2014 McLaren 650S review

New McLaren 650S coupe produces a mighty 641bhp and 500lb ft of torque, covering 0-62mph in just 3.0sec before topping out at 207mph. We test it in the UK for the first time.

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This is the new McLaren 650S, a £195,250 supercar that replaces the 12C in the range and borrows its extrovert styling from the P1 hypercar.

It would be easy to think of it as a kind of McLaren 12C face-lift with a bit more power, but it's actually much more than that. Essentialy, it's a car developed to provide even greater on-track ability, but also even more comfort and pace on the road.

The new nose does more than just forge a visual link with the P1, it also provides a full 40% more front downforce at high speed, helping on-track handling in extremis. It's backed up by modified active aero parts such as the moveable rear wing, which adjusts automatically when the car senses that more downforce is needed or more straightline speed is in order.

It uses the same twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 engine as in the 12C, but it's tweaked and retuned to develop 641bhp and 500lb ft of torque.

In addition, the transmission has been altered to provide smoother changes when you're just mooching around and quicker shifts when you're not.

The 650S is built around the same carbonfibre 'tub' as the 12C, which means McLaren can offer it in both coupe and open-top forms with no difference between their on-road behaviour.
 

What's the 2014 McLaren 650S like to drive?

In short, staggering. The engine fires with a suitably enthusiastic flare of revs then settles to a high-tech idle, and as soon as you engage D and pull away you notice there's a cohesiveness to the way the 650S conducts itself.

Even at low speeds the 650S behaves impeccably. The transmission is smooth and unobtrusive, the steering is accurate but not too sharp, and the retuned brakes demand just the right amount of effort. 

The 650S has another attribute not common to cars of this type – you can see out of it. All of this makes using it in the scrum that is the average urban journey less stressful than you might expect.

When a twisty road opens up ahead, though, the 650S comes alive. 

Put your foot down and the 500lb ft of torque makes its presence felt immediately; the scenery starts to pass very quickly indeed, to the extent that you'll find yourself arriving at corners earlier and carrying a fair bit more speed than you might expect. 

It's just as well, then, that there are standard carbon-ceramic brakes in each corner. They're very effective and provide a stream of feedback when you squeeze the big pedal. The slightly dead initial feeling that characterised the brakes on the 12C has been completely eradicated.

The steering tells you more than enough about what's going on ahead even in a straight line, and it gives loads of feedback when you turn in to a corner.

You'll have no worries about getting round corners either, because the 650S has a virtually unshakeable grip on the road. You'll have aroused the interest of the law long before you lose control in the McLaren; it'll be a case of do not pass go, do not collect £200, go straight to jail.

Of course, you come across such backroad nirvana only occasionally, because most of our motoring lives are spent in town, on the motorway or in jams. None of this matters in a 650S because while McLaren's engineers have managed to give the car sportier, more immediate responses than the 12C, they've managed to do so without compromising the ride quality in any way.

The way the 650S dispenses with bumps and potholes has to be experienced to be believed, even on the UK's notoriously rough road surfaces; it makes a Golf GTI seem a bit harsh. No other supercar offers this level of comfort.

Refinement is perfectly reasonable, too. The engine makes all the sort of noises you want to hear, and while road noise is prevalent, it's entirely acceptable given the sheer footprint of rubber at each corner. If you want to turn up the volume on the engine, incidentally, you can lower the small screen behind the seats in the Spider, so there's a bit of fresh air - and a lot more noise - at the back of your head.

What's the 2014 McLaren 650S like inside?

Pretty much identical to the 12C, which means decent space for two people, comfortable seats, plenty of glass area and a decent amount of kit. The difference is that the cabin is trimmed in Alcantara as standard.

Practical isn't a word normally associated with supercars, but the 650S is pretty good in this respect. The luggage area between the standard LED headlights is big enough for a couple's weekend luggage, and there are a couple of reasonable oddment areas in the cabin. There's even space to put stuff behind the seats should you require.

Of course, you can trim the interior of your 650S in pretty much any way you care to mention, with various leather and carbonfibre packages on offer. These can add significantly to what is already a fairly eye-watering price; our test Spyder had £55,000 worth of extras, although buyers at this end of the market aren't likely to be put off by that sort of figure.

McLaren is also offering a couple of hip-hugging Alcantara-trimmed bucket seats for those who intend to use their 650S on track. These are perhaps a bit extreme for the road, but are undeniably supportive for higher-speed work.
 

Should I buy one?

Absolutely. The 650S takes all that was good about the 12C and simply makes it better.

In fact we'd be tempted (as 80% of buyers are) to spend even more and go for the drop-top instead of the coupe because it drives virtually identically to the coupe but allows you to get your head into the sunshine at the press of a button.

The fact that the 650S can average 24.2mpg officially and emits just 275g/km of CO2 will mean little to people who can afford the £200k price, but at least it means you won't have to fill it up quite as often as you will its rivals.

 

What Car? says

 

 

Rivals

Ferrari 458 Italia

Mercedes-Benz SLS

 

Specification Coupe
Engine size 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 
Price from £195,250
Power 641bhp
Torque 500lb ft
0-62mph 3.0sec
Top speed 207mph
Fuel economy 24.2mpg
CO2 output 275g/km

Specification Spider
Engine size 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 
Price from £215,250
Power 641bhp
Torque 500lb ft
0-62mph 3.0sec
Top speed 204mph
Fuel economy 24.2mpg
CO2 output 275g/km 

 
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