What is it?
The track day-ready road car is a phenomenon that has really grown in significance over recent years. Particularly as the coronavirus pandemic has continued, track days – and their open-air, limited-contact nature – have grown in popularity, only bolstering this somewhat niche segment of the motoring industry.
And as well as track day-ready cars from the likes of Porsche, Lamborghini and BMW, McLaren has now entered the game with this – the 620R. Essentially a road-going version of the firm’s GT4 race car, the 620R is aimed at producing the best possible lap times but while ensuring you can still get to the track and home again should you need to. Let’s take a look at it.
As we’ve already mentioned, the 620R is essentially a version of McLaren’s 570S GT4 race car, albeit with number plates affixed to allow it onto the public road. Don’t think that the edges have been softened off, mind you, as we’ve still got a bare-bones interior and a full race cage with harnesses – though McLaren has thankfully fitted conventional seatbelts as well.
Track-honed suspension comes fitted as standard as you’d expect, while the huge rear wing you’d find on the GT4 racer is present and correct on the 620R, too. Accompanied by a striking orange paint scheme and a full set of racing liveries, it feels like the real deal – and the performance it offers is pretty real, too.
What’s under the bonnet?
Mounted in the middle of the 620R is a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 with 611bhp and 620Nm of torque. With such huge outputs, it’ll come as little surprise that the 620R is utterly rapid in terms of acceleration; 0-60mph comes in just 2.8 seconds while flat-out it’ll crack the halo speed of 200mph. In terms of road cars, there are few out there that are quicker.
Drive is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox controlled by beautifully shaped paddles while a range of different modes allows you to tailor the car’s throttle and steering weights depending on your liking. Oh, and whereas other McLaren models feature a nose lift function – allowing you to raise the front of the car for speed bumps and other obstacles – the 620R does without as standard, so you need to have your wits about you to save pranging that ultra-delicate carbon nose.
What’s it like to drive?
There’s a certain amount of theatre to getting going in the 620R. For starters, it looks like a racecar, while the big doors which open out and up leaving a wide carbon fibre sill to jump over before nestling into the sparsely padded carbon buckets leave you to perform a kind of dance even to get behind the wheel.
But once you’re there, you’re met with a brilliantly driver-focused position, with large pedals and a nicely adjustable steering wheel. Get the engine going and it crackles into life before returning to a bassy hum. Moving off, you’re aware of how stiff this car is; there’s very little sympathy for your back when going over potholes.
However, gain a little pace and this is one rewarding car to drive. Sure, it’s a niche product, but given a little room to stretch out the 620R feels almost otherworldly in terms of capabilities, with huge amounts of pace backed by wonderfully powerful brakes – though they take some getting used to as stopping requires more force than you might be used to. The 620R is loud and at motorway speeds and it’s particularly vocal both in terms of engine and road noise, but as an outright experience, it’s hard to beat.
How does it look?
Well, if you wanted a car to make a subtle and hushed entrance in, the 620R isn’t it. Our car, finished in bright orange with optional roof scoop affixed to the roof, turned heads wherever it went and, if that wasn’t enough, then the uber-loud exhaust would only up the ante.
But if you’re going for an all-out track car, then we feel you need to be a bit flamboyant. The 620R makes no pretence about what it is or what it’s for and you have to admire it for that. There’s a time and a place for over-the-top styling and the 620R feels like just the opportunity.
What’s it like inside?
The cabin of the 620R marries up some clever touches. For starters, you’ve got plenty of racing-inspired Alcantara elements on the dashboard and central column, while the steering wheel is also trimmed in the lightweight material. The seats are the same as those you’d find in the Senna hypercar and use a carbon fibre shell with sections of padding affixed to them. They’re very supportive but can prove to be a touch uncomfortable over longer journeys.
The view out of the front of the car is excellent thanks to the wide windscreen while large wing mirrors give you a decent sight out of the side. The rear view is, of course, obscured by both wing and engine. Fortunately, you get a reversing camera which means that parking the car isn’t as tricky as you might think at first.
What’s the spec like?
As a stripped-back model you might expect the 620R to be completely devoid of luxuries, but that’s not the case. You can have air conditioning fitted as a no-cost extra and we’d be inclined to keep it if this were our car – a cool cabin will be a benefit both on road and at the track too.
You also get McLaren’s central infotainment screen which, despite being a little behind the times in terms of features, worked well and was responsive during our time with the car. It’d be nice to see Apple CarPlay included, however, as this would really transform the experience.
Our car also came with an optional Bang & Olufsen stereo for an additional £3,640. Though the engine does its best to drown it out, we found that the sound system could just keep its head above water – even at motorway speeds. If you like music to accompany your spirited drive, then it’s worth adding in.
The McLaren 620R isn’t going to be a good fit for all drivers. The compromises it brings both in terms of ride comfort and everyday usability mean that, for many, one of McLaren’s more regular road cars will fit the bill.
But the 620R is such a celebration of driving and excitement that it’s hard not to be won over. It’s brilliantly executed, too, delivering a driving experience which more than justifies the ludicrous exterior. If you’re after a track day car then the 620R is a superb, focused and ultra-involving supercar – and one which will delight on the right roads, too.