Review: McLaren 650S

The McLaren 650S is crushingly, breathlessly fast.
The McLaren 650S is crushingly, breathlessly fast.
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McLAREN’S 650S is essentially an evolution of the 12C, but with such a comprehensive spectrum of upgrades that it’s more like a brand new car. It’s faster, better balanced and has an even broader range of talents at both ends of the performance/comfort scale.

Its mighty turbocharged V8 engine has the sort of power you only used to get in unobtanium-rare hypercars, and the fact that the 650S is half a second faster to 100mph than the legendary McLaren F1 tells its own story. This thing is crushingly, breathlessly fast.

McLaren’s engineers and test drivers are keen to point out that styling is a mere trifle of a concern that comes after making sure the mechanicals are the best in the business. That said, a new front end adds significant downforce to keep those sticky-tyred front wheels pinned hard to the floor.

The image is in the same vein as Porsche’s, in that McLaren is rightly seen as a technological powerhouse, whose cars’ engineering prowess is the equivalent of a huge handlebar moustache and an improbably
large chest. Ye olde concepts of masculinity blend with an appreciation for 21st-century tech that works, and works astonishingly well.

While you probably won’t want to throw away the estate car just yet, the 650S Spider has a pleasantly cavernous front boot and, if you’re willing to leave the roof up, a smaller extra boot between the seats and the engine. There’s plenty of space for weekend trips away. As a rule, McLarens are among the most used supercars of them all.

Full throttle feels like being squeezed under a very large boot. Your lungs struggle against the g-force as 650 apparently very angry horses shove you back into your seat after the slightest of delays waiting for the two huge turbochargers to kick in.

Those turbos are a massive part of the appeal, whooshing and whistling and chuff-chuffing away like a glorious old steam train. Lack of character is not an accusation you can level at this car.

Despite the pace and the stunning stability and usability of the chassis, which imbibes the car with a bizarre agility that absorbs everything you can give it and consistently rewards you for your efforts, the 650S also makes a shockingly comfortable everyday biffabout. It’s all the supercar you could ever need.

This convertible version is a good £20,000 more expensive than the coupe and, since the one-piece carbon chassis requires no re-engineering for the purpose, those 20 big ones are pure profit for its maker. Still, feedback from McLaren is that many (evidently Midas-rich) buyers think that, for the engineering and capability on offer, the 650S is actually underpriced…

Who would buy one? Anyone with lots of spare cash who appreciates technical and driving prowess ahead of outright badge heritage. It’s a mighty, mighty sports car and appeals more to those that want to drive it as the makers intended, rather than posers.

PRICE £215,250

ENGINE 3.8-litre, twin-turbo 8cyl, 641bhp, 500 lb/ft

PERFORMANCE Top speed 204mph, 0-62mph in 3.0 s

ECONOMY 24.2mpg

CO2 EMISSIONS 275g/km