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2022 McLaren 765LT Spider First Drive Review: Check Your Brain At The Door

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Verdict

9.2 / 10

Unless your driveway happens to empty out onto a road course, there’s not really any objective reason to elect for a car from McLaren’s exclusive, hard-core Longtail series. LT-branded Macs have enhanced aerodynamics, more aggressive suspension settings, and more power than the vehicles on which they’re based, but the opportunities to use 755 lightened, stiffened horsepower out in the real world are few and far between.

The absurdity goes even further when you’re talking about a convertible. Droptops are inherently worse in performance driving situations than fixed-roof cars, with less structural rigidity and added weight. That’s the crisis facing the 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider – if you wanted a track-capable car from Woking, you’d get the fixed-roof version, and if you just wanted an exotic cabrio, you’d go for the more comfortable 720S Spider on which the LT is based. And yet, if you’re one of the buffoons who dropped the minimum $388,000 (including $5,500 for destination) needed to get into the hardcore arachnid, well, I envy you pretty fiercely.

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Quick Specs: 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-Liter V8
Output: 755 Horsepower / 590 Pound-Feet
Transmission: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch
Base Price: $382,500 + $5,500 Destination
Price As Tested: $507,420

Gallery: 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider First Drive

Emotion > Reason

If you insist on objectivity, the 765LT’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 makes 755 horses and 590 pound-feet of torque, increases of 45 and 28 over the 720S. LT-specific springs and adaptive dampers keep it all under control, as do significant aerodynamic tweaks. A 0.2-inch-lower front ride height and carbon fiber bumpers, front splitter, and rear diffuser help air flow better around the 765, while a reshaped and slightly elongated rear active spoiler contributes to a 2.2-inch increase in overall length. The LT Spider is 176 pounds lighter than the 720S Spider and only about 108 pounds heavier than the fixed-roof 765LT.

Blessed with enough driver talent (and clear roadway), the 765LT Spider scampers all the way to 205 miles per hour, and though I didn’t possess the bravery needed to test that spec, I did sample the acceleration. Without incriminating myself too much, I wholly believe McLaren’s estimated 0-60 time of 2.7 seconds.

But the Spider’s melodrama is far more compelling than its numbers. Unlike the equally quick and all-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, the 765LT Spider launches with less gut-wrenching ferocity, but then obliges with thrilling turbo boost within a few rotations of the tires. Once on the run, it explodes forward with every crackling shift of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, accompanied by a flat-plane V8 roar that’s not as shrill as a Ferrari’s but no less adept at inspiring the driver to see what happens at redline – especially with the single-piece hardtop retracted. Do that and all logic blows out the roof.

Mid-engined cars have a good reputation for response, and the 765LT is no exception. Point the nose toward a corner and it changes direction like a cheetah hunting apexes instead of antelope. But no savannah cat’s claws can hang on like the Mac’s specially developed Pirelli Trofeo R tires, though. Anyone who manages to run out of grip from these 245-millimeter-wide front and 305-millimeter-wide rear tires will have screwed up royally, because not even a fast pace on a gravel-strewn forest highway posed a problem to the 765’s meaty fitment.

The Spider’s melodrama is far more compelling than its numbers.

The stiffer suspension, dual-clutch gearbox, and single-piece carbon fiber bucket seats make every input, be it from the road or from your right foot, feel immediate. The stiff, carbon-intensive structure creaks and groans a bit, a testament not to any engineering shortcoming but to the single-minded, performance-at-all-costs ethos of an LT-series car. The view out of the car is low, panoramic, and exciting thanks to thin A-pillars and a wraparound windshield canopy, with peaked and vented front fenders edging into the periphery.

Good Taste And A Dash Of Daring

And the histrionics continue – nay, increase – when you get out through the McLaren-signature dihedral doors, walk a few steps, and turn around to look back. Those 720S bones are well-hidden under the LT’s wildly sculpted bodysides, with all manner of gills, scoops, and buttresses encouraging the eyes (and the air) to smoothly glide from front to rear. A sharp front bumper, complete with a splitter down low, channels air either away from the car or toward the brakes, while finned side skirts provide an exit for lift-generating air under the car – ditto gills on top of the front fenders.

