, a diabolical 666 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, all muscling around a nimble 2,700-pound body. In other words, an “It Girl” in sports car terms. Those simple figures yield a 0 to 60 mph of roughly 2.8 seconds—a mere 0.1 second slower than the P1. (Honestly, for $800,000, could you really feel a 0.1-second difference?) Then there’s the rear air brake, which is 50% bigger than the 650S’s, which was already blushingly sizeable.

But even such compelling stats don’t explain the 675LT’s magic. The car is extraordinarily well-balanced, and despite its high performance thresholds, it is as comfortable as a slipper once you get yourself across the wide carbon sill and into the body-molding driver’s seat. From the second you dip into the throttle pedal, the car lets you know that it’s way more capable than you are. (OK, hotshot, you turn off the traction control and tell me who handles it better—you or the car. Exactly.)

The 675LT is the closest thing I’ve driven to the F1. It is visceral, immediate, nimble, and actually so cocooning as to be comfortable when not eating corners. I drove the car for hour after hour, and even in traffic, I felt coddled, not rattled or fatigued. In part it’s a size thing: the car, despite its loooooong tail (named LT in honor of a limited-edition derivation of the F1), is low to the ground and go-kart–esque in its maneuverability.

Nothing is perfect, including the 675LT. The car struggled with the high temperatures in the Malibu canyons. During testing, the day reached 91 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point and after many minutes of idling while setting up cameras, the McLaren pooped out and refused to launch, jugging and lurching briefly in what was clearly a heat-induced glitch. Luckily, after a shut down, it sprang back to full life.

There’s also precious little space of any kind—fine for men with wallets but trickier for anyone carrying a bag or purse. But take it as a comment, not a criticism—you don’t buy a sports car to complain about roominess.

As with everything in life—and especially with high-performance cars—there is a hierarchy, and an arguably subjective one at that. There are the greats old and new, which in my mind include the Mazda Miata and BMW’s latest, the M2. Then there are the icons—the air-cooled Porsches and, at the pinnacle, the McLaren F1. The 675LT may not make it squarely into the latter category, but it’s still a standout in a crowded competitive field. For the money, by far this vehicle is the best thing McLaren has built since the F1.

STATS

Price as tested: $396,820

Power: 666 hp

Torque: 516 lb-ft

Weight: 2700 lb

0 to 60: 2.8 sec

Production: 500

Number available: 0

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