What Car? says...
The McLaren 650S sits above the 570S in McLaren’s ranks as a rival to the Ferrari 488 and Lamborghini Huracán. There’s a coupé and a drop-top (Spider), but most buyers choose the latter. Given that it’s almost as brilliant to drive and delivers a bigger assault on your senses, it’s also the version we’d recommend.
The 650S is powered by a mighty 641bhp turbocharged V8 that delivers truly staggering straight-line speed. 0-62mph takes around 3.0 seconds, and the way the 650S corners has to be experienced to be believed – only a Ferrari 488 can claim to be more exciting in this price bracket. Perhaps most impressive, though, is how smoothly the McLaren rides.
As powerful as the McLaren’s V8 engine undoubtedly is, it doesn’t sound quite as piercingly soulful as a Ferrari’s or a Lamborghini’s at high revs. The McLaren does put both of those Italian rivals to shame for interior quality.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
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 it behaves impeccably. The transmission is smooth and unobtrusive, the steering is accurate but not too sharp, and the brakes demand just the right amount of effort to scrub off speed.
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 turbocharged V8 engine 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 650S’s predecessor, the 12C, is non-existent.
The steering tells you more than enough about what's going on ahead even in a straight line, and there is plenty 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.
Of course, you come across such back-road 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 sporty, immediate responses, 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 sorts of noises you want to hear, even if it doesn’t sound quite as good as a Ferrari 488 or an Audi R8, 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 version, so there's a bit of fresh air - and a lot more noise - at the back of your head.
The interior layout, fit and finish
A crucial thing in any supercar is the driving position – and thankfully the McLaren’s is brilliant. All the important controls are just where you’d want them to be, and the pedals line up neatly with the steering wheel and have just the right amount of space between them.
Of course, you can trim the interior of your 650S in pretty much any way your heart desires, with various leather and carbonfibre packages available. These can add significantly to what is already a fairly eye-watering price, although buyers at this end of the market aren't likely to be put off by that.
However, even the standard interior is classy and features lots of high-quality materials; the 650S certainly plusher inside than a Ferrari or Lamborghini. The McLaren’s infotainment system isn’t perfect, by any means, but neither is it too complex to get your head around.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
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 a bit of space to put stuff behind the seats should you require it.
Of course, there are only two seats, but there’s enough head and leg room to accommodate a couple of adults well over six feet tall – no matter whether you choose the hardtop or the Spider. If you want four seats the only option with similar performance is the Porsche 911 Turbo S, and even the rear seats in that car are only suitably for very small children.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The 650S is priced roughly in line with rivals such as the Ferrari 488 and the Lamborghini Huracán. That means it costs as much as a two-bed flat in some parts of the country, so clearly the McLaren isn’t even an option unless you’re fabulously wealthy.
With that in mind, you probably won’t give two hoots that insurance and servicing costs are likely to be extremely high and fuel economy will be terrible. Depreciation is also another big consideration, although fairly limited supply means you won’t lose as much money on a 650S as you might expect.