First Drive: McLaren 650S Spider

The McLaren 650S is a driver's delight.

The McLaren 650S is a driver's delight.

What’s new?: The 650S is essentially an evolution of the 12C, but with such a comprehensive spectrum of upgrades that symbolically 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 now has the sort of power you used to get only 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.

Looks and image: McLaren’s engineers and test drivers are keen to point out that styling is a mere trifle of a concern to come 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.

Space and practicality: 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 practical space for weekend trips away - and as a rule McLarens are among the most used supercars of them all.

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

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

But despite the pace and the simply 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 it — the 650S also makes a shockingly comfortable everyday biffabout. It’s absolutely all the supercar you could ever need.

Value for money: 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 McLaren. Still, the 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 who could afford a supercar of this calibre and 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. What’s more, the 650S is comfortable and refined enough to use every day.

This car summed up in a single word: Superlative




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