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.
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.
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.