Is there anything left to say about the McLaren 650S? Well, we've not really touched on the Spider yet and most of our driving impressions thus far focus on experience of the coupe at Ascari Race Resort rather than on-road performance. Happily our return from there was in a Spider, killing two birds with one stone.
In as much as an all-carbon 650hp, 200mph-plus supercar can be considered relevant to driving on the public road the Spider probably makes a slightly better case than the coupe. At £215,250 it's exactly £20,000 - and a modest 40kg - more than the fixed roof car but it seems that extra dent in your wallet and a fractional performance deficit are your only sacrifices. We're talking two tenths off the 0-125mph time - now 8.6 seconds - and a top speed that's now just 204mph rather than 207mph. Shucks, eh? Buyers would seem to accept these are prices worth paying, 12C production ending up 80 per cent Spider and McLaren expecting a similar split for 650S.
The two arguments against a roofless version of a coupe would typically be styling and loss of structural integrity. The former is subjective of course but it's only on the lighter colours that you really notice the joints in the folding roof when raised and the F1 airbox style fairings mean it's more a targa than true roadster when down. There are a couple of functional advantages though - one being that you can drop the rear screen/wind deflector whether the roof is up or down and enjoy a bit more noise. And the area beneath the tonneau can actually be used as storage if you're going to keep the roof up; shaped bags are available to maximise this.
Price to pay
And the supposed sacrifice in stiffness? The soggier handling from softer spring rates, trading wind in the hair fun for on-limit poise? McLaren says there is none and the Monocell is equally stiff with or without roof. To put that claim to the test we found the lumpiest, bumpiest, most tortuous stretch of tarmac in the whole of Spain (fact!) and drove up and down it several times in an attempt to locate a shake, squeak or shimmy. There was none. Even thumped through potholes in the Track chassis mode the usual tell tales of wobbling mirrors and steering column shudders were notable by their absence. We suffer for our art here at PH. But, basically, even if you have it painted pastel pink the conclusion would be that nobody can accuse you of buying a girls' car if you opt for a Spider over a Coupe. Which is a relief, eh?
If the 650S has a problem on the road it's simply that the gulf between its performance abilities and any notion of a safe, sociable or legal speed is so vast as to be rather frustrating. See the vid below; what felt merely 'brisk' at the wheel looks rather more so on reflection.
Faced with such realities what's the owner of a 650hp supercar left with, other than dropping the roof and soaking up the sun and hopefully some admiring glances along the way? Not much, which is why for many the Spider is the more appealing option.
On the nose
The 650S is not a small car but that increased front-end response, sharper steering and the overall stiffness make it feel something like a very, very potent Lotus Elise when you've got the roof down. If the coupe is the serious supercar the Spider has a little more accessibility in letting you appreciate the kind of visceral pleasures such things should offer. McLaren's clever mix and match system of separate dials for chassis and powertrain settings mean it can be tuned to suit mood and conditions too, allowing a softer chassis for bumpy roads but still with the engine and gearbox in maximum attack Track mode if you want.
One thing to watch though - in the Normal setting the ProActive Chassis Control dampers can blow through their travel in high-speed compressions and result in expensive sounding interfaces between the car's underside and the road surface. It's something we've experienced previously on bumpy UK roads in 12Cs too, meaning the additional damping support in Sport is often the preferred setting if you're doing anything other than pootling. Track is there if you want it and a bigger step than before but little value beyond curiosity for most road driving.
Increased emotion and engagement are objectives McLaren keeps returning to with the evolution from 12C to 650S and nowhere do you feel that more than in the Spider. Wind in the hair and the blare of exhaust rather than contrived induction noise through the Intake Sound Generator are just as effective here as increased spring rates, improved steering response and 25 extra horsepower. The Coupe is a more cohesive aesthetic whole and retains a more purist sense of purpose. But, truth be told, you'll probably have more taste of the 650S experience in the Spider and the functional compromises are negligible.
SPECIFICATION | MCLAREN 650 S
Engine: 3,799cc V8 twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (SSG), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 650@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 500@6,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.0 sec
Top speed: 204mph
Weight: 1,370kg (dry)
MPG: 24.2mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: £215,250 (For options details and costs see pricelist)
1 / 5
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