- Available from just over £80,000
- 3.8-litre petrol V8 twin turbo, rear wheel drive
- Unfeasible mix of monster performance, sharp handling and comfort
- Still not flawless...
- ...but the 650S seems like a bargain...
- ...relative to a 675LT at least
McLaren's MP4-12C of 2011 was the first production car entirely designed and built by McLaren Automotive. Huge excitement surrounded its launch, which was no surprise really considering the spec: carbon fibre composite chassis with aluminium subframes, advanced adaptive chassis control system, twin-turbo 3.8 V8 engine with getting on for 600hp and not much more than 1,400kg to shift. It all sounded amazing.
Unfortunately the reality didn't fully match the hype for the first 12Cs. Opening the doors could be a problem (which was a problem), the Bluetooth and sat nav didn't really work, the transmission calibration was patchy and the high-speed handling took some getting used to. Even the most dedicated McLaren fan would admit that maybe the car had come to the market a year too soon. McLaren more or less admitted it themselves by giving the 12C a substantial refresh just one year in, sorting out many of the car's issues, hiking its power to 616hp and (credit to them) offering the upgrades on a free of charge basis to 12C early adopters.
The big advance however came with the release of the 650S at the 2014 Geneva show. Although the 650S was based on the 12C, around a quarter of its components were completely new, including a P1-style snout and other trickle-down developments from the hypercar. The Ricardo-built 3.8 engine's top end was heavily revised too, with a new cylinder head, exhaust valves, pistons and cam timing. As the model name suggested, power increased to 650hp, and torque grew to 500lb ft.
A new manufacturing process for the Austrian-made CarboTech monocoque cut tub weight by 5kg to 75kg, helping the 650S to an overall weight more than 100kg below that of the already svelte 12C. Although the 12C's Graziano 7-speed SSG dual-clutch gearbox was retained, the shift speeds were snapped up. All these changes, plus the availability of more than nine-tenths of the newly enhanced maximum torque from just 3,000rpm, contributed to a 0.2sec quicker 0-62mph time and an eye-opening half a second quicker 0-100mph time of 5.7sec.
Even on paper these were impressive figures for a rear-wheel drive car, but any back-to-back drive comparison showed that the 650S was more than just a power bully. It wasn't just faster against the clock, it was faster from A to B or any other letter of the alphabet you needed to reach thanks to its superior suspension, transmission, steering and braking (carbon ceramics having become part of the 650S's standard spec), and the redesigned aero that boosted downforce by 27 percent.
The Spider that was announced in early 2014 should have suffered from the handling tradeoff that traditionally went with a roof chop, but it didn't because the monocoque was designed with rooflessness as the default, so there was no appreciable loss of rigidity. The retractable hardtop was made of metal rather than fabric, meaning that the Spider was 40kg heavier overall, but there was very little difference in the performance stats between the two cars because at these rarefied power levels weight was less critical than traction.
Few cars could match the 650S's performance/value proposition. McLaren upped the financial ante at the 2015 Geneva show when the track-oriented 675LT (Longtail) was announced with a price of £259,500, £64,000 more than the 650. The 675LT sat above the 650S in McLaren's 'Super' model range, with the 570S and 540C in the entry-level 'Sports' range.
The Longtail - a hark back to the legendary F1 GT Longtail of 1997 - was a slight misnomer as the car was only 34mm longer than before, but adding that name was a handy way of highlighting the fact that the 675 was more than just a hopped-up 650. McLaren announced that 50 percent of the V8's parts - turbos, cams, conrods, high-flow fuel pump - were new. The upshot was a power hike to 675hp at 7,100rpm and a new torque peak of 516lb ft from 5,500-6,500rpm. Transmission efficiency was again ramped up and racecar-style ignition cuts between full throttle upshifts were brought in to do away with the delays in reintroducing fuel to the engine that would have occurred if the flow had been conventionally shut off to unload the transmission between shifts.
With a 100kg weight cut to 1,230kg courtesy of lighter wheels and body panels (with more carbon fibre), a polycarbonate rear screen, thinner glass, titanium crossover twin-tailpipe exhaust, new bumpers, splitter and diffuser and a new carbon fibre 'Longtail Airbrake' active wing, the 675LT's 0-62 time came down to 2.9sec and the 0-124mph time dropped from 8.4sec to 7.9sec. The more focused aero package did knock 2mph off the top speed but a more useful upside of the Longtail Airbrake was a 40 percent increase in downforce over the 650S.
