£195,250 - £215,250 Price range
When the Mclaren 12C was released in 2011, many testers felt that it was missing a certain ‘X factor’. Sure, it was hugely capable and very fast indeed, but it lacked the sense of occasion and excitement offered by the brilliant Ferrari 458. The Woking-based outfit replied with the 650S.
With front end styling inspired by the P1 hypercar, even more power than before, and a slightly noisier soundtrack, the 650S aims to address the main concerns buyers had with the 12C. The choice between a Mclaren and a Ferrari is now that little bit tougher…
Road testers are complimentary about the Mclaren’s cabin. The minimalist design is uncompromisingly driver-focussed and free of any distractions. Almost every surface is covered in either glossy carbon fibre or sumptuous alcantara. The driving position is “superb” and the steering wheel is adjustable, allowing almost anyone to get comfy.
A word of warning though – the optional carbon fibre bucket seats aren’t fit for more generously proportioned passengers. They look fantastic, however, and save a whopping 15kg, so for the slimmer, keener driver they are completely worth it.
In the past, testers criticised the sat-nav in the 12C, so McLaren made an effort to update it for the 650S. It is certainly an improvement, though it still can be a little slow-witted sometimes. As the 650S is a mid-engined car, the boot is in the front. It offers reasonable space – more than adequate for swallowing a couple of small weekend bags.
The Spider version features an electrically folding metal roof which elegantly disappears into a space behind the driver in only 18 seconds. It can operate at speeds up to 20mph too, which means that you won’t be completely caught out by sudden downpours. Testers note that as the 650S is based on a carbon tub, the Spider loses almost no dynamic prowess to the coupe.
There is only one criticism that can be levelled at how the 650S handles – on the very limits of grip, it lacks the ultimate adjustability that you’d find in a 458. Beyond that, it is a massively accomplished machine.
This is mainly thanks to the active dampers – they are brilliantly resolved in whichever setting you choose. In their most compliant setting, the ride is excellent – smooth enough to shame many family hatchbacks – but attack a corner and it still feels sharp and precise. Adjust the dampers to Sport or Track mode, and the game is raised further.
The 650S offers huge grip and stability – the P1-inspired front end produces 40 per cent more downforce than the 12C – while the steering is both light and accurate, but never direct to the point of feeling nervous.
Carbon ceramic brakes are now standard. More often than not ceramics are criticised for lacking feel (as was the case with the 12C), but not here. They offer a “superb feelsome progression” to their incredible stopping power.
Not that anyone ever complained about the performance on offer from the 12C, Mclaren has seen fit to up the stakes further with the 3.8 twin-turbo V8 fitted to the 650S. Lessons learned while developing the P1 result in the introduction of new pistons and cylinder heads. These changes mean that the 650S offers 25hp more than its predecessor.
In a car weighing only 1,301kg, performance is rather startling. The sprint from 0-60mph takes a scarcely believable 2.9 seconds, while 100mph arrives just 2.8 seconds later. That makes the coupe version over half a second faster than the legendary Mclaren F1, while even the Spider matches its Granddad’s 0-100 time of 6.3 seconds. For those brave enough to try, top speed is 207mph.
The double-clutch gearbox is fantastic, with testers noting that it’s “quick-witted,” and possessing an uncanny knack of always finding the right ratio almost before you’ve even chosen it. Despite the performance, the engine settles down to a very relaxing hum on the motorway. Combined with the aforementioned ride, this it a car that will cruise continents with surprising ease.
The engine isn’t quite perfect though. Thanks to it’s turbocharged nature, the throttle response doesn’t quite match the instant shove of the 458’s, while some testers still feel the sound is a little “soulless” compared to the Ferrari and Lamborghini Huracan.
A 207mph-car featuring advanced carbon fibre construction and incredible attention to detail will never be cheap, though it does undercut the price of the Ferrari 458 by several thousand pounds. The cost of the Spider version is £20,000 more than the coupe.
Mclaren aim to limit production numbers so that demand outstrips supply, so resale values will likely remain very strong.
Mclaren claim that the 650S is “the world’s ultimate luxury sports car”, and when viewed that way, it is hard to disagree. The performance is epic, it’ll demolish most cars around a circuit, yet on the road it feels comfortable and easy to live with.
When viewed as a supercar – as most will see it – the choice becomes much tougher. The Ferrari 458 is a spectacularly good machine, and although in some ways the Mclaren is arguably more capable, the Ferrari has a sense of occasion that some critics feel that the Brit can’t quite match.
Whichever you pick out of the two, then you won’t be disappointed, but many would argue that the Ferrari manages to make you feel just that little bit more special.