Composed insanity

Taming 640 Horses in the McLaren 650S


October 20, 2014 Reviews : Behind the Wheel By Photo by Bradley Hasemeyer
It takes what's good and makes it remarkable

After more than 20 years of dominating Formula 1, McLaren automotive decided to funnel their lessons learned on the track into a production car — and voila! the icon known as the McLaren F1 appeared in 1992, adorning teen boys’ walls and filling grown men’s dreams. Then they went silent, making no new models until nearly 20 years later with the Ferrari 458-challenging MP4-12C, and the P1, last year’s outrageous, $1.3 million, 903 horsepower plug-in hybrid. For 2015 they introduced the 650S, taking stylistic inspiration from the P1 — and, thankfully, taking pricing inspiration from the MP4-12C, and performance inspiration from a bolt of lightning.

Other Lust-Worthy Rides: Audi R8 V10 Plus | Ferrai 458 Spider | Lamborghini Aventador

You have to wonder who the hell needs all the power the 650S offers, with its 641 horsepower V8, which catapults the car from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. Exterior stylings — the headlights, integrated front splitter and door blades — are all borrowed from the P1, while a number of technologies are inspired from their F1 program: a full wishbone suspension; mid-engine layout; a carbon fiber chassis and the Air Brake, a rear wing that lifts and pitches to achieve maximum downforce.

On the track, the 650S can be an absolute animal — and yet it’s markedly restrained. It doesn’t have the untamed ferocity of a Ferrari 458 or a Lamborghini Aventador, despite being in a similar power class. Once track mode is engaged (when in Rome…), a function known as “inertia push” coordinates with the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and prompts it to provide a burst of torque just as the gear shifts, avoiding power loss. It effortlessly chews up road and dives into corners thanks to the Brake Steer function, which brakes the outside wheel for a quicker turn-in, all the while taunting the driver with an infectious bellow from the V8, just begging to be pushed harder — to a realm beyond the average driver’s abilities. Guess that means getting in more track time.