The 675LT's suspension arms were lighter, its damping was firmer by 27 percent at the front and 67 percent at the rear, the steering rack was faster and there was another 20mm in the track front and rear to help with stability. According to McLaren's programme development chief, fine tuning of the suspension geometry had created a car that, with a bit of lock on and the ESP off, would pirouette around its nose badge in perfect doughnuts.
Buoyed by the warmth of the 675LTs' reception, all 500 examples of the 675LT Spider version sold out within two weeks of the reveal in early December 2015, three months before its public debut at Geneva. Again the 675LT Spider was 40kg heavier than the coupe version, but it was still 100kg lighter than the 650S Spider, and again there was no handling compromise as a result of the roof chop. At over £285,000 it was the dearest non-Ultimate McLaren yet, widening the Spider-coupe price differential from £20,000 in the 650S to £28,000 in the 675LT.
In 2017 the 650S and 675LT made way for the spectacularly effective 720S which means that their values have had time to settle down a bit. Here's the odd thing though. Today, a 675LT will still cost you at least £195k, or up to £235k for a low miler with the Clubsport package which on the coupe included a fire extinguisher, full harness belts and a rollcage that we think must have been made of titanium (such was the price, which we'll tell you about later), but you can pick up a 650S for a little over £80,000 and even the most expensively optioned-up one is unlikely to be more than £120,000. Admittedly the LT is quicker, and with only 500 made there are fewer of them around, but that still seems like a massive price disparity.
SPECIFICATION | MCLAREN 650S
Engine: 3,799cc, V8, 32v, twin turbo
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 650@7,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 500@6,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.0 secs
Top speed: 207mph
MPG (official combined): 24.2
Wheels: 8.5x19 (f), 11x20 (r)
Tyres: 235/35 (f), 305/30 (r)
On sale: 2014 - 2013
Price new: £195,000 (£215,000 for Spider)
Price now: from £83,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Dig far enough back into history and you'll find Nissan DNA in McLaren's M838T engine. Tom Walkinshaw Racing had worked on the VRH30 3.0 V8 engine from Nissan's 1988 Le Mans car, which in full Group C tune churned out 950hp. From that, TWR created a less stressed 640hp 3.5 unit for the R390 GT1 supercar.
The proven tuneability of the engine made it a nice choice for McLaren's first road car, so they bought the rights to it and passed it on to Sussex engine specialists Ricardo who went on to build the 12C's 3.8 engine with twin Mitsubishi Heavy Industries turbochargers. In the 650S it produced 650hp, and 500lb ft of torque which was more than 100lb ft more than that found in the naturally aspirated Ferrari 459 Speciale. By the time the P1 GTR/LM came out in 2015 it was up to 800hp. Today, in 4.0 litre M840T form, it's putting out 765hp in the 765LT.
Nine years on from the first 12C, you could say that going down the Nissan route was a pretty smart decision by McLaren, especially as the core engine still has a fine reputation for strength as long as you keep a strict check on the oil and coolant levels (and the colour, in the case of the coolant, which should be pink) and the thermostat is OK. Just as well too as gaining access to the engine can be time consuming, especially if it's an Airbraked model, and time is most definitely money as far as a McLaren (or, to be fair, any other) dealer is concerned.
Get the car on a ramp and you'll see the lower part of the catch tank for the dry sump lubrication system. They're vulnerable to attack by either road debris or an over-zealous spanner wielder. Replacing one of those is extremely expensive on both parts and labour as it's an engine-out job. While you're under there check the water pump as they can leak through a busted seal. Turbo feed pipes can go too, as can the clips holding the various hoses in place.
Annual services (or every 10,000 miles if you like driving) will typically cost anything from £1,000 to £2,000 at a franchised dealer but reputable outfits like Thorney Motorsport have all the knowledge and can keep your outgoings down. They will do inspections on any car that you may be thinking of buying.
The Graziano transmission in the 650 and 675 has a good track record too, with little evidence of the seal failure that affected some 12Cs, but gearbox oil coolers can be punctured and anything more than a small seepage of oil through the transmission casing telltale hole when the engine and gearbox are warmed up is a bad sign. To see that hole though you have to remove the undertrays.
For the 650S mods were made to the three drive modes (Normal, Sport and Track) to extend the car's scope. Although the changes weren't huge, the steps between the modes and the general enrichment of the drive were clear to anyone coming from a 12C. The best compliment you could pay to Normal mode would be to acknowledge just how remarkably normal it is. Track mode was race-car sharp as long as the Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres were up to temp. The presence of the noisier sports exhaust on a used car will generally crank up the price as the standard pipe is a little muffled.
