Motoring expert Chris Walsh test drives the new model…
It doesn’t actually seem that long ago when McLaren’s initial attempt at a mass production supercar – the incredible 12C – was first mooted by the Woking-based manufacturer. But in reality, it was late 2011 when I first got my hands on one. So, it’s about time for an update and McLaren has dutifully obliged.
Before we consign the previous model to the grave, I think it’s only fitting to provide a parting statement to the car that, at the time, was quite possibly the most advanced piece of engineering found on the road. And being as fresh as a daisy to drive today as in 2011 is testament to that – but nevertheless, the new version is here and it claims to be even better.
The simplest conclusion I can make about the 650S is that it has taken the incredibly high standards of the 12C to another level by improving on every key feature of the car. But there is more, as the 650S can play a trump card on top of this. Because all those improvements promote the strategic link to the groundbreaking P1 Hypercar, which is sure to attract the eye of most potential customers.
The easiest way to demonstrate this interconnecting relationship with the P1 is found deep within the engine, as the award-winning 3.8 litre twin turbo V8 has undergone a significant improvement to produce an increased 641 bhp and 678 Nm of torque from the original 616 bhp and 600 Nm of torque. Now this may seem like a pretty small gain over the last model, but these improvements allow the 650S to shave 0.3 hundredths off the old 0-62 time, which in turn, significantly aligns the new 0-62 time to that of the P1, which currently stands at just 2.8 seconds.
This means that the performance spectrum really becomes quite impressive, as the 650S can complete the 0-62 run in 3.0 seconds dead, while 0-124 mph is yours in just 8.6 seconds. Maximum speed is equally dramatic at 204 mph.
The 650S is sporty but it is no stripped-out hardcore racer, as the interior is actually more refined and luxurious than any previous production McLaren. As standard, the cabin features full Alcantara trim with a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Two new semi-aniline leather colours, Arabica Brown and Midnight Blue, are available from launch, as is luxurious Nappa leather – renowned for its softness and durability. The roof lining is also available in semi-aniline or full Nappa leather, while contrast stitching can be specified.
The good news is that none of these new additional specification options compromise the overall weight of the 650S, as every effort has been made to keep weight to a minimum, employing further learning from the McLaren P1 programme. Lightweight carbon fibre trim panels compliment the interior finish, enhancing the sports style further. And carbon fibre can also be ordered for door inserts, the rear capping panel, quarter panels and the lower part of the B-pillars. Sportier features, such as lightweight carbon fibre fixed-back racing seats – based around the McLaren P1 again – are also available.
Driving the car is very easy to be honest, as all-round visibility in the 650S is more than suitable for a mid-engine high performance sports car. Intelligent and efficient packaging has allowed the car to be extremely compact, with the engine positioned low in the chassis to not only ensure optimum weight distribution, but also improve rear visibility for those everyday parking situations.
Wind In Your Hair
The McLaren 650S Spider features a two-piece retractable hard top that can be automatically raised or lowered in less than 17 seconds and can be activated while stationary or at any speed up to 19 mph. Fortunately, the decision to go convertible is in no way a compromise from the Coupe as it is mechanically identical to its fixed-roof brother and offers the same performance, handling and driver enjoyment.
The secret of its success lies within its industry-leading carbon fibre MonoCell chassis, which needs no extra strengthening whatsoever to provide the necessary rigidity or safety when developing a convertible. This keeps any weight increase to a minimum, meaning the 650S Spider offers all the enjoyment and driver appeal of the fixed-roof sibling but with the added appeal of wind-inthe-hair driving and even the retention of those stunning dihedral opening doors.
At A Glance
Model: McLaren 650S Spider
Priced From: £215,250
Powerplant: 3.8-Litre V8 Twin Turbo
Drivetrain: Longitudinal Mid-Engined, RWD
Transmission: 7 Speed SSG
Power: 641 bhp @ 7,250 rpm
Torque: 678 Nm @ 6,000 rpm
Dry Weight: 1,370 kg
0-62 mph: 3.0 Seconds
Top Speed: 204 mph
Economy: 24.2 mpg
CO2 emission: 275 g/km