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McLarens have never really captured my heart. Oh sure, I have huge respect and admiration for their cars but I’ve never really lusted after one. They just seemed a bit too clinical, too emotionless compared to the more characterful Italians. Given the choice between a 650S, 458, or Huracan, I’d opt for the Fezza. Same goes with the P1, LaFerrari, and 918. The only McLaren I’ve really wanted was the Mercedes SLR McLaren, but technically that’s not even a ‘proper’ McLaren. So when I heard McLaren Japan were launching the new 675LT, I was a bit curious to see what all the hype was about. And I also pretty surprised as it was only unveiled in March at the Geneva Motor Show.

The launch was held at the prestigious Roppongi Hills Cafe / Space. Outside the function room were two 650S Spiders, just to make sure you knew where the McLaren event was, in case you missed the massive ‘McLaren’ sign on the windows. Inside were a small and select group of Japan’s motoring press such as Car Graphic, Autocar Japan, and a couple of freelance journalists. The car everyone was there to see was still under cover.

After a 28 second intro video of McLaren’s history and a promotional video of the 675LT featuring a wolf (I didn’t understand that), the car was finally unveiled. Along with McLaren Japan’s dealers, David McIntyre (McLaren Asia Regional Director) and Mark Gayton (675LT Project Manager) were also present. David McIntyre gave a brief introduction on the McLaren brand and handed the floor over to Mark Gayton, who gave perhaps the geekiest presentation on a car I’ve ever seen. I loved every second of it.

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The 675LT is another instalment in McLaren’s ‘Super Series’ and a development of the 650S. The ‘675’ refers to the bhp figure and ‘LT’ is a homage to the 1996-97 F1 Longtail Le Mans racer. McLaren wanted to take the ethos of the racecar and apply it to a road car with the most state-of-the-art technology right now.

During the development brief one of the keywords that kept popping up was “pure”. McLaren wanted the 675LT to be the ultimate expression of its ‘Super Series’ cars and they knew they had to improve driver engagement, increase power and performance, better aerodynamics and downforce, and reduce weight. As a result around half of the 675LT’s powetrain components are different to the 650S, and a third of the overall component count is new.

McLaren have somehow managed to strip 100kg from the overall weight, now down to 1230kg. They literally looked at every aspect of the car to find where they could shave off as many grams as possible. The powertrain accounts of 10% of the weight loss thanks to a new construction for the water charge air cooler, a new con rod, and a titanium exhaust. The body accounts for 35% of the weight loss due to extensive use of carbon fibre, thinner windscreen and bulkhead glass, and a polycarbonate engine cover.

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30% of the weight loss is in the chassis with reengineered suspension components based on the P1 project and the lightest wheels McLaren has produced to date. The interior takes off another 20% with lightweight sports seats fitted as standard. There’s a thinner carpets and NVH reduction. The interior is covered in alcantara for reduced weight and extra grip. Also inside is an optional titanium roll hoop which is the lightest in class. It is also compatible with a multi-point belt. As well as looking awesome, the roll hoop also improves roof crash rigidity by 180%. To further push the point of lightness home, air conditioning has been removed though this can be refitted as a no-cost option. Even the electrics have been given a weight loss, contributing 5% to the overall weight loss.

This set the tone of the rest of the car and of the presentation. A lot of stats, graphs, and technical details. I had never been to a launch event that gave such a detailed explanation of a car’s technical specs before. It nearly brought a tear to my eye. You could see the passion in Mark’s eyes and his smile throughout the whole thing. He was clearly proud of his car and rightfully so. It was at this point I realised McLarens are the supercars for proper car geeks, not for wannabe playboys and cashed up celebrities.

When Mark stated talked about the increased power and responsiveness due to a reduced rotational inertia, I damn nearly had to excuse myself from the room. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, a McLaren spec sheet is about as filthy as literature gets. The reduced rotational inertia allows it to spin up and spin down seamlessly. The 675LT also gets a revised camshaft. The turbos are now high flow rate and are machined-from-solid as opposed to cast, which allows more precision. The engine has also been strengthened, by 300%, to cope with faster engine acceleration and deceleration.

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The performance of the 675LT speaks for itself. With 675bhp/496kW and 700NM of torque, it’s up 25bhp/18kW and 22NM over the 650S. 0-100 km/h is done in 2.9 seconds and 0-200 km/h is a class-leading 7.9 seconds. McLaren could’ve chosen to go for a sharper torque curve but chose for a mode spread out and gradual increase. They sacrificed low-end power for mid-range push, peak torque happens at 5500-6500rpm. Despite increased downforce, top speed remains 330 km/h, or in other words more than enough for most. To stop the 675LT are carbon fibre discs from Brembo, 394mm up front and 380mm at the rear. McLaren have also fitted it with a new steering rack that’s 15% faster than the 650S’, meaning quicker responses and a more agile car.

