2021 McLaren 620R

2021 McLaren 620R

With the all-new Artura coming later this year, we wave goodbye to the McLaren Sports Series line up with a drive in the 620R.


A wise person on a motivational YouTube video once told me that excitement and nervousness occupy the same feeling in your stomach. Since that single moment of enlightenment, I’ve told myself how exciting a situation is every time I feel the nerves beginning to swirl. A couple of months ago, I had the short lived, albeit exciting opportunity to drive the McLaren 620R after spending a bit of time having a look around the all-new Artura.

2021 McLaren 620R

Driving the most extreme version of the outgoing 570S is something of a paradox when you consider the car that replaces it, the Artura, represents McLaren’s next leap in to a hybrid future. I had a pre-planned test route and about an hour behind the wheel, and the reason I was nervous was because the 620R isn’t just a balls out, trackspec 570S, but a proper McLaren GT4 racing car converted for road use. It is quite simply the embodiment of the old saying “a race car for the road.”

This had me sweating for two main reasons. The first was how low it was and how much carbon fibre it was carrying. The likelihood of smashing the front splitter over speed bumps and crap bits of road was high, and if I done a good enough job, McLaren probably wouldn’t have been too happy with me. The second thing concerned my back. Ride quality can be questionable in track-focussed road cars, but the thought of taking an actual racing car on the public highway had me wondering if my spine would ever recover from the ordeal.

After convincing myself that what I was about to do was exciting, I lowered myself in to the thinly-clad, carbon fibre bucket seat, pulled the door down, strapped up and set off. Let’s cut to the chase. This is as far removed from a daily driver as you could possibly imagine. I’ve driven some hardcore road cars, but the 620R is the most visceral and energy-sapping car I’ve driven to date. It’s also completely wonderful. It’s noisy, you feel every vibration leak in to cabin, you can barely see out of it, it’s a pain in the arse to drive through a town, and the control weights are pure race car. But what an event it is. People look at you as if you belong in a mental hospital, and to be honest, you should be in one if you even attempt at using it regularly. But once you find a country road it offers an experience quite unlike anything else. To my delight, the suspension was kinder to my back than first feared. It’s still very firm and the ride is busy round town, but once you get speed beneath it, it flows down a country road with aplomb. As is the McLaren way, the steering feel is detailed and the stiffness of the carbon fibre monocoque means body roll is practically non-existent. This may be some form of road car, but that hasn’t stopped Woking going all in with the rubber. The 620R wears Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres and they offer astonishing levels of grip. There were a couple of occasions where I took corners at speeds where most ‘normal’ performance vehicles would skate off the road in a world of understeer, but the 620R just went round like it was on rails. McLaren also offer slick Pirelli tyres for when you take the car to a track.

As you would expect, straight line performance is also bonkers. It uses the same 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8 as the 570S, but in this application it’s tuned to 611bhp and 457lb ft, and it only has to push along 1,282kg. It will rip past 62mph in just 2.8 and see 124mph in 8.1 seconds. Despite the huge rear wing, it will top out at the magical 200mph. On the road, it feels every bit as fast as those numbers suggest, and in typical McLaren fashion, the turbos punch you down the road like a bullet leaving the barrel of a gun.

The cabin is not a place for long stints behind the wheel. The most you want to do is drive it to a local track and then drive it home, but not much more. Ingress and egress requires moving the seat back and the wheel forward, excessive road noise is present at most speeds, and the roof scoop makes the car sound like Darth Vader. All the controls are recognisable from the 570S so there’s a familiarity to it, but overall, it’s as stripped out as car interiors come. It does get big points for theatrics though!

Never have I driven a car that has felt so restrained by the limitations of the public road. To experience it properly requires a track and a set of those super slick tyres. If you’re not Lando Norris, then we’d recommend getting some track tuition to help you get the best from it. Priced from £250,000, it’s also a lot of money for a toy, but if you have the spare money to buy one, then go for it. It’s a complete lunatic of a car to drive, and a fitting send-off for the McLaren Sports Series range. The Artura, for all its next-gen hybrid tech has some very big shoes to fill.

“Once you find a country road it offers an experience quite unlike anything else”

The real meaning of race car for the road!

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