McLaren 650S

It’s like a high pitch shriek – a whine, if you will – like someone’s boiling live sparrowhawks in a pan in front of a horrified animal rights activist. I am, of course, speaking of the noise that every single person who took a ride in the McLaren 650S made aloud: a combination of undulated fear and excitement. Cue the Scotchgard seats.

The McLaren 650S will take you from your Eames lounger to eyeball-drying speed (60, obviously) in just under three seconds. That’s impressive for anyone (not when compared with anything. Just in general. Full stop).

If you’ve never been catapulted to 60 miles-per-hour in less than three seconds, you won’t appreciate what I’m talking about. Let me try and explain. It’s face-melting, as if you’ve discovered a new element and everyone else is just walking around in slow motion, dribbling, trying not to fall over. I wish I could be more erudite at this point and show a more cerebral appreciation for the engineering prowess that produced this unicorn. However, the 650S just turned everyone that came into contact with it into a reptile slithering out of the primordial ooze. It was as if a group of cave men were hopping around a car, shouting “Spee….spee…..spee….speed”.

The 650S can hit 60 in 2.8 seconds, see you well into triple digits in 5.9 seconds, and achieve take-off in under 10. A concord moment, indeed. I am thankful that, as a generation, we have a vehicle that we can brag about to our children when they are 16 and on the cusp of malcontent. I remember numerous members of my mother’s groupie entourage banging on in whiskey diatribes: “I saw the Stones at Hyde Park, and I remember the good coke. You’ve got nothing to live for”.

Well, you’re wrong, mother. Obviously, many could cite the Veyron as being a car of concord-like prowess, but it wasn’t a car of my generation, and it does cost both kidneys and a blood diamond. Whereas the McLaren costs £195,250, will retain its value like a Fabergé egg, and be a prized collector’s item in a matter of minutes.

If you’ve seen one, you already know, but for those of you reading this without eyes on knowledge, I shall embellish. The 650S does indeed bear a resemblance to the 12C – after all, it uses several body panels and has a similar silhouette. It features unique boomerang headlights, a nod to the P1, and large single air vents on each side. Not to mention the air brake that deploys at a 32-degree angle under downforce or heavy braking. If you want to know that you were showing off, just look in the rear view mirror as you brake, if it rises, you’re probably looking at points.

The 650S generates 650 horsepower in PS, all in the name, from a twin-turbo 3.8 litre V8, and with 678 Nm of torque, it really doesn’t matter what is staring you down at the lights.

Having driven back from London to Bristol, I was invited to put the window down in the city centre as a group of teenagers in a VW golf next to me felt like exchanging vitriolic abuse. Apparently the car was so impressive, it warranted asking me to wind my windows down to receive confirmation that I was indeed a lucky git and should be made aware of the fact. I responded with complete verbal silence, stopping only to put the window back up and leave a Back-to-the-Future set of flaming tyre marks behind me. The McLaren 650S is a far better negotiator than I am.

So, what is it like to pilot? Well, opening the dihedral doors is an act of theatre. The factory-defined way to enter is much akin to a stop-drop-and-roll procedure, but does leave you transformed from the outside world into a scene from Tron Legacy. A lot of people asked me what it was like to park, expecting the 650S to get into its fair share of scrapes when entering and exiting. The reality is that, unless you park against a wall, the doors take up less room than a standard door fitting, making parking in the city a breeze. One thing I can tell you is that, having spent a good few weeks on the Riviera this year, surrounded by lashings of super cars, I didn’t see one McLaren 650S. This tells me that you could well be the first person to impress at Baoli in Cannes next season.

Inside the cockpit, an iPad-sized computer screen controls audio, temperature, diagnostics, navigation and bluetooth. The age of manual transmission in super cars is long gone. You can manoeuvre the 650S with two fingers on the squared-off steering wheel. The seven-speed, double-clutch transmission is elegant in its delivery, though not brash. Everything is engineered to put you in full control with every dial and switch aimed at your fingertips.

The interior is, on the whole, quite restrained: McLaren has opted for Alacantara trim with carbon fibre detailing and fine stiching. When I first slipped into the driving seat It was a little overwhelming to be honest. That might have been because we were at the McLaren Technology Centre, though, and the conviction that I was going to drive it into the lake at Mach 3 was strong. The layout is uber-efficient, with the lion’s share of the controls in a central console and strip between the bucket seats. I honestly felt like I’d landed in the McLaren and was assessing the human weakness before the invasion. God knows what the aliens would want with earth, though. More land to expand the factory and raw materials to build the next generation of super car perhaps.

Let’s look at the 650S road presence. Our motoring editor, Oliver Smith, said to me a few months before we picked it up, “Be careful, okay? This is a game-changer in terms of restraint”. What he was trying to say was, “Look, Pete, we’re all human, but if this car performs like it says it can on paper, you’re likely to need to update your insurance details”.

This is nothing to do with the car, of course, and more my level of self-control. He needn’t have worried. The McLaren handles like the tyres are one with the road in some form of Zen-like trance. The adaptive power train, handling modes and the carbon ceramic brakes means that the car does not give an inch. Even when pushed hard. Words should be able to describe it, but they don’t, and nor should they. Go to West Virginia to the Paramount theme park and ride the ‘Flight of Fear’. That’s the best I can do.

To be honest, my self-control was tested. I would be at home late at night and aware that it was sat in the car park – just waiting for me. Maintaining a legal speed felt completely out of character for the car. You could see a gap ahead for an overtake, and within seconds you had made the manoeuvre and had enough time to light your cigar and flick your hair back. The public reaction was, naturally, outstanding. Expect whistles, gawks, and perhaps several phone numbers tucked behind the wiper.

The McLaren is as svelte as a tailored suit, as fast as a Barrett 50, and has the stopping power of a ton of bison on speed. The Review team would urge you to refer to it with its new moniker: the Unicorn of Motoring.

 

Peter Robinson

Rebel without a cause. Robinson has spent the past five years working in luxury print and publishing. This we feel may have jaded him slightly. When he isn't heading up the magazines publishing team, he can be found on piste, on track or off road.

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