The door blade has an additional vertical fin that sends air around the vehicle and toward the rear-mounted radiators. And the deployable spoiler is 2.3 inches wider than that of the 720S, with sophisticated operation that adjusts the angle based on vehicle speed and whether the top is up or down. It also acts as an airbrake when decelerating quickly – if you want drama, catch a glimpse through the mirror of the spoiler standing nearly vertically on hard braking. Taken in sum, the 765LT’s aerodynamic enhancements give it 25 percent more downforce than the 720S Spider, a number that you feel every time you turn into a corner at speed.

In spite of its stripped, lightweight cabin and low, stiff suspension, the McLaren is actually pretty docile around town.

Step back inside and you’re greeted with a spartan cabin, with no carpeting, air conditioning, audio system, or latched door cubbies, all in the name of light weight. Of course, if you’re not that hard-core, you can add back the audio and air conditioning for free, while the door bins are an $800 option, as my test vehicle was equipped. It also received gorgeous Alcantara upholstery on the racing seats, with a Dove Grey stripe on the steering wheel’s 12 o’clock position and Dove Grey stitching throughout the cabin.

An 8.0-inch vertical infotainment screen manages most of the car’s functions, though the two dials next to it handle the suspension and powertrain drive modes. The most exciting part of the cabin happens when you toggle everything from Comfort or Sport to Track. Do that and the instrument panel folds flat to display only a bar-graph tachometer and three-digit speed readout, limiting information to just the essentials.

Smooth Operator

In spite of its stripped, lightweight cabin and low, stiff suspension, the McLaren is actually pretty docile around town. The so-called “Seamless Shift Gearbox” lives up to its marketing hype at low speeds, with good behavior in stop-and-go traffic or pulling smoothly away from a light. The Spider transmits just about every bump to the cabin, but with the hard edges sanded down a bit for some compliance and comfort.

The seats are thinly padded, and the fixed seatback ensures a good driving position at the expense of some long-distance comfort. There’s also abundant suspension chatter, accompanied by the whirs and whines of turbochargers and twin clutches spinning around at low speeds. Those sensations turn more and more exciting as you ratchet up the pace, but they do get a bit tiresome when trundling around the neighborhood.

Still, I enjoyed 50 miles of traffic-clogged freeway behind the wheel with few complaints. The McLaren 765LT Spider is a bit raw and ragged, but it’s fun to drive and fun to be seen in, so even a schlep across town feels special and exciting.

Final Countdown

No McLaren is cheap, but the 765LT Spider I tested is the most expensive car I’ve ever driven, and it’ll likely remain in the top 10 until I retire from this whole dream-job thing. Starting at $388,000 with destination, my car rose to a staggering $507,420. Incredibly, $67,090 of that went to carbon fiber dress-up bits alone, with the remaining big-ticket items being an $18,030 set of track brakes – why aren’t they standard on an LT-series car? – plus $9,400 for a coat of Amethyst Black paint that exploded into bright, luminous purple when the light was right.

That’s at least 50 grand more than a 720S Spider, and if you are hung up on numbers, I doubt the 765LT is that much better. The cabin is undeniably minimalist, with harder-core fittings that might not suit the tastes of the average convertible shopper. And while there’s an incredible amount of performance on offer, exploiting that every day would be detrimental to one’s driving record.

But logic has no place in the purchase of a 765LT Spider. My daring, enthusiastic 10-year-old neighbor summed it up best. He asked to take a ride, and I was happy to oblige. We arranged a time the next day, and when he came out of his house, Max had dyed a thick, luminescent streak of purple in his hair to match the car. This cool kid semi-permanently altered his appearance to canonize a car that was in his life for all of 20 minutes.

Behavior like that – utterly bereft of common sense and logic but loaded with fun – helps explain the existence of the Mac. Too hard-edged to be a daily driver and slightly compromised relative to the coupe, the open-roof Long Tail isn’t a mere supercar. It’s al fresco speed and style, distilled in an exotic that draws smiles from everyone. At speed or parked, the 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider is sheer, childlike joy.

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