Unveiled: The 2015 McLaren 650S

By Michael Lockhart

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The International Geneva Motor Show is the supercar battleground this week as British manufacturer McLaren takes on Lamborghini’s new raging bull, the Huracán, with a new production model of its own: the 2015 650S Coupe and Spider.

We knew McLaren had been working on an addition to its existing lineup for some time now, but the question on our minds was where would it fit in? With the mid–model lifespan MP4-12C and its convertible Spider pulling the brunt of the brand’s numbers and the recently introduced P1 positioned as a successor to the legendary F1, a new entry would need to strike a balance between the offerings of both vehicles. In many ways, they’ve accomplished just that.

Aimed to sit a step above the 12C range, the 650S builds upon McLaren’s engineering and design work established by the P1, but with a more consumer-focused approach that will allow it to stay affordable (for the two percent, at least). Equipped with a British-built 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, the 650S’ name alludes to its 650 PS power output (the equivalent of 641 horsepower) and the S represents the company’s sports heritage and handling. The hefty 500 pound-feet of torque rounds out the sweet technical package that is sure to be the envy of the competition.

The power figures may be impressive, but the weight of the car and its impact on performance deserves the bulk of the praise. Coming in at just 1330 kilograms, the 650S is six kilos lighter than the 12C, giving the 650S the distinction of having the best power-to-weight ratio in its class at 493 HP per tonne. McLaren used a Formula 1-inspired carbon fiber chassis that lowers the car’s weight while providing durability and increased safety.

The light yet powerful 650S accelerates from zero to 62 mph in about three seconds, one second less than the 12C, with a sprint to 124 mph taking just 8.4 seconds (8.6 for the Spider). The 650S Coupe maxes out at around 207 mph, with the Spider a fraction behind at 204 mph.

The 650S siblings set a strange precedent for the brand: McLaren is releasing them simultaneously rather than the typical approach of unveiling the Coupe, then offering the convertible as an additional option a year or two later once the initial surge of orders has been filled. Instead, with the 650S McLaren has decided to emphasize that both models offer virtually identical performance—a rarity because of the increased drag from an open top.

If the 650S derives the majority of its brawn from the 12C, it definitely gets its good looks from the P1. Keeping in line with the family body language, the design of the 650S is functional yet simple. The bold front splitter is dramatic without needing frills and achieves its purpose of increasing downforce for better handling and cornering. This tapers up and around the large LED headlamps lifted from the P1 and across the hood, which now bears the historic McLaren F1 logo. The rear of the 650S takes its cue from the 12C GT3 with its distinctive three-piece bumper. This represents a missed opportunity to do something new and exciting, but why mess with something that works?

Despite its overall gorgeous design, it’s the distinctive sculpted side air intakes that truly steal the show on the 650S. Large and foreboding, they accentuate the car’s sharp design lines while actively directing air into the radiators to cool the V8 engine.

McLaren continues its emphasis on luxury inside the car with IRIS satellite navigation (i.e. getting a view of the road ahead, as seen in the Rolls-Royce Wraith), the full complement of entertainment options, fixed-back carbon racing seats, parking camera and extended interior carbon fiber finishes. Improved fuel economy is also a focus here, with a competitive 24.2 mpg consumption rate making it one of the most efficient in its class.

At the unveiling, McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt took to the stage to address what sets this car apart from the competition as an everyday driving vehicle. “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. It has all the refinement and comfort you would expect from McLaren, and all the power and excitement as well. 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.”

Preorder now for a spring 2014 delivery (price TBA). Learn more at www.cars.mclaren.com.


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