The McLaren Sports Series swan song, this GT4 race car plays on the street.
No stranger to racing events and local track days, McLaren offers a strong selection of road cars that will slay any circuit they invade. When you think of track day road cars, immediately you gravitate toward the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Ferrari 488 Pista, or Lamborghini Huracan Performante. The thing is that those monsters spotted at your favorite track day are based on road cars, rather than racing cars. McLaren wanted to do things differently.
Long in the tooth is McLaren’s Sports Series lineup, dating back to the 570S which first arrived in 2015. With a few updates and versions with more power (like the 600LT), in addition to Spider variants and a fantastic grand tourer built on the platform, McLaren’s entry-level machine has had a good run. To send the Sports Series off, ahead of the new Artura’s arrival, McLaren decided to make a track special model that’s legal on the street.
Rather than starting with a traditional road-going variant of the 570S or 600LT, McLaren went wild, and decided to make a limited-run model based on its popular GT4 racer. It’s called the 620R, and as soon as you see it, you know this car isn’t messing about. While retaining the DNA of McLaren’s most successful GT race car, the 620R isn’t held back by restrictions imposed upon typical race cars. Rather than heading to the track to examine its worth, I stuck to public roads to see how well this race car for the street got on.
THE RACY SPECS AND HARDWARE
Utilizing the same M838TE 3.8L twin-turbo V8 engine used in the McLaren 570 GT4, the unrestricted 620R pumps out 611 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, thanks to a revised ECU and turbocharging management system. With engine mapping focused on delivering optimal lap times rather than achieving a high top speed, and employing stiffer powertrain mounts on the 7-speed Seamless Shift Gearbox, the rear-wheel-drive 620R hits a top speed of 200 MPH. Acceleration from 0-60 is just 2.8 seconds, with 0-124 MPH in just 8.1, and the 620R can complete a 1/4-mile sprint in as little as 10.4 seconds.
Since the McLaren 620R is based on the 570 GT4, it gets loads of goodies the road-going Sports Series models don’t have access to. Under its lightweight carbon skin, the McLaren 620R employs motorsport wishbones, uprights, anti-roll bars, and manually-adjustable dampers, to drop weight while toughening the chassis for optimal grip. The 620R is still built upon McLaren’s Monocell II carbon fiber chassis, but with less interior fabric and insulation, its curb weight drops to an astonishing 3,067 pounds.
Ignoring plenty of practical and comfortable features, the 620R makes no excuses as it emphasizes performance. The interior is devoid of anything involving NVH. There are no carpets, and there’s no insulation in the doors nor between all the interior panels. Colin Chapman dreams of this sort of light-weighting. Seats are pulled from the McLaren Senna, and weigh less than the cheeseburger you ate for lunch. Conventional 3-point seat belts are fitted for street driving, 6-point racing harnesses are a no-cost option for when you’re ripping up the track, and because your reach is a bit limited when you’re strapped in, McLaren was smart to fit a pull strap on the door handles and raise the center console a bit more toward you. Although stashing the fire extinguisher in the front cargo compartment wasn’t the wisest decision, if you’re in trouble at the track.
McLaren’s IRIS infotainment system is another no-cost option, with an extra USB and microphone port ready for your racing gear and coaching software embedded with the 620R’s track telemetry and three-camera system. The 620R can also be equipped with McLaren’s $4,410 optional–and exceptional–Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Cupholders are gone, as is the pocket in the front of the seat cushion to hide your key. Thankfully there are small pocket nets in each of the dihedral doors, if you need to tuck any small items away.
Storage space in the McLaren 620R is reduced by the carbon fiber bonnet and its twin nostrils that aid downforce and clean up the airflow over the top of the car. Thankfully the bonnet is still functional, and there’s just enough room to tuck away your fire suit and helmet. McLaren offers a $570 car cover and $570 charger for the lithium-ion battery when storing your 620R on days you are driving one of your other cars.
Only three exterior colors are available on the 620R, and are inspired by GT4 race cars – McLaren Orange (with white racing stripes), Silica White (orange stripes) or Onyx Black (orange stripes). Each color can be optioned with race number decals and/or partner decals. If those selections don’t please your needs, there are endless combinations available in the MSO palette.
