The 650S is McLaren’s latest supercar aimed at road and track
day driving alike, and claimed to be the ultimate in driver engagement and luxury
McLaren may be having the season from hell in the 2014 Formula One championship but their road cars are going from strength to strength. At March’s Geneva Motor Show, McLaren launched its fastest, best equipped and possibly best-looking sportscar yet, the 650S.
McLaren says the 650S – available as a hard-top Coupé and retractable top Spider – will give the enthusiast driver the ultimate in luxury, driver engagement and excitement, whether that’s on road or on track.
The 650S joins the McLaren range alongside the 12C and sold-out McLaren P1. The 650S designation refers to the power output – 650PS (641 bhp) – of the British-built McLaren M838T twin turbo V8 engine. ‘S’ stands for ‘Sport’, underlining the focus and developments made to handling, transmission, drivability and engagement.
The maximum power figure ensures the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, at 500PS (493 bhp) per tonne. Note the emphasis McLaren is placing on driver engagement. This follows the lukewarm reception the original 12C received when first launched.
When compared with its Ferrari rival, the 12C was felt to be bland and out of touch. It didn’t take McLaren long to tune the 12C to be a better driver’s car but clearly, the criticism stung Design is inspired by the McLaren P1. The new look follows the McLaren design ethos of ‘form follows function’, with the front bumper providing dramatic, yet clean, appearance while the front splitter contributes to increased levels of downforce.
Downforce is important because it contributes to the steering feeling and confidence to the driver on turn-in, while also adding to the agility and handling balance. It’s what’s lacking in McLaren’s F1 cars, according to drivers Jensen Button and Kevin Magnussen.
All efforts have been made with the 650S to maximise aerodynamic effects. Blades behind the front wheels, on the leading edge of the dihedral doors, direct air from the trailing edges of the front splitter, further benefiting front-end grip and vehicle balance.
“McLaren is an engineering led company, and we’re proud of that,” said McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt. “The new design gives important engineering and driver benefits. Yet it’s not just about improving the numbers.
The McLaren 650S also dials up the design drama and driving excitement. “The McLaren 650S is a multi-purpose, high performance sports car, and is thrilling to drive. No other series-production sports car on sale today offers such a breadth of capabilities. Maximum driver appeal, and driver engagement, is at the heart of this car, as it is with all McLarens.
“Yet, unlike some rivals, the McLaren 650S is not a stripped-out racer. It is faster than many other ultra-sports car rivals, yet there is no compromise in luxury.. “Many McLaren owners do use their cars every day, and frequently drive hard on track days. The McLaren 650S is designed for both. It really is a no-compromise option,” said Flewitt.
Performance is class leading for both Coupé and Spider: 0-62 mph (100 km/h) takes only 3.0 seconds. 0-124 mph (200 km/h) is reached in just 8.4 seconds for the Coupé while the Spider is a smidge behind at 8.6 seconds.
Max speed is 207 mph (333 km/h) for the Coupé, and 204 mph (329 km/h) for the Spider. The ‘no compromise’ McLaren 650S is also efficient (for a high performance sportscar) returning 24.2 mpg (11.7 litres/100 km) on the EU combined cycle, and a CO2 figure of 275g/km.
As with the 12C, and the limited edition P1, the McLaren 650S has a Formula One inspired carbon-fibre chassis. The ‘MonoCell’, which forms the centre of the car, weighs just 75 kg and provides torsional rigidity, durability, safety and quality.
The 650S also has full wishbone suspension, mid-engine architecture, ‘Brake Steer’ for enhanced agility, carbon ceramic disc brakes and active aerodynamics.
Active aerodynamics? The McLaren Airbrake, originally fitted to the 12C, gives optimised levels of downforce on the rear of the car. On the 650S, it works with more levels of functionality, and offers a greater degree of stability in a wider range of conditions.
“Everything we’ve learnt from the McLaren P1 and 12C has gone into the McLaren 650S,” said Flewitt. “The result is a car that’s faster, more fun and thrilling to drive, yet also more comfortable, luxurious and even easier to enjoy, day-to-day.”
The McLaren 650S uses a tuned version of the 3.8-litre, twin turbo V8 M838T engine seen in the 12C. New pistons and cylinder heads provide a boost in engine power and torque, and these are combined with new exhaust valves and revised cam timing. Changes to the transmission software allow faster and crisper gearshifts.
Adding to the aural drama in ‘Sport’ mode is ‘cylinder cut’ technology, which produces an exhaust flare on upshifts. The ignition spark is momentarily interrupted and the exhaust ‘pops’ as the fuel lights on re-ignition. It’s a controlled racing sound from the 1960s and 70s!
Under hard acceleration in ‘Track’ mode, when full performance is required, the McLaren 650S features ‘inertia push’. This deploys built-up kinetic energy to deliver an impulse of torque as the next gear is engaged, resulting in continual strong acceleration.
The interior is trimmed in lightweight Alcantara, with full leather available as an option. Fixed-back carbon racing seats, based on the lightweight design found in the McLaren P1, give upper and lower body support, improve driver engagement, and save 15 kg. Ride comfort and refinement are to executive saloon standards, says McLaren.
The panel is equipped with IRIS satellite navigation with Bluetooth telephony, DAB digital radio in European markets (SIRIUS satellite radio in North America), wireless tethering, with audio streaming and voice control as standard.