With the reworked engine and turbos, cooling was also an important development. It was crucial for McLaren to cool the engine but without adding mass. The main radiator has been made more efficient by rotating it by 16° to open up airflow. There’s also a new end plate fitted to the 675LT which feeds air into the bottom third of the radiator. At the rear there’s a more open design. This is for two reasons; the first being for cooling flow management and the second is to allow people to see the engineering details inside. A nice touch.

Aerodynamics has also been extensively changed. Up front there’s a new carbon fibre bumper, splitter, side panel, aero end plate, and a new underfloor. The front splitter sends air to end plate, which then feeds it to the radiators. The splitter also adds extra downforce pushing front down. The new air brake at the rear is 50% larger and increases downforce by 40%.

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Some less obvious changes included new carbon fibre panels from the B-pillar back. The front and rear track are 20mm wider than before. The 675LT comes with Pirelli Trofeo R tyres as standard which provide 6% more grip. The springs have also been stiffened, 27% front and 63% rear. The rake has also been changed, the front has been lowered by 20mm and the rear increased by 5mm. While that might sound small, the changes have had a huge change in the car’s on-track behaviour. Apparently.

As for driver engagement, well McLaren were keen to class it as a track car. A sort of rival to the Ferrari 458 Speciale and Porsche 9111 GT3 RS. Again, the words ‘pure’ and ‘feel’ were repeated. I remember when the MP4-12C was first launched many criticised it for lacking feel. I don’t think the 675LT will suffer from the same criticisms. Unlike most manufacturers that strive to improve refinement, McLaren have actually increased vibrations from powertrain. That means the drive can feel everything that’s happening in the car through the seat and steering. The exhaust note is also a higher pitch than that of the 650S.

Like all other McLaren cars, the 675LT has a selectable driver settings. Normal/Ice is for day-to-day driving. Then there’s Sport Mode which is Mark Gayton’s personall favourite. Sport mode allows for the best track fun feel. McLaren have also introduced ew racecar technology for sport mode. When changing gears, to improve paddle feel, the engine speed reduces rapidly, and the ignition spark is cutoff. Fuel is still kept in the cylinder, and then it reignites fuel back up quickly. This results in a crackling noise and an aggressive push in back.

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In Track Mode drivers can get the best lap times. There’s an ‘Intertia Push’ feature that uses residual torque in the powertrain to push the engine back up, which also gives a more aggressive gear change. When they asked customers about traction control, most said they don’t like turning it off. However, if left on it’s restrictive on track. For the 675LT, McLaren developed something called ‘Dynamic ESC’. This allows more slip and confidence on the track. Each gear has a pedal map and stretches depending on the rpm and pedal travel. For throttle responsiveness, McLaren improved the management for the air going into the turbos and boost going out. There’s also a new electronic dump valve. Engine ocelation has also been improved on tip in and out.

McLaren will only produce 500 675LTs. The Japanese market will get an 8% (40 cars) of the total production. The starting price for the 675LT in Japan is ¥43,534,000 ($489,971). There are five colours available dubbed the ‘Hero Spec’; Napier (an electric green with a yellow tint), Delta Red, Silicon White, McLaren Orange, and Chicane (the grey you see here). Of course at the end of the market if sir or madame would prefer another colour McLaren will be happy to paint it in any colour you wish, for an extra charge of course. McLaren Japan have nearly sold out all their allocated cars and expects to sell the remaining units by the end of the day.

Once the presentation concluded, I got some one on one time with David McIntyre. I asked him what it was about McLarens that appealed to Japanese buyers as I’d noticed quite a few out and about, certainly more than Lamborghinis. The successful relationship with Honda in Formula 1 is certainly a driving force of the brand’s recognition and fan base in Japan. David also attribute the Japanese’s love for details, precision, and technology for the appeal of their cars here.

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According to David, Japan’s knowledge of motorsports are greater than other Asian countries, which is why McLarens tend to be more popular here than in other markets. Competitors have more recognition in emerging markets where names are favoured over substance. However in markets such as Japan and Australia/NZ, where people know McLaren’s history and achievements more, McLaren cars have a good reputation and a loyal fanbase.

Since he mentioned the relationship with Honda, I asked him on his thoughts about the 570S/540C and Honda’s upcoming NSX. With a smile, he said “they’re for different buyers”. Adding “of course some people will have everything”. He also said it was a good thing to see more players on the sports car arena, which is only a good thing for us petrolheads.

The 675LT will arrive in New Zealand in the fourth quarter of this year, with only two unit is coming. One has already been sold so if you want one, you better be quick. Pricing is available upon request but it’d be safe to assume that it’d be more than the $449,500 650S but considerably less than the $1.5 million P1.

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