McLaren Special Operations offers plenty of pricy upgrades inside and out, and the 620R I tested had the awesome carbon fiber roof scoop fitted (free of charge), in addition to $12,080 carbon fiber louvres in the front fenders that allow wheel wheel air pressure to release while adding downforce through the fenders, $4,370 exposed carbon fiber side sills, and massive carbon door inserts that make the profile of the 620R look extra cool at a cost of $7,670. Add these and a few other options to the base price of $275,250 (about $20,000 more than the more civil McLaren 600LT, but still about $25,000 less than the 720S), and the McLaren 620R I tested hit a total MSRP of $312,605 after destination.
REMARKABLY COMPLIANT IN THE CITY
Let’s not kid ourselves. The McLaren 620R is not going to be your daily driver, but it’s good to know this machine isn’t completely brutal on the street. Climate control is available as a no-cost option, and if you want to play on public roads on the weekends or on the way to a circuit, I highly suggest paying for the $1,950 adaptive suspension I praised in the McLaren GT I recently reviewed. Don’t be too careless over bumps and potholes, or the 620R will remind you just how low its ride height is. Thankfully you can engage the front axle lift when you’re pulling into a steeper driveway, but the extended front lip spoiler is begging to scrape.
Keep the McLaren 620R’s powertrain and handling knobs in their normal positions, and this track-hardened McLaren is comfortable while still immensely responsive. Throttle response is manageable without being overly sensitive like you’d expect in a race car. Even during normal throttle applications the twin-turbo V8 has no trouble reminding you that you’re engaging over 600 horsepower as you apply your right foot. The roof scoop makes epic whooshing noises that add an element to the driving experience few supercars can match, and because McLaren gave it a cool split design as it plunges toward the engine, it doesn’t eliminate the rear window view. Unfortunately the massive fixed rear wing–raised 12 inches above the tail end of the 620R–does that instead.
Steering feel is sharp and somewhat light in the normal handling mode, aided by a good electric boost, but there’s nothing artificial in the sensations you feel through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel that’s devoid of any buttons or controls on its spokes. Equipped with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, you won’t want to take the McLaren 620R for a spin during any chilly nor rainy conditions, and the only option for rubber are Pirelli racing slicks, but only for track use. Despite its racing focus, the 620R actually has more positive brake pedal feel around town, with less of the dead travel I’ve experienced in other McLaren models.
Since McLaren focused on shaving weight, the 620R’s cabin is downright loud. The center console will buzz at lower RPMs, especially when idling at a stoplight, and if you toss your phone in the console’s pocket as you drive, it will rattle annoyingly. I decided to keep my phone in my pocket and stream music via bluetooth, rather than plugging it in. Speaking of music, the IRIS infotainment system is the same as you get in other McLaren models, which is hard to see if you wear polarized sunglasses, and it doesn’t have Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto installed. At least there’s satellite radio and bluetooth streaming available, and the optional Bowers & Wilkins system is fantastic way to drown out any cabin noises.
Slipping into the McLaren 620R is not graceful, thanks to the extra wide sills of the carbon fiber monocoque and the carbon fiber bucket seats’ big bolsters. If you don’t love the Senna seats, you can opt for normal seats for added comfort. I like the look and function of the lightweight buckets, even if they could use a hint of lumbar support for my busted old back. I still think Porsche makes the best carbon seats in any production car, but the McLaren ones are damn good at what they’re intended to do, and look fantastic.
What surprised me is how composed the 620R is as an all-around driver in the city. Sure, it’s loud inside, and that’s because of its focus, but I was expecting a back-breaking experience around city streets, and remarkably it wasn’t. Even if it was a little harsh, I didn’t care so long as the McLaren 620R kicked ass when I ditched the city in search of twisty roads.
ATTACKING FUN ROADS
Any mild annoyances I may have had with the McLaren 620R on the street are quickly dismissed by a session along a twisty back road. In this environment, the 620R is a weapon. Engage the drive mode selection knobs to put the handling in sport, the engine in track, and only if you’re a bit talented behind the wheel, tap the ESC button once to engage the dynamic mode to unleash this beast’s fury. The instrument cluster switches over to the track setting, with a cool rev counter that arches over the cluster and shift lights as the RPMs quickly climb.