One of the standout features of the 12C was the freakishly good ride quality delivered by the all independent double-wishbone suspension and the ProActive Chassis Control system. PACC wasn't a fully active F1-style system but it was close to it, with electronically controlled hydraulics interconnected front-to-back and side-to-side to control ride height, ride quality and the attitude each wheel presented to the road. Reworking both the hardware (stiffer springs) and software on the 650S and fitting new lightweight forged alloy wheels delivered an even better ride and even sharper handling than the 12C's, a near-magical have your cake and eat it too combination.
There have been odd issues around suspension accumulator failure, and front lower arm bushes can crack causing front-end vibration, but the rear arms and other suspension components are very strong. You may hear stories about suspect steering racks but the non-franchise folk who look after these cars will tell you that these stories are greatly exaggerated. Pulling to one side is normally just a case of the geometry being slightly out.
The tyre pressure monitoring sensors live atop the front subframe and can fail expensively if that chassis component takes a big hit. Rear subframes are very robust and will shrug off all but really big contacts. Carbon ceramic braking (with unusually excellent pedal feel) was standard on the 650S, as were Pirelli P-Zeros. A new set of tyres will be under £1000.
Although the 'P1' front end with LED headlights makes it easy to tell a 650S from a 12C in your rear view mirror, once it's blazed past you the differences - a few new carbon pieces around the tail lights and a slightly different diffuser - are much less obvious.
One of the design parameters of the original 12C was for it to be human-friendly not just as a driving experience - the body design provided exceptional visibility - but also from an ownership perspective. That philosophy was carried over into the 650S, so exterior panels are relatively easy to replace. The downside is that your only source for correct panels and paint will be McLaren Automotive, which might entail a higher than normal degree of financial pain, so you might want to give some consideration to the idea of buying a car with PPF (Paint Protection Film). Rust will not be a problem but there can be oxidisation to the unseen parts of the aluminium bonnet and wings. There is a 10 year corrosion warranty that you can fall back on.
The door problem that 12Cs suffered from - too tight a fit and you had to slam them hard, too loose and you had to put up with a lot of wind noise - was tackled by a switch to a retrofittable soft-close mechanism. Underbody deflectors ahead of the front wheels and on the floorpan often get bashed off, but don't write a car off your short list if that's all that's wrong with it because their absence is not going to spoil your driving pleasure. Same goes for the undertray, scuffs there are normal. Windscreen stress fractures are not unheard of.
The three-piece roof on the Spider folds away in 15-16 seconds and can be deployed at speeds of up to 19mph or 25mph depending on which bit of the internet you believe.
The vehicle lift option wasn't cheap at £3,730 and nor was the parking sensor + rear view camera package at £2,730, so both are good to find on a used McLaren. Some might say that the process of activating the lift is oddly complicated, and there have been complaints about the slow refresh rate of the reversing camera.
For the 650S, Alcantara became the standard upholstery fabric for the dash, headlining and seats. Not much more than 1,300kg was already a low weight for a car of this performance but new buyers could shave another 15kg off that (and another £5,000 off their bank accounts) by specifying the wonderfully comfortable P1-inspired fixed-back carbonfibre sports seats. If you're lucky, they might have paid £4,600 or so for the extended carbon fibre interior.
One worthwhile improvement over the 12C was the partial rehabilitation of the portrait-screened Iris 1 infotainment system. Partial because the sat nav became more useable as long as you didn't mind still-slow refresh rates which might well put you in a tizz in a busy city.
McLaren cabins are known to rattle and you might encounter the odd warning light, possibly related to the climate control system. One fix for warning lights was to lock the car up and let it sulk in the corner for a while to shut down the ECUs and let them reboot - which was sort of tolerable if it wasn't your only car. Water in the cabin was usually down to the scuttle drain hose detaching itself.
Options were mindboggling and some of them were dizzyingly expensive (£22,000 for the Clubsport Pro package on the coupe, £27,000 for the carbon fibre roof scoop). The £3,150 Meridian 10-speaker surround sound audio is a good one to find on your potential used purchase. There was also a £3,400 3-camera Track Telemetry system that let you relive all your heroic laps on vid.
The travails of the early MP4-12Cs didn't get McLaren Automotive's brand reputation off to the best of starts, but the entry price for one of these does appear to have bottomed out now at around £70,000.
