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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cars we’ve ever figured that are quicker than the 650S. Up to 100mph it is nothing short of spectacular, smashing through the three-figure barrier in just 6.3sec – faster than a Ferrari F12 and as fast as a McLaren F1.

Beyond 100mph, the 650S ultimately cedes ground to those cars. And yet the combination of an excellent launch control system, a superbly quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic gearbox and 450lb ft of torque from 3000rpm quickly rising to a full fat 500lb ft make the car almost intimidating in its willingness to accelerate at all times.

On MIRA’s mile straights, it not only hit 180mph in two directions through the gears but, more tellingly, also topped 160mph even when locked in fifth and sixth gears

For the record, the ‘normal’ 12C Spider we figured last year was almost a second slower through the gears to 100mph and more than two seconds behind to 150mph. So if you thought this was the same machine given a light facelift, think again.

While throttle response still isn’t as perfect as that which you’d expect from a naturally aspirated performance engine, it’s above reasonable criticism. At very low revs, with the gearbox in manual mode, you can find some turbo lag – but only if you go looking for it.

Most of the time – and always when it matters – the 3.8-litre V8 wakes up when you prod it. The quick-witted gearbox undoubtedly plays its part here, dropping into lower ratios very smartly in automatic mode.

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But the fact that the car takes off as hard as it does from medium revs seems like more than enough compensation than is necessary for the hint of softness in the accelerator pedal – most of the time.

Occasionally you do miss the rapier-like powertrain control you get in a good naturally aspirated supercar; that much is undeniable. But more often, you just wish the 650S’s engine made a more soulful noise.

The flipside of the car’s still-reserved, tuneless vocal character is that it’s fairly quiet – pleasingly economical, even – at a low-rev cruise. Fair enough, but such things aren’t what we’re looking for in what is primarily a thrill machine.