The suspension firms up, but the ride quality isn’t sketchy. Slip angle from ham-fisted steering inputs is pronounced, with a tail-end allowed to dance in ESC dynamic, so keep your hands smooth on that Alcantara wheel with its red 12 o’clock mark. I appreciate the added steering weight when in the faster handling modes too. What’s astonishing is how well the McLaren 620R manages weight transfer in S-curves and through fast transitions. Because it’s barely 3,000 pounds, the 620R isn’t shuffling loads of weight, allowing its suspension to easily cope and shift damping at each corner while you switch directions. If you’re some idiot amateur who’s pretending to be a racing driver, this racy McLaren will expose your lack of talent, and you’ll end up in a ditch… or worse.
Giving the 620R the beans in the engine’s track mode is as exciting to the ears as it is to your pulse. McLaren’s Inertia Push technology builds flywheel energy to create a burst of torque when you feel a perfect click from the extended shift paddle as you engage a higher gear, giving the 620R a more dramatic acceleration sensation. When you’re in the sport powertrain mode, the McLaren 620R delivers a cool “crack” sound during upshifts, created by a split-second cut of the ignition spark, and I loved this experience. Spend a chunk more cash, and McLaren will install a titanium exhaust that drops even more weight while opening up more roars as you stab the throttle.
While it would have been cool to test the adjustable racing suspension, which features 32 clicks of adjustment per corner for compression and rebound rates, but I’m glad this tester was equipped with the adaptive system that’s more appropriate for the street. Able to compute more calibrations as surface conditions and driving inputs quickly adjust, this setup gobbled up bumpy farm-to-market roads with ease, and helped eliminate any hint of body roll through fast turns. The semi-slick Pirelli Trofeo Rs were fantastic at sticking to the pavement, happily exercising as I dished out abuse over some hot Texas days. If you plan to track your 620R, you might want to tick the slick tire option box to fully embrace its performance.
Standard carbon ceramic rotors–measuring 15.3 inches up front and 14.9 inches rear– benefit from the McLaren Senna’s brake booster, shortening pedal travel while giving precise bite when needing to eliminate huge speeds and dissipate lots of surface heat. The McLaren orange calipers were a cool optional touch too, painted on 6-piston front and 4-piston rears. When put to the test, the 620R’s brakes can pull it from 124 MPH to a dead stop in 379 feet, and can scrub from 62 MPH to a static position in just 96 feet.
Stitching together good driving inputs with both your hands and feet is rewarded in the McLaren 620R, as its balance is wonderful as speeds increase, allowing the extra aero kit to put in work. That massive front lip and ducting for the frunk scoops direct loads of air over the front end, and the carbon diveplanes along the sides of the front bumper make sure your nose is stuck into every bend. The massive rear wing is adjustable, depending how much downforce you want from it, and the huge rear diuser makes sure all the air that’s rushing through the 620R is ensuring supreme lateral stability. In total, McLaren says the 620R produces 408 pounds of downforce across its bodywork at 155 MPH. I may or may not be able to validate these claims.
FREAKY IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS
Unlike a Porsche 911 GT3 or Ferrari Pista, the 620R isn’t a comfortable city car to occasionally take to the track. McLaren designed the 620R to be excellent in forceful driving conditions, rewarding the talented driver who pushes it to the limit. It’s a hardcore supercar that wants to be thrashed, yet has more capabilities than you’re used to. It doesn’t want to be civil. It wants to slay.
If you want a more compliant supercar for less cash, the McLaren GT is remarkable, holds way more luggage than any supercar should be allowed to, and will provide an exceptionally comfortable driving experience in the McLaren Sports Series package. If you want a ton of performance, and are willing to spend a lot more cash, the 720S is the way to go.
For an intense driving experience that’s focused on destroying canyon roads and circuits, a McLaren 620R is a fantastic way to get an obscenely fast toy that won’t have you looking like every other dude that shows up at a track day. McLaren’s Sports Series is getting replaced by the upcoming Artura, with an all-new hybrid V6 powertrain, but the 620R is one fine way to send off this epic supercar platform.