Writer Russell Purcell realizes the new McLaren 650s Spider is one sophisticated supercar – not like we needed to tell you that.
Woking, England is the home base for one of the most storied names in racing. McLaren Automotive is renowned the world over for their excellence in engineering and design, not to mention the fact that the British company is the most successful Formula 1 team in history.
McLaren is growing, and to accomplish this task the dynamic company is expanding its catalog to include a host of new models, including the stunning McLaren 650S.
The McLaren 650S is available in both coupe and Spider form, and although it is based on an existing model, the stunning MP4-12C with which it shares many parts, the car itself represents a new model for the boutique supercar builder.
McLaren 650s Spider Power
Beneath its slinky exterior, the 650S rides on a carbon-fibre reinforced polymer chassis that is derived from that of the aforementioned MP4-12C. The car also utilizes the same 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine as the 12C, although it has been further enhanced to develop more horsepower and torque. The 650S is armed with 641-horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque, the latter of which kicks in with maximum effect at a relatively low 3,000 RPM.
The car’s prodigious power is delivered to the rear wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch auto manual transmission that is lightning quick, and acceleration runs to 100 kilometres-per-hour from a standstill are possible in a face-slapping 3-seconds.
McLaren claims that the 650S is capable of reaching speeds of up to 333 km/h while the Spider variant tops out at 328 km/h. These figures put the 650S in rather elite company and establish the model as one of the fastest production vehicles in the world- a noteworthy achievement for a car that costs significantly less than its slightly speedier competitors.
The 650S Spider weighs slightly more than the coupe variant, which is expected, as open cars always require additional reinforcement in other areas to preserve the structural rigidity that is lost by removing the fixed roof structure. Fortunately this weight penalty is a rather meagre 40 kilograms, an amount that has very little negative effect on the vehicle’s performance numbers. The top can be operated at speeds up to 30 km/h and full deployment (up or down) can be accomplished in a scant 17-seconds.
The car’s styling is sleek, sophisticated, and almost timeless. It carries hints of the 12C as well as many cues from the company’s halo machine, the stunning P1. McLaren’s design team strives to maximize the aerodynamic efficiency of every product they create, so it should come as no surprise that the 650S is slippery by design, and the car benefits from a host of innovative technologies that have trickled down from the company’s racing program to enhance downforce and direct the flow of air where needed.
Two over-sized vertical intakes reside just aft of the 650S’s entry doors to deliver clean air to the car’s radiators in an effort to keep the turbo-charged V8 engine cool. A series of splitters, diffusers, panels, vents and spoilers direct the movement of air beneath the car to help cool various components, further induce downforce, or reduce turbulence.
Interestingly, McLaren’s engineers have even managed to incorporate the car’s exhaust system into their aerodynamic strategy and its seemingly odd placement amidships at the rear of the car actually produces a valuable vortex of air which further enhances downforce.
The lightweight alloy wheels are wrapped in ultra-sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires that work hard to keep the car affixed to the pavement as you explore the outer limits of this car’s surgically precise handling which is further enhanced by more of McLaren’s seemingly voodoo technology. The 650S is the first car to feature Brake Steer, a clever system developed by McLaren that subtly uses the rear brakes to manage traction, minimise mid-corner understeer and control oversteer when you corner at speed. It really has to be experienced to be believed, as words cannot explain it.
The McLaren 650S is a very expensive automobile, but when you consider that it is hand-built, very exclusive, and capable of performance numbers beyond those of many of its more expensive rivals, the car starts to look like a true value.
The person who buys a McLaren appreciates the act of driving, so this car is equipped with a system that allows the driver to fine tune the car’s handling and dynamic performance. The Active Dynamics Panel (ADP) offers three settings – Normal, Sport and Track – which gives the driver the ability to set the car up to maximize fuel efficiency and comfort, or ramp things up and hone its performance parameters to those of a true track weapon.
The 650S employs adaptive dampers to provide immediate response based on the condition of the road surface and driver inputs. The Proactive Chassis Control (PCC) system offers three settings – Normal, Sport and Track – which can be selected to adjust the suspension electronically with regards to both firmness and body roll.
A car of this performance potential needs a braking system that can react just as quickly should things get out of control. To help maintain driver confidence McLaren fits carbon-ceramic brakes to the car as standard equipment.
The 650S incorporates an active braking device at the back of the vehicle which acts to keep the rear end of the car planted to the ground during aggressive or panic stop situations. Basically the car’s rear spoiler will flip to a vertical position when the brakes are applied at speeds above 100 km/h to act as an effective air brake mechanism. This cutting-edge technology was initially developed by the company when they partnered with Mercedes-Benz on the stunning SLR McLaren, as well as through their F1 activities. McLaren literature claims that the Airbrake feature can increase effective downforce by as much as 20-percent.
The McLaren 650s Cockpit
The car’s interior layout is cockpit centric, and all controls and gauges are within easy reach and view of the driver. The number of switches, buttons and dials employed throughout the tidy cabin has been keep to a minimum, as the focus needs to remain on driving.
Ingress and egress is far less dramatic than you might expect as the dihedral doors swing up and out of the way at the mere touch of a button, but due to their inherent lightness, it is necessary to slam them with authority. Passengers are housed in a carbon-fibre MonoCell which is similar in design and construction to the tub used on the company’s Formula 1 racing machines. The integral strength of this structure offers a level of crash protection that is unparalleled by other materials or cabin designs.
Visibility is quite good for such a low slung machine, although the rear view can be a challenge for shorter individuals. Luckily the cars has extra-wide mirrors and a rear facing camera system to remedy this situation.
The body-hugging sport seats offer plenty of adjustment, and I was able to find more than enough leg-, hip- and headroom for 6’2″ frame. An alcantara wrapped steering wheel fitted with carbon fibre paddles greets the driver and the compact instrument clustre (dominated by an over-sized tachometer) is a model of simplicity.
McLaren claims that the 650S is capable of reaching speeds of up to 333 km/h while the Spider variant tops out at 328 km/h. These figures put the 650S in rather elite company and establish the model as one of the fastest production vehicles in the world.
The McLaren 650S is a very expensive automobile, but when you consider that it is hand-built, very exclusive, and capable of performance numbers beyond those of many of its more expensive rivals, the car starts to look like a true value. The fact that it is comfortable enough to use as a daily driver is an added bonus not to be overlooked in this segment.
2015 Mclaren 650s Spider Specs:
Technical Specifications: 2015 McLaren 650S Spider
Price range: $350,000-$410,000
Layout: Mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine: 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 641 @ 7250 rpm
Torque: 500 @ 3000 rpm
Transmission: 7-Speed , dual-clutch, auto-shift manual
Brakes: Four-wheel carbon-ceramic discs
Weight: 1,330 KG (2,932 lbs.)
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 3.0-seconds