Tested: 2015 McLaren 650S Spider

2015 McLaren 650S Spider | Shaun Keenan
2015 McLaren 650S Spider | Shaun Keenan

Indulgence yes

From the front, the 650S looks like the McLaren P1. From the rear, the hindquarters taken from the 12C make it look like a spaceship! It certainly screams ‘Hey, look at me!’ and it blasts off like a rocket. That it costs more than many houses, I can only imagine what the neighbours were thinking. The interior is all business. The business of pure, unadulterated driving nirvana. Things are spartan in the low-slung cabin. It’s not cramped at all, it’s quite ergonomic actually; built more for high-performance and speed than it is comfort or luxury.

Storage space is in short supply (perhaps by design) – there’s not even a glovebox, and the cupholders are tucked up under the angled centre console making them awkward to access. The rest of the cockpit is decked out with several yards of decadent, optional carbon fibre for various panels and trim pieces and top-quality leathers that certify the cockpit as high-end. There are buttons and switches to control everything, including the seven-speed seamless shift dual clutch gearbox. While I wasn’t overly impressed with the performance of McLaren’s Iris touchscreen interface (it is intuitive, but slow), I do like that there are no redundant controls on the steering wheel.

This is a driver’s car after all – one that can get you into a lot trouble. Rather, it’s a car you can get into a lot of trouble with. In hot water with the spouse – “Slow down, honey!” Boiling water with the mistress (if you’ve got one) – “Go faster!” Or up the creek with the law – “Pull over!” But I digress.

2015 McLaren 650S Spider | Shaun Keenan
2015 McLaren 650S Spider | Shaun Keenan

The McLaren 641-hp twin-turbocharged V8 engine spews aural magnificence from the sport exhaust, and the 500 lb-ft of torque it produces is more than capable of turning cold rubber into smoking hot matchsticks in a matter of seconds. It redlines at 8,500, and makes 95 percent of its power right in the sweet spot between 3,000 and 7,000 rpm. That translates into mind-boggling performance.

With a top speed of 333 km/h (207 mph), the 650S is one seriously fast car. Not as fast as its legendary predecessor, the McLaren F1 road car, which held the world record for top speed in a production car at 386.7 km/h (240.3 mph) almost two decades ago. The 650S isn’t vying for the title of “world’s fastest” anymore – there are several faster cars out there, including the $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder – but it is quicker than the F1 by a full second from 0-100 km/h! Not only that, it runs the quarter mile in 10.6 seconds at 222 km/h, and does a standing kilometre in 19 seconds flat. My knees are wobbly just thinking about it.

Officially, McLaren says it will do 0-100 km/h in three seconds flat, which is faster than any other road car I’ve tested, including its predecessor the 12C (3.1 s), Porsche 997 Turbo S (3.3 s), Audi R8 V10 Spyder (4.3 s). It is also capable of going from 0-200 km/h in only 8.6 seconds. That’s as fast as fast as the Mazda 6 zoom-zooms to 100 klicks.

More amazing, perhaps: the massive 394 mm front and 380 mm rear carbon ceramic brake rotors (optional), active Airbrake rear spoiler and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires bestow amazing stopping power. The 650S decelerates from 100-0 km/h in 30.7 metres (101 ft), 200-0 in 124 m (407 ft) and 271 m (889 ft) from 300-0 km/h.

On public roads, passing cars is like swatting flies, and 80 to 120 happens in the blink of an eye. I didn’t try the launch control feature, but a five-second stab on the throttle fires it like a missile to speeds that are hyper-illegal on any monitored road in the galaxy anyway.

The 650S’s carbon fibre monocell chassis is rigid, strong and highly responsive. And because of its F1-derived flat underbody and rear diffuser, the faster the McLaren is driven, the more it sticks to the road. It’s not harsh or bumpy when driving around town at the speed limit, and the ride is remarkably smooth and well-composed when cruising along on the highway in the normal (default) or sport handling and transmission modes.

It truly does come to life, however, when it’s in its element on the racetrack in sport or track modes, so I feel extra lucky that McLaren Toronto was able to arrange an exclusive track test on the Grand Prix road course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) during the final Pfaff Tuning track day of the season.

2015 McLaren 650S at CTMP | Shaun Keenan for Ignition
2015 McLaren 650S at CTMP | Shaun Keenan for Ignition

Continue reading about my experience driving the 2015 McLaren 650S Spider on Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s legendary Mosport Grand Prix road course, and look at more pictures on the IGNITION LUXURY & PERFORMANCE website!

And here are is the video feature James from WheelsOnEdge.com shot for ILP.