This past weekend I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the new McLaren 650s and I have to say, it was arguably one of the best test driving experiences I’ve had to date. The 650s, modeled after the McLaren P1™, joins the still in production 12c in the family of McLaren vehicles.
What is unique about this car is the combination of Formula 1™ race car performance and luxury. This car will take to the track like a bat out of hell in one moment, and provide you with a smooth ride to the grocery store in the next. Yes, the 650s incidentally does provide trunk space in the front of the car with room for your groceries, making this the most capable supercar available on the market. Do not let that fool you though. This car is very much a supercar.
The 650s gets its moniker from the amount of horsepower (650) available, with the “s” standing for ‘Sport’. This beauty will do 0-100 km/h (62mph) in three seconds flat, powered by the British-built 3.8-liter M838T twin-turbo V8 engine. The car sits on a Formula 1™ inspired carbon-fibre chassis that weighs in at a mere 75kg. The full wishbone suspension, mid-engine design, standard carbon ceramic disc brakes and active aerodynamics, along with the lightweight body, all contribute to the overall driver experience.
The first thing I noticed when I got into the car was the simple, elegant and functional interior design. The car is loaded with features you would find in a luxury vehicle, such as navigation, bluetooth, streaming audio, and a touch screen, yet it was so perfectly understated in its design, it offered no distraction to me while driving. While the car is quite lightweight, it feels solid around its passengers, and the cockpit still manages to feel spacious even though it is a two-seater.
Paired with a race car driver for my test drive, I began the loop in the passenger seat. As we pulled away from the dealership, he gave me an overview of the car’s features, where everything was located and what the car was capable of. Then, a short ways down the road, the moment of truth came. I slipped behind the wheel, adjusted my seat and mirrors, put the top down (I test drove the Spider of course), put my foot on the pedal and away we went.
The responsiveness of the car was incredible. The 7-speed dual clutch system, with McLaren engineered clutch control software, ensures there is no drop in speed as the driver upshifts. The acceleration was so smooth I didn’t realize how fast I was going until I looked at the speedometer. The car also has a high level of torque, at 500 lb.-ft. Quite a bit of attention is also put towards aerodynamics and downforce on the 650s. Downforce levels are increased 24 percent at 150mph and the door blades located just behind the front wheels are designed to send air from the edges of the front splitter, which gives more grip and balance.
During the test drive, I hit the acceleration from second gear at 15mph and got up to about 80mph, then slammed on the brakes to test the Airbrake. The result was impressive. The Airbrake technology swiftly slowed the car with little to no force felt in the cockpit. The car felt so stable I had no reservations it would stop on a dime under any circumstances. The steering is also very stiff and responsive, a characteristic I love. While driving you feel very much engaged with the road while not having to experience every single pothole. McLaren’s mission to fully engage the driver in the experience is more than met. Cruising on Mulholland Drive, wind in my hair, I was able to fully experience the power of the engine while appreciating the luxury of the car.
When taking in the complete McLaren 650s package, it’s hard to find fault with the car. For those consumers looking to buy a supercar, it checks every box. McLaren has set out to create a supercar that provides the expected level of performance (and then some) as well as luxury and they have absolutely succeeded. The power and performance aspect is spot on, the styling impeccable. You can see the care that went into designing the 650s, even down to the LED lights, which incidentally, are designed in the shape of the McLaren logo. The interior is well thought out, both simple and elegant. My only complaint about the drive is I didn’t get to really open it up on the road or test it in ‘Track’ mode. The event was on day three and the local police were clued in to the test route, handing out tickets. Toward the end of the course I did have a Mazda 3 come flying past me on a two lane road as I was cruising at 45mph, taking in the features and asking questions. He was pretty proud of himself for blowing past a McLaren until I sidled up next to him at the light, put the 650s in ‘Sport’ mode, spun out and left his everyday runaround car in my Supercar’s dust. I think my race car driver companion was sufficiently impressed.