Currently reading: Used car buying guide: McLaren 650S
Classier than a 12C, cheaper than a 720S – this could be the sweetest of Woking’s supercars as a used buy
Autocar-Felix-Page
News
5 mins read
28 September 2020

Back in the hazy, carefree days of 2018, we revisited the McLaren MP4-12C as prices for Woking’s second-ever production supercar dropped to around half what it had cost new just seven years previously. Now, in 2020, you could pay as little as £68,000 for a 12C, but the supercar’s dynamic shortcomings were, and remain, a blight on its reputation, so let’s bump up our budget slightly and take a look at its properly sorted 650S successor.

Despite the pair’s similar styling and mechanical make-up, this was more than a mere facelift for McLaren’s Ferrari 458 rival. With a £20,000 price hike came hefty bumps in power and torque output to 641bhp and 500lb ft, a quicker-shifting gearbox and a long-awaited chassis revamp that aimed to rectify the lack of driver involvement that plagued its predecessor.

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The 650S gained a new set of lightweight forged alloy wheels with wider tyres, a subtly reshaped aerodynamic kit that improved downforce by 27%, uprated ceramic brakes and stiffer springs.

There were improvements above deck, too, where the 12C’s archaic Iris 1 infotainment system made way for a much more intuitive and capable platform, and the interior was upholstered as standard in Alcantara.

Rounding off the overhaul was a bold new look for the front end, inspired by McLaren’s flagship P1 hypercar, that lives on today as the face of current Super Series models.

The 650S, as is Woking’s wont, came in both hard-top and drop-top Spider forms, and it was the droptop that proved the most popular, accounting for around 75% of sales. That’s good news today, not just because removing the roof allows more of that sonorous 3.8-litre V8 soundtrack into the cabin, but also because the drop-top’s folding roof mechanism is not as worrisome as you might think. The extra structural bracing added only around 40kg to the kerb weight, meaning the roof-down thrills came with minimal dynamic penalty.

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With production ending just three years ago to make way for the formidable 720S, the 650S is a much less intimidating second-hand prospect than other, mainly older supercars in the sub-£100k price bracket. You don’t have to worry overly about things like corrosion, cheap replacement parts and dodgy service histories, but do remember that not all McLarens are created equal.

The 650S is among the more spec-sensitive models in Woking’s portfolio, and determining an individual used car’s price often comes down to which option boxes were ticked on the original order form. The priciest cars are usually equipped with the suspension lifting system, the rortier sports exhaust, the Meridian surround sound system and – above all – acres of extra carbonfibre inside and out.

How to get one in your garage

An expert's view

Alastair Bols: “The 650S is not just quicker than a 12C, but it gives a more sporting approach from the off. I think most of the car’s depreciation has happened and it will always sit above the 12C, with the 720S above that. There is no compromise between the hard-top and Spider so go for the model you like. The drop-top’s roof is very, very reliable.”

Buyer beware...

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■ Powertrain: V8 is widely regarded as bulletproof, as long as it’s maintained and you don’t run it out of oil. A full service should be carried out annually or every 10,000 miles, and you can expect to pay around £1500 in yearly service costs. While the 12C gearbox is known for seal failure, the 650S’s is more resilient.

■ Wheels and tyres: Expect to pay £900 for a full set of tyres. Wheels came as standard in grey, silver or diamond-cut, the last of which can be refurbished around three times before the lip wears down and they need to just be painted.

Suspension: Suspension accumulators can lose pressure and throw up a ‘suspension fault’ message on the control panel. Their replacement is par for the course over a long ownership. Shocks and dampers very rarely cause problems.

■ Bodywork: Accident repairs are hard to spot but only McLaren can supply genuine parts and paint, so check an individual car’s repair history with the dealership network. There are reports of the undersides of the aluminium bonnet and front wings starting to oxidise, but McLaren can repair it under its 10-year corrosion warranty. Soft-close roof latches from later McLarens can be retrofitted to the Spider.

■ Electrics: Warning lights and anomalies can crop up, but locking the car and leaving it until the ECUs have shut down and rebooted will often clear any niggles. If leaving the car for more than two weeks, keep it on charge with the bonnet left unlatched so it can later be jump-started if necessary. Restarting a dead McLaren is not a simple process…

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■ Brakes: Standard ceramic brake discs can wear extremely quickly if subject to hard use and are expensive to replace but they can also last several years with a less demanding driving style.

Also worth knowing

There’s a McLaren service centre within easy reach of most parts of the UK but the 650S is approaching the age where it might make more financial sense to have it maintained by an independent agent, such as Brackley-based Thorney Motorsport.

How much to spend

£85,000-£89,999: Well-used early coupés with between 12,000 and 30,000 miles on the clock.

£90,000 -£94,999: Mix of later hard-tops and Spiders, often with Black and Stealth packs.

£95,000 -£99,999: One- or two-owner, high-spec cars with full dealer service history.

£100,000 and above: Showroom-fresh examples with every option available. Topping the classifieds is an MSO-modified 2015 Spider at £139,900.

One we found

650S Spider, 2016/16-reg, 23,500 miles, £91,979: Built in the middle of the production run and priced at around the middle of the market, this appealingly specified Spider has covetable goodies such as a reversing camera, carbon interior pack and sports exhaust. It also has a full dealer service history.

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scrap 28 September 2020

Lightweight McLaren with

Lightweight McLaren with extra carbon fibre! Quite who pays for these options new I have no idea, but in the real world £100k buys you all the super car you could want: eye catching, searingly fast and thrilling to drive.