The McLaren 650S Supercar
It was like having two Formula 1 cars in your kitchen!
When the Gordon Murray designed McLaren F1 road car came out in 1992, I, like every other young guy, lived for the prospect of driving one
It was the most sensational supercar the world had seen at the time, the stuff of dreams, so much so that when Rowan Atkinson smashed his, I decided never to watch him on the telly again.
The McLaren Way
So you can imagine how emotional I felt on my way to McLaren HQ to pick up the very latest state-of-the-art equivalent, the new 650S Convertible. Awesome. And not only because it was a McLaren supercar, but no less because a visit to McLaren is a special occasion in itself. Anyone who is into motor racing will know that McLaren boss Ron Dennis has a reputation for being the fussiest man on earth. That means, from the very second you say ‘Hi I’m Kevin Haggarthy’ to the smart security guard, you get a stark insight into the ‘McLaren Way’.
And that Way is ‘Properly’, for no sooner had I parked my car as directed, I was immediately greeted at reception by a smartly presented McLaren official and a warm professional smile. “Welcome to McLaren Mr Haggarthy, I will be your personal factory tour guide today, and later we shall be met by my colleague who will introduce you to ‘your’ car”. My Car! All very proficient and smooth; yet equally impressive was the immaculate cleanliness of the building. Not a thing out of place, no untidy pieces of paper strewn across desks; all personnel were dressed in business ‘smart casual’ clothes rather than overkill, and young keen engineers clad in nice black t-shirts and trousers.
The reception itself is a historical museum of McLaren cars, from Bruce McLaren’s very first race car bought for him by his Dad, to the McLaren GTR 1 insured at £40 million. Yes £40 million. To the left, in their own room, were Jenson Button’s and Fernando Alonso’s current Formula 1 cars, parked up for the F1 summer recess. Other than the two meticulously prepared F1 cars perched on stands, there was nothing else in the room to complement the squeaky clean white surfaces; and I mean nothing. It was like having two Formula 1 cars in your kitchen!
There is just so much pride at McLaren, and whilst the current season is a bit of a downer for them, trophy upon trophy line both sides of the far corridor of the building, being a stolid reminder of just how much the Company has achieved over its 52 years in racing. If you work there, you are required to enter the cafeteria from one door and leave by another, so that when you walk down the corridor on leaving, you have no choice but to observe the masses of trophies either side.
This tour is all it takes to see why this Company has been so successful, so much so, that at one time Ron had so much sponsorship coming in that he had to ring around asking if suitable teams were interested in taking up the offers.
Of course, the highlight at the end of the tour was this beautiful McLaren 650S, parked just outside reception and ready to be driven away. Not far short of a quarter of a million pounds to buy, and 650 bhp of power will get you to the supermarket in a hurry. We’d driven the original MC12 about three years ago, and that was impressive, but it just didn’t have the looks of this 650S, its superlative and seductive lines heightened by the ‘I’ve arrived’ gull-wing doors.
What didn’t surprise me was just how easy this car is to drive. Talk about a user friendly supercar! It is so easy to drive, yet so complex and capable. When you buy this car, you are buying a genuinely usable supercar, more fitted to everyday use than any we have previously experienced. Have no reservations about drop-top lack of stiffness either; the toughness of its carbon tub means that the convertible loses nothing in stiffness to the Coupe, and thus they perform identically.
At the press of a button the top is down within 17 seconds, and you can enjoy the glory of 650 bhp of twin turbo charged V8 speaking to you with anger. It’s delivered via a 7 speed semi-automatic double clutch gearbox and with courage in hand will rocket you to 62 mph in 3 seconds and 204 mph. Provided you have a long enough straight, anyone can do that, but the McLaren has a more subtle message for the enthusiast who loves driving as much as speed. Simple sophistication is the word, for with the 650 S are two separate controls for suspension/ride adjustments and power. In short, it gives you the flexibility to drive the car in an uprated drive mode, yet with a softer suspension setting to counter real road conditions of bump and camber – should you choose.
The fast B-road challenge is where this car comes into its own. It has literally seering acceleration, forcing your head firmly into the head-rest when the devil takes you, combined with both excellent grip and balance resulting from both McLaren chassis tuning know-how, and the obvious common sense balance of a mid-mounted engine. Driving the McLaren hard and fast is like losing your virginity to your dream partner, and equally addictive given the option of going back for more. I swear you will forget the £200 k plus price tag after you’ve driven it. How much is it again?
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