McLaren's New Baby

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Can the new 600LT provide PI performance for a fraction of the price?

McLaren has unveiled its new 600LT, which we hinted at in the magazine last month. The car is a more hardcore version of the firm’s entry level 570S, with a little more power, extensive aerodynamic modifications and less weight. Think of it as being to the 570S what the revered 675LT was to the 650S.

The headline modifications include a 25bhp power increase and a weight reduction of 96kg compared to the 570S, largely achieved via a dramatic increase in the use of carbon fibre. The car now comes with carbon body panels, a carbon splitter, skirts, spoiler and diffuser and carbon fibre seats. The new bodywork also elongates the car by 74mm, allowing at least a degree of authenticity to the ‘Long Tail’ name.

Other notable changes include exhausts that exit on top of the bodywork (and require special heat-resistant panels to be fitted to stop the pipes burning the exterior), the fitment of forged double-wishbone suspension all round, the braking system from the 720S, quicker steering, stiffer engine mounts, revised spring rates, re-calibrated ESP, and Pirelli Trofeo R tyres.

No performance claims have been given but with the additional traction of the track day tyres, reduced weight and extra power, it seems likely that the 0-62mph sprint will be reduced from 3.2sec to 3.0sec or possibly less. But like the 675LT, the 600LT is meant to be at its best not in a straight line, but on a circuit. Indeed, McLaren claims that at certain tracks – slower, twistier ones, to be precise – the 600LT is actually quicker than the 675LT. And as the 675LT was widely rumoured to be at least as quick as the P1 (rumours McLaren did nothing to deny and, backstage, quite a lot to foster), it is safe to assume that this latest representative of McLaren’s entry level range, now produces a level of track performance very close to that of its ground-breaking hybrid hypercar of just five years ago. And, as the owner of the cheapest P1 I can find on sale wants £1.2million for it, the £185,500 600LT would appear to be something of a bargain. If it follows the same pattern as the 675LT, whose values have never dropped below list and are now around £250,000, owners will enjoy, at worst, a free McLaren for as long as they own it.

The only catch is that while McLaren limited the production of the 675LT to 500 coupés and 500 Spiders, the only commitment it has made about the 600LT is that it will only be built for 12 months. Although it cannot be stated as fact because no-one knows how many there will be, it is possible that the car is already constructively sold out.

VW BOSS BEHING BARS

In probably the most high-profile arrest in recent automotive history, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has been imprisoned for his alleged connections to the long-running Volkswagen dieselgate saga. Although the 55-year-old Stadler was one of many senior VW executives known to be under investigation, the fact that the man regarded as instrumental in the transformation of one of Germany’s most highly regarded premium brands is now behind bars still stunned the motor industry.

His arrest came one week after the German authorities named him as a suspect in their investigation and is understood to have resulted from wire-tap evidence gathered, in which he is alleged to have tried to influence a witness to the dieselgate affair. His request for bail was turned down on the grounds that he might attempt to obstruct the investigation were he allowed to remain at large.

How long Stadler will remain in prison is anyone’s guess, although it may be a while: the once highly regarded VW, Audi and Porsche engineer Wolfgang Hatz was incarcerated back in September of last year and was only released in June on bail of £2.65million, despite the fact that he has yet to be charged with any offence.

Even if Stadler is released and his name cleared, a report in Automotive News Europe has quoted a source close to the VW Advisory Board as saying “The expectation is that Stadler cannot return to his post.”

In his absence former sales and marketing director Abraham Schot has been appointed interim chairman of the board of management. In the meantime it is estimated that the dieselgate scandal has cost the VW group not only plenty of executives, but over £22.6billion to date.

NEW ATOM INCOMING

In what it describes as the biggest change since the original was launched in 1999, Ariel has released details of the Atom 4. Ariel says the car is all new, with only the clutch and brake pedals being carried over from its predecessor.

Perhaps the biggest news is now that supplies of the normally aspirated 2-litre Honda engine used by Ariel for the last 15 years have dried up, it has been replaced by the 2-litre turbocharged motor from the current Civic Type R, raising power from 245bhp to 320bhp. Significantly, the newly announced car does not replace the fabled supercharged Atom, despite it being 10bhp more powerful. Ariel has confirmed to me that by the time customer deliveries begin in the Spring, an even more powerful version that is the true replacement for the supercharged car will have been developed and that an even crazier iteration than that is in the pipeline, albeit at some distance removed.

Even so, the ‘basic’ Atom 4 is already capable of hitting 60mph from rest in 2.8sec and doing 0-100mph in 6.8sec, despite having only two driven wheels and a manual gearbox.

The new engine sits in a brand new steel spaceframe using tubes of larger diameter but similar gauge to the previous Atom. It increases torsional rigidity by 15 per cent relative to the best Atom, providing a stable platform for the all-new double-wishbone suspension to work, which has been designed with maximum anti-dive and anti-squat characteristics. Bigger brakes, wheels and tyres, a new steering rack, fresh instruments and new bodywork complete the picture.

The new Ariel Atom 4 weighs 595kg, approximately 75kg more than the Atom 3, or 50kg more than its supercharged sibling.

CYGNET GROWS

If there is one Aston Martin in its history the company would choose to forget about, I’d have bet plenty it was the tarted-up Toyota iQ better known as the Cygnet. Not so, it seems. In response to a request from a presumably eccentric customer, Aston Martin has taken a Cygnet and fitted it with the 430bhp, 4.7-litre V8 engine from a V8 Vantage. Finding space for an engine over 3.5-times the size of the original 1.3-litre unit was not easy and resulted in the deletion of the rear seats and moving the front seats some distance rearward. The car comes complete with V8 Vantage suspension, steering and brakes, its rear transaxle and seven-speed robotised manual gearbox. It reaches 62mph from rest in 4.2sec and the top speed is claimed to be 170mph, but likely to be limited by the bravery (or otherwise) of the driver.

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