McLaren 650S Spider review

The McLaren 650S Spider is the car the MP4-12C Spider always ought to have been. Jonathan Crouch presides over a job well done.

Ten Second Review

Take one McLaren 650S, add a convertible roof, a big slice of additional charisma, another £20,000 and deduct, well, very little really. If you're going to buy a 650S, the Spider seems like the choice pick.

Background

The McLaren 650S is a car that divides opinion. While there are some who feel that McLaren launched an under-developed vehicle in the shape of their 2011 model year MP4-12C, others recognise that the Woking company isn't following a normal development plan and needs to fast track its way to the top of the class. The 12C was nearly there. The 650S just blows everything else into the undergrowth - Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche you name it. This is now the class benchmark and everyone else is playing catch up. Hot on the heels of the 650S coupe's announcement came news of the 650S Spider and it's everything you could have hoped for. It keeps all the good bits of the coupe and adds the drama that many felt McLaren just wasn't capable of. It feels like the finished article.

Driving Experience

Drop the roof of the 650S Spider and you'll hear all the various whooshes, yowls and barks of the McLaren 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 in surround sound. In fact, you don't even need to drop the hood fully. Just drop the small screen above the bulkhead and the cabin fills with noise. It makes for a much more immersive experience than the coupe and while the 650S isn't quite as operatic in its upper registers as the Ferrari 458 or Lamborghini Huracan, it's still got quite a set of lungs. The Spider weighs an additional 40kg compared to the coupe but such is the heft of that 641bhp engine that this is rendered almost irrelevant, McLaren claiming that the car laps the Dunsfold test track in the same time as the coupe. Outright sprinting ability against the clock is virtually identical too, which means a race to 62 mph in 3.0 seconds, identical to the coupe, while 200 km/h (or 124 mph) is reached in 8.6 seconds, only 0.2 seconds shy of the fixed-head model. Maximum speed is 204mph. Because the car was designed with an open top version in mind from the outset, there aren't any compromises in rigidity from the vehicle's carbonfibre tub, giving the 650S Spider as competent a chassis as the coupe.

Design and Build

The two-piece retractable hard top can be automatically raised or lower in less than 17 seconds, and can be activated while stationary or at any speed up to 19mph. As with the 12C Spider, the 650S Spider uses a heated glass rear window, operating independently of the roof. With the roof down, the rear window acts as a wind deflector, reducing cabin buffeting. Roof up, the rear screen can be lowered to allow more engine noise - and driving drama - into the cabin, and for a semi-open top driving experience even when it is raining. When down, the roof is stowed beneath a body-coloured hard tonneau cover incorporated in the twin rear buttresses. With the roof raised, the area beneath the tonneau cover can be used as additional luggage space. Despite the sharper feel of the 650S Spider over the 12C, McLaren is at pains to point out that this is no stripped out Speciale/Superleggera model. The cabin gets full full Alcantara trim, with a leather - trimmed steering wheel. Semi-aniline land Nappa leather trims are also available. Lightweight carbon fibre trim panels compliment the interior finish, enhancing the sports style. All-round visibility in the McLaren 650S is extremely good for a mid-engine supercar, with the engine positioned low in the chassis. This ensures optimum weight distribution, but also means rear visibility is not compromised. At the front, the pedals are directly in front of the driver, unlike key rivals, where offset pedals can cause driver discomfort on longer journeys.

Market and Model

The £215,250 that McLaren asks for the 650S Spider is a £20,000 mark up over the coupe and while that would seem a huge premium on a Porsche 911, here it doesn't seem quite so exorbitant. Ferrari, for instance, charges a similar amount to upgrade from 458 Italia coupe to the Spider model which, in case you're cross-shopping, they want around £200,000 for. So the McLaren is notably more expensive than the 458. It's also notably more powerful, notably quicker and comes with a lot more equipment as standard. This includes carbon ceramic brakes and the much-improved (ie. it now actually works) IRIS infotainment system, which includes satellite navigation, DAB radio and a reversing camera. It also gets a four-speaker Meridian audio set-up, with two speakers encased within each door. The Meridian Surround Sound Upgrade can also be selected as an option, which adds three further full-range speakers - front centre and two rear. In line with this, the amplifier changes to a seven-channel unit, providing increased power output and greater control over the audio settings, allowing front-to-rear fader control and configurable EQ settings to suit broader user preferences. You can also buy additional carbon parts to dress the car and some rather lovely lightweight carbon seats.

Cost of Ownership

If you've had a good look at the 650S Spider, you'll probably be glad you didn't put money down on a 12C. If you did, we commiserate with you. Your car has been rendered somewhat obsolete and residual values will reflect that fact. Unless McLaren is planning to pull another rabbit out of its hat in short order, the 650S ought to enjoy beefier retained values, especially as most commentators are of the opinion that this car has finally got the measure of its rival from Maranello. The Lamborghini Huracan seems cut from slightly different cloth and you'll have to wait quite a while for a drop top version of the car from Sant'Agata. Oversupply isn't going to be too much of an issue, with McLaren assuring us that they'll not exceed the 12C's production figures of 1,500 cars a year. In case you're interested, the fuel economy figure is 24.2mpg while emissions are rated at 275g/km.

Summary

The McLaren 650S Spider is a thing of quite unrelenting excellence. It's enough to make you get a little bit emotional that here is a genuine world-beater that's come straight from the Home Counties. It's been forged from some adversity too, its 12C forebear not having the easiest of introductions. Finally, the 650S makes good on all of McLaren's promises which sounded so outlandish when we first heard them. While much of the press attention has understandably been diverted to McLaren's P1 hypercar, the 650S Spider really is as quick as you'll ever need to go in a road car. Let's try to put its performance in perspective. Take something genuinely loopy such as a Ferrari Enzo. The 650S absolutely crushes it in a sprint to 100km/h, 200km/h, 300km/h and so on. It's easily got the measure of the hardcore 458 Speciale. It's almost a second quicker to 200km/h than the iconic McLaren F1. This car is devastatingly rapid, beautifully finished, rides better than some executive saloons and corners like a demon. Now available with 93 million miles of headroom.