Want your sweetheart swooning this Valentine’s Day? Hand over the key fob to a McLaren 650S Spider and let the lovefest commence.
There’s good reason for rapture. British-based McLaren Automotive specializes in translating its legendary half-century of Formula One racing technology into handcrafted, pulse-quickening, über-performance road cars that look, and drive, like few other supercars.
McLaren broke new ground and won scads of passionate fans with 2010’s breathtaking 12C and 2013’s limited edition P1 hybrid supercar. The 12C’s successor, the 650S, comes in two versions, coupe and Spider (convertible) that, as McLaren says, are “designed for the track; developed for the road.”
The numeric name derives from 650-ps (Pferdestärke) — that’s Euro-horsepower, or about 642 American generated by the monstrously efficient 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8. Torque is a stump-pulling 500 foot-pounds (up from a none-too-shabby 443 in the 12C) and comes from significant mods to the engine’s pistons and heads, cam timing and exhaust valves.
The stellar seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic delivers all that power to the rear with mind-blowingly fast and smooth shifts.
The 165-pound, ultra-strong and light carbon-fiber MonoCell chassis tub, a McLaren trademark, sits at the literal center of things, keeping total weight to just a skosh over 3,000 pounds.
ProActive Chassis Control systems give drivers three distinct handling personalities: Normal, Sport and Track. And boy howdy, they are distinct.
“Normal” puts the car in a docile mood, as in grocery store jaunts or extended highway trips, with a softer suspension and lower gearshifts for fuel economy.
“Sport” tightens up the suspension and allows for more aggressive driving. Most Spider drivers will spend their exhilarating time here.
“Track” mode turns the Spider into a demonic, lunging cheetah, aided by an “Inertia Push” that keeps the revs higher than normal between shifts for even more oomph. Put your foot into it and 0-60 mph happens in fewer than three seconds. Say hello to 100 in around six. Break the sound barrier shortly thereafter and maybe even travel through time.
Advanced F1 technologies do their invisible thing in the background, such as when “Brake Steer” actively slows the inside rear wheel during fast cornering to reduce understeer. The giant ceramic brakes (15.5 inch up front, 15 in back) are more than up to their task, along with the aerodynamic rear wing that deploys to help bring everything to a fighter-jet-landing-on-a-carrier whoa in a hurry.
Opening and closing the gull-wing doors takes a little getting used to, but the cool factor far outweighs the occasional noggin bonk. Once you’re inside the cozy, well-tailored cabin, you’re cossetted by lots of Alcantara (think suede) leather and polished carbon fiber. Fit and finish are superb, and seating is stylish, sporty and supportive.
Instrumentation puts the tach at center stage where it belongs: Two 6-inch film transistor color screens on either side provide other necessary info. The thin center stack is mercifully free of buttons, switches and gizmos. Everything you’d expect, from nav to climate to connectivity, is all there, just unobtrusive.
The 650S coupe is definitely super cool, but the Spider version takes swoon-worthiness to a whole new level. Dropping the automatic power top takes just 17 seconds and is fun to watch. The wind doesn’t banish conversation even at high speeds (and since it’s a McLaren, there’ll be plenty of that). Want more wind in your hair? Drop the power rear window and enjoy the snarling exhaust note.
Pricing starts at $280,225, but if you prefer spending more, options abound, including “Special” and “Elite” paint finishes that contain a higher level of metallic and pearlescent content (we like Tarocco Orange and Mantis Green) and your choice of leather, stitching and performance-enhancing packages.
Competitive with the highest offerings from Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, McLaren’s latest is a visually thrilling, screamingly powerful performer that’s also surprisingly luxurious and fairly practical, too. Only a few hundred are coming to America this year, so better ante up now. Your sweetheart is worth it, right?
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