Driven: McLaren 650S Spider Review
We were invited to test out the latest McLaren 650S Spider, and as you can only imagine we were happy to attend.
What’s the McLaren 650S Spider all About?
The McLaren 650S fits in with McLaren’s Sports Series range of super cars. One down from the mighty P1. The 650S is the next generation of the MP4-12C, and has been developed using lessons learnt in the McLaren P1. In some ways the 650S is a breed of its own.
I don’t take much convincing to believe that the 650S is a fantastic looking superpower. The model we have here is in bright orange and really comes with all the pizzazz and excitement that you want from a supercar. The 650S is offered in both coupe and Spider version. As you can see in the pictures, the Spider version removes the centrepiece of the roof allowing you to take in the full experience of what’s going on around you while tearing up the tarmac at the same time.
The 650S uses a 3.8 litre V8 twin turbo engine that puts out 641 bhp, 678 Nm of torque, and can do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. The supercar will top out at 204 mph on a straight, and uses a 7-speed, dual clutch gearbox that shifts instantly. Just to improve the car even further, it is hugely aerodynamically efficient, creating both negative lift and also using an active rear air brake. This is one serious motorcar.
How Does it Drive?
Driving the 650S is possibly the best driving experience you can get for the money. Everything about this car is near perfect. Sitting inside the car, the pedals and steering wheel sit dead straight in front of you, and ergonomically feel well placed. You hit the start button, the V8 sparks up, your toes curl, and you are good to go. One press on the D button and you’re in first gear, the handbrake releases itself, and you’re off. Getting in and driving the McLaren couldn’t be easier.
The first and very obvious thing about the 650S is the straight line performance of the car, it’s monstrous. To give you an idea of just how crazy the performance is, 0-124 mph in the car takes just 8.4 seconds, and 0-186 mph in just 25.4 seconds. Behind the wheel, when you put the car to full throttle, it accelerates faster than you can react. It just grips and goes, then when you are at the top of the rev range the gear change is instant, and you’re off again. Its acceleration feels relentless. When exploring how the acceleration works there is a huge surge of torque at 4,000 rpm, you feel the true power of the turbos kicking in and my god it’s a pleasurable experience.
The McLaren has a few different drive programs that manage how the car behaves. So, depending if you are on the road or track, you can harshen things up or soften them down a little. Even with the car in the most comfortable mode you are still firmly glued to the road in the corners, and overall in any mode the ride quality is reasonably comfortable for a supercar. The steering feels very lively in your hands, enabling you to sense the level of grip available on the road. With the car in Sport mode it feels very lively and for me was the most dramatic and fun experience you can have without scaring yourself too much.
The 650S comes with carbon ceramic brakes as standard, which have immense stopping power and work very nicely with the car. McLaren have finely tuned the brake pedal feel in the 650S; the pedal is very hard, and the brake modulation is consistent throughout the range. This advanced adjustment actually plays a big part in your overall awareness of what the car is doing at all times, allowing you to feel everything through the wheel and pedals. In fact, the brake performance of this car is that good most of the time that you actually question how the tyres even maintain grip with the road – it’s just incredible! And, to completely blow your mind, the car has active aerodynamics with a rear air brake. Meaning that when you stamp on the brakes at speed you get a huge spoiler stick of near vertical using air to slow down the car for additional braking power. This is a bizarre feature for something that has registration plates.
So the McLaren 650S clearly has top-shelf supercar performance, and to make that power a lot more usable, McLaren have put careful planning into the visibility from the driver’s perspective. From the driving seat the forward visibility is as good as it comes, and looking backwards over both shoulders is also pretty good. Also, if you want to hear more of that V8, you can drop the rear roof down for a bit more drama; I doubt you would ever get tired of that noise.
What’s it Like Inside?
Inside the McLaren there is a very minimal design concept. There is a clear race car feel to the McLaren, as you would expect. The dials and the steering wheel are very well designed and have a special look and feel about them.
The 650S features a portrait entertainment system that is neatly housed in the central console in the car. The heating controls for each half of the 650S are fitted to the doors; one for the passenger and another for the driver, and it actually works really well and frees up precious space on the centre console.
However, the most impressive thing inside the 650S is in the boot; the 3.8 litre V8. There is a glass window on the rear section of the car allowing you to look in from time to time and make sure it’s still there.
The McLaren 650S delivers, and then exceeds the full supercar experience. Starting with the looks, the car is very exotic and exciting to look at, sitting just inches from the ground it is clear that the 650S means business. Getting into any car with butterfly doors always feels impressive, and is a constant reminder that you are going to experience something different to most cars.
The driving experience is insane, it’s brutally fast, and simple to use for your average driver, but the 650S will also challenge the professional driver at all levels.
The McLaren 650S is quite possibly the ultimate supercar package. It’s beautifully designed, perfectly engineered and brilliantly well packaged together. We knew McLaren had done a great job moving from the 12C generation to the 650s, but who would have thought it would have been this good?
- Price: £195,250
- Engine: 3.8-litre V8 Twin Turbo
- Power: 641bhp
- Torque: 678Nm
- Transmission: 7 Speed Dual clutch – Seamless Shift
- 0-62mph: 2.9 Seconds
- 0-124mph: 8.4 Seconds
- Top speed: 204mph
- Weight: 1,330kg
- Economy combined: 24.2mpg
- CO2: 275g/km
Author: Paul Hadley