Mclaren top exhaust

Mclaren top exhaust DEFAULT

Learn why McLaren uses a top-mount exhaust for the 600LT

McLaren's top-mount exhaust pipes on the 600LT certainly look cool, but there are actually multiple reasons why the British marque opted for the design.

Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained had the opportunity to speak with the 600LT's chief engineer, and he answered numerous questions about the design, how it functions, and how it interacts with the rest of the car's design. To start, weight is a major benefit to the design.

For example, Jason compares the 570S's more traditional exhaust system to the 600LT. In the 570S, the exhaust comes out of each side of the V-8 engine, travels over the transmission housing, and back down before splitting and exiting at the rear. In the 600LT, it's a fraction of the piping. The exhaust cuts off right after it routes over the transmission housing. The design helps reduce exhaust back pressure and shaves about 28 pounds off of the car's weight compared to the 570S.

2020 McLaren 600LT Spider

2020 McLaren 600LT Spider

Next up, aerodynamics. Jason calls aero the biggest advantage to the top-mount exhaust. Unlike the 570S, which has a rear-exit exhaust built into the rear diffusor, the 600LT's top-mount design doesn't interfere with the rear diffusor's design. Thus, the 600LT's diffusor (in combination with its extended length) provides about 220 additional pounds of downforce at high speeds. What about the rear wing? Surely the top-mount exhaust hurts downforce by interfering with the wing. 

Actually, no. Jason explains the center of the wing doesn't do much work at all. Instead, the sides of the wing are what receive fresh air to create downforce, which is channeled from the car's body shape. The center of the wing, in comparison, receives more turbulent airflow since it comes off of the roofline. The exhaust dumps air into the portion of the wing that doesn't do much work at all and creates insignificant effects. The wing is also coated in Ceracoat ceramic material for protection from the exhaust's heat.

2020 McLaren 600LT Spider

2020 McLaren 600LT Spider

Rain is also no match for the design. The exhaust features holes for water to drain from the exhaust so the system doesn't become filled with water if the car is left out during a thunderstorm.

Aside from all the engineering benefits, there's one more: it sounds better. With the exhaust right behind a driver's head, more of the noise makes its way to his or her ears. With a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 providing the soundtrack, that's not a bad thing.


If you haven't already heard, the McLaren 600LT uses a top-mounted exhaust. In addition to looking cool and sounding great, there are some actual performance benefits to having the exhaust exit at the top rather than the bumper. Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained breaks down those benefits in his latest video.

In the 570S, the 600LT's more pedestrian sibling, the exhaust exits at either end of the bumper. Because the car is mid-engined, the exhaust has to travel from the engine, over the transaxle, then back down to the bumper to exit. That's a lot of piping. A top-mount exhaust fixes that by simply exiting over the transaxle without having to travel back down to the bumper. Here's a gif showing the difference in how the exhaust air travels:

This means less piping, which means less weight, less back-pressure, and better cooling. And because there's no exhaust exits at the bumper to disturb air flow, McLaren can incorporate a bigger diffuser to produce more downforce.

Some of you might be thinking: Does the top exit exhaust disturb airflow to that big rear wing? Fenske had the same concern, and asked a McLaren engineer, who explained that most of the wing's downforce actually come from either side of the wing, not the center portion where the exhaust is. The car's body work sends clean, undisturbed air to the wing's sides, while the cabin structure sends dirty air to the wing's center, which isn't as effective. That's why you see cars like the Ferrari FXX K with two winglets on either end rather that one massive piece.

Check out Fenske's full video below if you want to learn everything there is to know about top-exit exhausts.

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The McLaren 600LT’s top-mounted exhaust isn’t just for show

There’s little aerodynamic upset where the exhausts spit hot gas centrally over the large rear spoiler, with a majority of the hard work performed at the outside edges of the wing. A coating of matte black Ceracoat prevents heat damage to the carbonfibre surface and structure. However, no, there’s no happy by-product such as extra downforce, with only a few grams of thrust generated by even the most hardcore turbo-car exhaust, but you might be able to toast a marshmallow. Sweet.

MOREThe unbelievable story of Australia’s crashed McLaren F1

But don’t expect to see the next Kia Cerato blowing exhaust through its top. Despite the advantages, top-exit exhausts generally only work for cars which have the engine located behind the driver, and which have high horsepower expectations.

Before McLaren, Porsche brought the race-car-derived feature to the road on the back of its V8-powered 918 Spyder hyper hybrid, and you can bet the 600LT won’t be the only car to follow the high-performance German’s lead.


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Top exhaust mclaren

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