McLaren's 650S gets more standard equipment than the 12C, including lightweight forged alloy wheels, LED headlights, an Alcantara interior, carbon-ceramic brakes, revised sat-nav and a DAB radio as part of a sophisticated, screen-based audio system. The car also gets new, wider ‘650’-design lightweight wheels and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres.
Options include fixed-back carbon racing seats based on those in the P1, an electric steering column to aid ingress and egress, a rear parking camera and carbonfibre trims.
The 650S, whose name reflects the enhanced output of its 3.8-litre turbo V8 in metric horsepower, is likely to be portrayed widely as the 12C they’d like to have built in the first place.
However, McLaren insists that the original model will stay in production at £176,000 and will find ready sales in markets where aggressive taxation swells ex-factory prices.
Sales volume for the two cars is expected to stay at about 1200 units a year. The big sales boost for McLaren will come after next year’s launch of a £120,000 mid-engined McLaren, codenamed P13.
The 650S is instantly recognisable from its P1-style all-LED headlights and other cues that are part of a new McLaren design style language created under chief designer Frank Stephenson. McLaren says that the 650S is faithful an early promise made by group chairman Ron Dennis to launch a substantial model every year. About 25 per cent of the 650S’s components are different from those in the 12C.
The engine has modifications to its cylinder head and pistons and adopts new McLaren engine management software. Power climbs to 641bhp from the 616bhp of later 12Cs. There is an even greater boost to torque, which now peaks at 500lb ft, a figure developed between 3000rpm and 7000rpm.
To accompany the punchier engine, the 650S’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox gets quicker, better-controlled gearshifts that make use of new McLaren patents. The 650S’s 0-62mph time is 3.0sec (a drop of 0.3sec compared to the 12C's metric) and the 0-125mph time is more than a second quicker at 8.4sec.
Spring rates have been stiffened by 22 per cent front and rear for better body control and are accompanied by revised damper mounts and rates. However, McLaren insists that the 12C’s ‘magic carpet’ ride survives in the 650S.
Among other chassis tuning changes are subtle adjustments to brake boost, to ABS and ESP intrusion and to the workings of the active aerodynamics that boost both engine cooling under extreme conditions and aerodynamic stability under brakes and during cornering. Peak downforce is now 40 per cent higher than that of the 12C and better balanced front to rear.
Listing all of these gains still doesn’t fully convey the extent of the 650S’s performance boost, according to McLaren’s head of product, Jamie Corstorphine. “The 12C is already an extremely practical, easy-driving car,” he said. “But when you drive a 650S, you soon appreciate that it has an even greater breadth of capability, plus more ability when it really counts.
“We haven’t built the 650S just for ten-tenths driving, and you don’t have to be a professional to enjoy it to the full. It feels special on any level; it’s up to the owner to choose the model he wants.”
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McLaren 650S technical specification
Layout Longitudinal mid-engine, RWD
Configuration V8 twin turbo, 3799cc
Power 641bhp at 7250rpm
Torque 500lb ft at 6000rpm
Transmission 7 Speed SSG
Body structure Carbonfibre MonoCell with aluminium front and rear frames
Brakes carbon ceramic discs with forged aluminium hubs, 394mm (f), 380mm (r)
Tyres 235/35 R19 (f), 305/30 R20 (r), Pirelli P Zero Corsa
Wheels 19x8.5J (f) / 20x11J (r)
Track 1656mm (f), 1583mm (r)
Dry weight 1330kg
Active aerodynamics McLaren airbrake
Suspension ProActive chassis control
ProActive chassis control modes Normal / Sport / Track
Powertrain modes Winter / Normal / Sport / Track
Fuel consumption 24.2mpg (combined)
Power to weight (with lightweight options) 493 bhp per tonne
Top speed (650S Spider) 207mph
¼ mile 10.5sec at 139mph
Additional reporting by Stuart Milne, 27 February