McLaren 650S Review: Power that Knows no Bounds – Drive Safe and Fast

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Published on December 30th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair

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McLaren 650S Review: Power that Knows no Bounds

There are supercar makers, and then there’s McLaren. With more experience on track-exclusive vehicles than most other competitors, the company have just a few a years ago taken to focusing on production cars. We had the opportunity to take the 650S Spider for a spin and see just how well that racing legacy translates to street cred. What we found was surprising, but first we have to talk about that beautiful powerplant.

On the 650S, the M838T engine displayed to the public like the piece of art that it is. It redlines at 8,500RPM, but the power comes much earlier than that. By the time the revs hit the 2,500 mark the engine’s already making you smile.

Getting hit with 678Nm of torque is no joke. There’s a world of difference between going from 0-100km/h in under 6 seconds and getting to 160km/h in the same amount of time.

The moment those turbos spool up (which is always just a little earlier than you expect), a huge surge comes up from behind you and sends the car rocketing ahead. It’s a good thing that McLaren know how to make a car precise enough to tame this kind of power. There’s precision at any speed, around every corner.

McLaren have made the 650S confidence-inspiring, so there’s no issues if you lack the kind of training professionals go through. Yes, you’ll be terrified of the amount of power available at your fingertips at first, but the steering is just so perfectly calibrated that you never feel out of control.

We’ve seen plenty of variable-rate electric power assisted steering units before, but McLaren’s is about as good as it gets. Paired with its Proactive Chassis Control double-wishbone suspension and brake steer-capabilities, the steering offers tight, exceptionally balanced handling. It’s a perfect combination of traditional race-car conventions and bleeding edge technology, with the advantages of each cancelling out the other’s drawbacks.

Plenty of modern supercars go into ‘comfort’ mode, to make day-to-day driving easier and so can this. The Active Dynamics Panel allows you to choose exactly how the car behaves,  so it can be quiet and easy to drive if you want it to be. But the purposefully heavy steering makes it necessary for both hands to be on the wheel, reminding the driver that there is power in his hands that he shouldn’t for a second forget. No texting and driving in this thing – not unless you’re completely stationary.

But that’s not even necessary because the 650S comes with the same (if not better) connectivity options you find in a modern day executive sedan. It comes with a vertically aligned screen – like an upright tablet. As navigation is more natural with the direction of travel on the top, having a screen that’s taller than it is wide makes it much easier to use as a navigation screen. Wider screens are better for movies and video games, but when it comes to map-reading, many car manufacturers still get it wrong and are left with underutilised screen space. McLaren certainly put some thought into this.

The choice of materials reflects the thoughtfulness too. The use of carbon-fibre, metals and matte plastics calls back to McLaren’s trackday roots, while the leather, stitching, and Alcantara give it a distinctly modern look.

Initially though, the large amounts of Alcantara may seem a bit strange, as it covers just about every surface that would normally have thick plastic. But it took me a few moments to realise just how useful the faux suede worked as a sound dampening material. By draping everything in a soft, velvety cloth-like material, not only did McLaren create a modern interpretation of luxury, but they managed to control the acoustics within the cabin as well. And that’s great because McLaren’s partner in sound is none other than Meridian Audio – the iconic British soundsmiths.

It’s surprising just how well the whole package comes together. It’s a no-compromise supercar on one hand, and a comfortable luxury cruiser on the other – with amenities abound.

Perhaps the icing on the cake is just how exclusive the brand is. Supercars are already on a plane of their own, and having any one of the half a dozen or so big names in your garage automatically puts you in a very different league. But McLarens are different. McLarens have until quite recently stayed away from purely street-legal production cars. They’ve continued Bruce McLaren’s legacy with track cars for decades and now that the internal combustion engine has reached its physical limitations, they’ve more or less got the formula for the perfect car down to a science.

Doubtless the 650S isn’t their fastest or most technologically superior product on offer, but it’s still a mighty contender in the world of supercars. If you’re willing to put down RM2.6 million for the drop-top Spider, you’ll be treated to an electrically folding roof. With just a press of a button, you’ll feel the wind in your hair and hear what that twin-turbo charged 3.8-litre V8 sounds like to the rest of the world. If you have the means, this car will turn heads like no other.

McLaren 650S Spider Specifications:

Engine: M838T V8 Twin-Turbo

Displacement:  3,799cc

Transmission:  7-Speed McLAREN Dual-Clutch SSG

Max power: 650PS (641 HP) @ 7250rpm

Max torque: 678Nm @ 6000rpm

Top Speed: 329km/h

0-100km/h: 3 secs

Price: RM2,600,000


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