Fascinatingly, the 650S is not that much more expensive that the 12C. The bewildering opportunities for speccing cars like this and the eyewatering cost of many McLaren options makes it difficult to come up with hard and fast values for cars that may be otherwise identical in terms of year and mileage, but as noted earlier in this piece, the 650S operating window is between £80,000 and £120,000, with the great majority of cars coming in at £95,000 or less. Low mileage privately owned examples will usually be between £90,000 and £100,000, with dealers typically asking around £10k more. By contrast you'll need the best part of £200,000 to play in the 675LT pool.
This small price differential between the 12C and the 650S compared to the much bigger one between the 650S and the 675LT may seem surprising given that the 650S is not only a newer car than the 12C but also, by common consent, a rather better, more 'sporting' and more developed one. Do you really need the LT's extra performance when the 650S's 0-100mph time of 5.7sec is only 0.7sec behind that of the mighty P1? Even if you accept the view that the 650S was too focused on straightline speed rather than feel or noise you might still conclude that the 650S makes a lot more financial sense than the 675LT.
The droptop version is a good 650S choice. By lowering the electric rear screen you can hear the engine better, there are no major worries about the roof mech, and because the Spider accounted for three out of every four 650S sales your buying parc is a lot wider. On top of that, the £20,000 new price difference between the 650S coupe and the Spider has been all but eroded away on the used market.
The public preference for 650 Spiders is strongly reflected in PH Classifieds where we found just one coupe for sale alongside eleven Spiders. The cheapest we found was this 22,000-mile 2015 Spider with Tech and Stealth packs and vehicle lift at just under £88,000. Most expensive at just under £110,000 was this carboned-up 2014 Spider in blue with the lift system, sports exhaust and under 3,000 miles recorded.
The sole coupe, a 2014 25,000-miler with lots of carbon, was at the bottom end of the price scale at £89,900, hinting either that lurid Mantis Green is not a good colour or that the coupe's rarity is having no effect on prices - yet.
For illustration purposes the most affordable LT on PH Classifieds was nearly £195,000 but you can spend an awful lot more on an LT if you really want to. In 2016 McLaren released a very limited (25 only) edition called the 675LT Spider MSO Carbon Series, a 19kg lighter and at 679hp/516lb ft more powerful version of the 675LT Spider with a fixed but electronically adjustable rear wing and various P1 GTR-inspired aero add-ons contributing to a downforce figure of 220kg at 150mph.
Inspired by the carbon-fibre bodied P1 shown at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show it had a fully exposed carbon fibre body, with all the panels including the folding roof, tonneau cover and front wing louvres designed and fitted by McLaren Special Operations (MSO). These cars are hard to find but here's one on PH for a fiver under £520,000.
Various low-run editions were put on sale. The 50-off 650 MSO (McLaren Special Operations) was available from 2014 to 2017 in a choice of three model-exclusive colours. It had lightweight alloy wheels with titanium bolts, and if you were desirous of losing more weight you could take out the MSO-branded carbon-effect leather holdall and bosh it on eBay for a grand or so.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of McLaren's 1995 Le Mans 24 Hrs win in an F1 GTR, a 650S Le Mans was released in 2015 with special lightweight wheels and the 'Roof Scoop' roof-mounted air intake. Like the MSO, it too was limited to 50 cars, as was the 650S Can-Am edition which was also brought out in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first ever Can-Am race, the series in which Bruce McLaren quite literally made a name for himself and, indirectly later on, for Ron Dennis.
The swansong 675LT was actually called the 688 HS (High Sport), another MSO job which as you might guess had a 688PS engine with extra torque, a massive rear wing, some aero flicks and one of those snorkel intakes. Just 25 of those were built.
There may still be a few late 650 and 675s about with some of the manufacturer's 3-year warranty remaining, but on the assumption that these will be the exception rather than the rule you'd be well advised to consider an extended warranty on a 650S or a 675LT to protect you from unexpected running costs. Franchised McLaren dealers will give you a 12-month warranty on used cars, and you should be able to get one of these put onto an independent-bought car once you've owned it for 90 days and the car passes a McLaren inspection at £500 or so.
A 12-month extended warranty from the factory will likely be £3,000-£3,500, a 24-month one double that and more. Proprietary warranties from reputable bodies like the RAC are of course available at less than half these prices, and although the cover isn't quite as comprehensive they will do a job for the majority of owners, especially if you factor in the possibility of McLaren being a bit pernickety with factory warranty owners who don't stick to a regular maintenance schedule.
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