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Steering, suspension and comfort

Within the context of day-to-day road use, the 650S is an uncannily gifted and broad-batted drive. This is a 641bhp mid-engined supercar, as fast to 100mph as the very fastest production car in existence until a few years ago.

And yet the steering is light, intuitively paced and always benign, never nervous or overly direct. Lateral grip levels are high, but straight-line stability is still excellent.

The optional Pirelli Corsa tyres fitted to our test car work well enough in the wet and the standard P Zeros should work even better.

All things considered, although it’s come from a company that’s only really known the demands of motorsport for almost half a century, the 650S is a bit of a pussycat and, like the 12C before it, profoundly a machine for normal, everyday service.

The way the car combines its uncompromising grip and body control with a fluent, dexterous ride has to be experienced to be believed. Just as it did in the 12C, the 650S’s interconnected, accumulator-primed damping system means it doesn’t need anti-roll bars.

What’s more, the chassis’s electronic management system seems to work quickly and cleverly enough to take the sting out of a bump during the suspension’s compression stroke, so much so  that it hardly causes the body to rebound. There isn’t another adaptive damping technology we know of with such range and effectiveness.

Truth is, the body does rebound ever so slightly. Instead of being apparently vacuum-sucked to the surface of any given road, the 650S seems to hover half an inch above the ground, allowing that critical bit of compliance while bobbing millimetrically on its springs as the chassis works its voodoo.

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A gentle vertical bob only presents over a really testing surface, but never does it cause the car to pitch or porpoise, or disturb the authority and consistency of the steering – which is always a joy to use. And body roll never, ever becomes even the merest factor in the handling mix, either.

The McLaren’s handling could be a touch more involving at normal road speeds and it could ultimately be ever so slightly better balanced on a circuit, at the very limit of adhesion.

We found McLaren’s 12C lacking in ultimate limit adjustability, but the 650S is better. There’s barely any dive on the brakes (which have good feel for carbon-ceramics) and decent immediacy and accuracy on turn-in.

This is a car willing to corner, and in a steady-state, constant-throttle bend it’s more resistant to understeer than the 12C. But in some ways the 12C’s traits remain: there’s a touch of lag while the turbos spool and there’s no limited-slip diff, so in longer corners the inherent balance is similar.

Tremendous grip gives way to understeer as the turbos catch up, but that eventually gets pushed through into oversteer. McLaren’s preferred way of cornering a 650S is to brake right to the apex, and if you’re going fast enough, that helps to unsettle the rear and quell understeer. At which point you can get back on the power, hard, and exit a bend with a straight steering wheel or half a turn of lock applied.

It’s fast and controlled, but while the 650S likes being driven this way, not all corners or drivers suit it.

But you won’t encounter those limits, or that eventual deterioration in high-speed cornering balance, anywhere other than on a race track. The vast majority of drivers simply never will – and for them, the 650S’s overall handling compromise is a quite superbly well judged one.