Welcome to my blog! First post! I hope you enjoy it.
The thing about having a one-of-350-produced McLaren 620R for the weekend is you want to drive it as much as humanly possible during your short 60 hours with it. However, pretty much all high-end sports car and supercar press loans come with strict mileage limits. In my case, 250 miles. Unfortunately, no mountain-road-filled weekend trip across California for me.
Rather, to make the miles count, I completed a two-hour visit to the mountains this past Friday, and have plans to participate in an autocross event tomorrow. I’ve already driven 140 miles, so I’ve got to be careful. The venue for tomorrow is 25 miles away, so, being liberal with estimated on-course miles, I won’t have many leftover afterwards. I’ve got to factor in driving the 620R back to the press fleet office, too.
With these plans in mind, I realized the best way to make the most of my loan was to do around 10-15 miles of otherwise unremarkable driving in town where I live in Long Beach. With a gorgeous, sunny, 70-degree day beckoning, I fired up the 620R and went for a drive.
Unremarkable, Yet Very Remarkable
My initial intention during this cruise was to just tool around Long Beach’s Belmont Shore and Naples neighborhoods, enjoying an hour with the windows down, and do some people watching at 25-30 MPH. I even made it a point to never travel more than 5 MPH above the speed limit.
Normally, this would be a bland cruise, but behind the wheel of the 620R, it’s anything but. Even for these more well-to-do areas, a McLaren is a rare, expensive bird.
This GT4-race-car-for-the-road is an especially rare site. Barely street-legal tires, big, loud ceramic brakes, 611 horsepower, carbon fiber everywhere, insulation and carpeting nowhere, six-point racing harnesses, manually-adjusted racing suspension, a loud exhaust system, and the cherry on top: a carbon fiber roof scoop to feed its 3.8-liter V8’s twin turbos. It will reach 60 MPH from a standstill in 2.8 seconds, and double that speed in just over 8 seconds. It’s also bright orange—a nice tribute to the brand’s racing heritage that also sticks out like a sore, Cheeto-dusted thumb.
Everybody looks. Absolutely everybody. Seniors out for a stroll, youths on their BMX bikes, people practicing reasonable social distance at outdoor cafe and bar seating, people unloading windsurfing equipment from their lifted Tacomas… everybody. This cruise was certainly remarkable for everybody who saw this little, 3,000-ish-pound beast. They’ll probably never see the likes of it again unless they actively try to.
Most folks I passed probably weren’t deep into cars, but I like to think they were amazed to see a $275,000 supercar cruising around, driving no more than 5 MPH over the speed limit, and using its turn signal. Especially in Southern California.
It was actually remarkable for me too, mostly because I was doing the complete opposite of what this beautiful machine was engineered for. It’s meant to be barely street legal, yet I was doing the most mundane street driving ever. It rode just fine over shitty SoCal tarmac, too, and its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission was happy to shift smoothly and low in the revs during ultra-mild acceleration. My god do you feel every minuscule change in the road’s topography, and feel/hear every tiny rattle while cruising along at 25 miles an hour. This isn’t a complaint, but rather an expectation. Ya know, because it’s a freaking GT4 car for the road.
But Then, Things Got More Serious
I realized I should make some sort of stop to get out and look for people’s reactions of seeing a $275,000 racecar parked on the street in their modest, middle-class or upper-middle-class neighborhood. “I’ll grab a coffee down the street from my old apartment,” I thought, and started making my way to Long Beach’s beautiful Broadway Street. But alas, I was operating on an empty stomach and that probably wasn’t the best idea. “Do I need anything from the hardware store … yes I do!” I realized I was out of zip ties, and should buy some not only have on hand, but also to better-secure the un-used racing harnesses in the 620R. The immense lateral Gs I experienced on Friday threw them around it was quite annoying.
I realized, though, that I’d have to parallel park the 620R on Broadway to give the small, independent hardware store my business. There’s no way I was going to do this. I’m a skilled parallel parker, but I like it when my writing entertains people, not my careful, slow attempt to park a wide, short supercar. Especially one with less-than-ideal visibility, and center-lock wheels that probably cost more than my month’s wages, each. Yes, the McLaren has a backup camera, side mirrors that tilt downwards, and parking sensors, but still, the risk was far too high.
Sorry, independent establishment, I’ve got to drive to Home Depot where there’s a big parking lot. Off I went up north to beautiful Signal Hill, named for being a massive hill that used to—and still sends—signals.
I’d Chalk That Up As A Job Well Done
After spending less than 2 minutes purchasing zip ties in Home Depot, I was back in the 620R, on my way home, imagining patting myself on the back for a job well done. There was no chance of physically doing this while strapped into its deep, full-carbon race seats.
This was a fun day! I’m sure I provided entertainment by showing a car to random passers-by that they might not see again, and I got to find out how the mighty McLaren conquered slow, city driving. It’s loud, and has a ton of noise, vibration, and harshness, but it rides very well for being 90% race car, and even has a great sound system. It doesn’t have air conditioning though … at least it didn’t seem to.