The McLaren 650S evolved from the 12C coupe – a car that was already very good. So you imagine the improvement in the 650S. The digits in the name refer to the power output – 650PS (641bhp) – that is delivered by the McLaren twin turbo V8 engine.
The “S” stands for “Sport”. To say that McLaren has a motor-sports heritage would be an understatement. Over the past 50 years, its driver roster has included the veritable who’s who of Formula One. Hunt, Lauda, Prost, Senna, Hakkinen, Hamilton and Button.
All are great drivers in their own right, and all delivered the goods while behind the wheel of a McLaren. That’s more than 180 race wins in Formula 1, 12 driver world championships and eight constructor championships. Hence, one would expect the 650S to be quick, and it is. The century sprint (zero-100kmh) takes 3 seconds; zero-200kmh is achieved in 8.4 seconds. Maximum speed is F1-esque at 333kmh. Impressive statistics for any super car.
However, the truly remarkable thing about the 650S is that despite its potential for burning up the track, its everyday drivability sets it apart.
It says something about the confidence of a carmaker when its representative tells you that he wants to take you to some of the worst stretches in Singapore for a test drive.
I was taken to Jervois Road, where twists and turns are interspersed with speed bumps – the bane of most performance car drivers. That is, unless you’re driving a 650S.
Thinking it was for illustrating the car’s ability to fly round corners, I felt uneasy as Spike, McLaren’s representative, hurtled towards a speed bump as if it wasn’t there. Expecting the scream of metal scraping tarmac, the actual experience cresting the hump was as if it had practically melted away. Somehow, the geniuses in Woking, England, have managed to coax the suspension, springs, dampers and other thingamajigs into a mechanical symphony that absorbs distortions on the driving surface.
If that isn’t enough, it’s almost ridiculous how a car this powerful can be driven in manual. With one hand. While most sports cars might have a stick shift or paddle shifts on the steering wheel, the 650S’ paddle shifter is actually one solid piece, which means pulling the shifter with your right hand is the same as pushing down on the shifter with your left hand. This allows you to sip a martini, while driving this magnificent beast one-handed – not that I’m suggesting that you try. But if you do, you are unlikely to spill a drop, thanks to the magnificent suspension.
At a time when the powers that be are trying to control the country’s car population with all sorts of pricing measures, it’s good to know that you can do your part to add fewer cars to the roads by getting a supercar that can tear up tarmac and still be handled like an executive saloon.
Despite the fact that the McLaren 650S is technically superior to so many of its peers, somehow the Italian supercar fanboys seem to have a hard time accepting the fact. A quick look through Youtube turns up videos of the 650S beating a range of supercars, and there seems to be disbelief running through the comments.
Here’s where credit is due to the Italians for creating such powerful brands, but perhaps there’s something to be said about driving the less “popular” supercar.
There are several hundred Ferraris and Lamborghinis on our roads, and only about 60 McLarens. If yours happens to be parked in a lot, let’s just say it won’t be too hard to guess the identity of the owner.