A caveat with the 650S, though: When it was announced at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the coupe and spider were supposed to represent a third line for McLaren, slotting in below the P1 and above the 12C Coupe and Spider. (The press handout, dated April 2014, still has this wording.) The company then decided the 650S would replace the 12C entirely – a risky move when you consider the 12C owner and imagine your car is out-of-date two years after being brand new.Now, with the arrival of the 650S, all customer 12Cs are eligible for another upgrade that brings the power up to 471 kW and ratchets up the torque to a similar degree. The mid-engined 650S, by comparison, is powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine producing 478kW of power at 7250rpm and 678Nm of torque at 6000rpm.
According to Chris Goodwin, the race driver tasked with developing the company’s road cars, the 650S is roughly 25 per cent different than the 12C. There is exactly 24 per cent more downforce in the new car, courtesy of a revised front splitter. The 650S is six kilograms lighter than the 12C. The braking system has been revised to create more linear feel. The steering now features quicker turn-in. And the overall balance of the car has been shifted slightly to create a more rear-biased feel. The look of the 650S is, of course, also different – particularly the front fascia, with its P1-inspired design.While the 12C offered impressive acceleration, the 650S is quicker still. There’s something magical that happens when a car can break the three-second barrier in the sprint to 60 mph and the new McLaren arrives at that point in just 2.9 seconds. One hundred miles per hour appears in 5.7 seconds. Top speed is a reported 333 km/h for the coupe and 327 km/h for the spider. (The 7-speed dual clutch transmission is, as expected, incredibly quick.
As on the 12C, the rear wing deploys under braking to help scrub off speed. But on the 650S, the wing is also used to keep with stability when cresting a rise. The activity of the rear wing takes some getting used to; under heavy braking, the driver’s hands must stay straight on the steering wheel otherwise the brake steer effect will come into play and upset the balance.The handling dial triggers the level of assistance from the stability control system; track mode offers the least help and, thus, the most skill from the driver. During one of the later sessions, yours truly mistakenly set the powertrain to “sport” and the handling to “track”. This miscue left me wondering why the 650S was so eager to slide sideways around one of the track’s quick right-hand bends at about 240 km/h. (Those were some eye-opening moments.) .