It isn’t often that one gets to experience the thrills and spills behind the wheel of one of the most iconic marques in contemporary motoring history. Born and bred in Surrey, England, McLaren is one of the last vestiges of a once dominant motoring nation that prides itself in delivering quality craftsmanship above anything else alongside hallmarks like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Land-Rover, MG and its ilk.
Based off of the McLaren MP4-12C, the 650S shares three quarters of its parts with its predecessor and was introduced to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in 2014. Featuring the same carbon-fiber reinforced polymer chassis, the 650S begets the M838T powerhouse from the MP4-12C, developing 641bhp @ 7,250rpm and 678Nm of gut wrenching torque @ 6,000rpm via its 8 cylinders in a V configuration, sporting twin turbochargers. All of this power is tasked to move a mere 1.37 tons of mass (sans occupants), catapulting the 650S from nought to 100km/h in 3 seconds flat, on to a top speed of 333km/h! The engine is mated to a dual-clutch gearbox (Seamless Shift Gearbox or SSM) with 7 forward ratios to make full use of the drivetrain’s available ponies.
With regards to the chassis, McLaren dubs it the MonoCell, a super strong monocoque cage derived using resin transfer molding technology. Said chassis weighs a mere 75kg but is strong enough to withstand the various configurations under the brand’s Super Series, thus allowing the 650S to be lightning fast and nimble around the bends at the same time. The car’s unibody structure has been vastly improved over the 12C, so it benefits from 24% greater downforce while retaining the same drag coefficient of 0.36 as the former. While 0.36 seems a little high for a slick supercar, the engineers opted to create as much downforce as possible to keep the super lightweight 650S planted to the tarmac.
The courtesy car was provided by McLaren Kuala Lumpur, the only dealership of its kind in the country, owned by Sime Darby Auto Britania, housed in Mutiara Damansara. At first glance, I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully sculpted the car was, looking even more beautiful in the flesh than on a screen. The Mantis Green exterior sticks out in traffic, which is a good thing. You won’t miss it on the road whether it’s in front, behind or just right next to you. The flared wheel arches host ceramic cross-drilled brake rotors with oversized calipers. While I didn’t ask, I reckon them to be at least a 4-pot affair. Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires specced at 235/35 R19 offered near track quality dry grip, and proved to be an able combination for the supercar.
Getting in and out of most supercars requires a mid girth of no more than 40 inches, so potential owners with a taste for the good life need to take heed. The McLaren 650S is not that much different than other supercars in this respect, but it is easier to access than most, provided you do it the right way, which is to slide your derriere in first. Scissor doors make it a little easier to climb out of the car, but I don’t know how a lady with a mini skirt is going to fare. Once inside, you’ll appreciate the less than spartan interior trimmings of the 650S, which looks more like a car that you could live with on a daily basis rather than an out and out track car.
It is fairly easy to familiarize yourself with the controls within the cockpit, and you’ll soon begin to realize that the designers in McLaren have done a lot of homework to simplify everything without sacrificing most of the creature comforts demanded by high profile owners willing to fork out in excess of RM 2 million for this British supercar. Climate controls are housed within the scissor doors, freeing up valuable real estate on the minimalist dash for other things. The leather-wrapped, carbon-infused steering wheel inspires confidence, and is arguably one of the best steering wheel designs I’ve ever encountered.
The central dash houses all of the driver selectable drive parameters and a switch for the collapsible roof. Further up the central dash sits a touch screen replete with Meridian 4-speaker entertainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and navigation. I didn’t check if the car came with cup holders or charging ports, but this isn’t any ordinary soccer mom drab-mobile, so asking if the McLaren 650S had any cubby holes for loose items seemed rather banal. The seats were surprisingly rather comfy, being a supercar and all. Luxuriously appointed in Alcantara, they provided lots of grip in all the right places. The dashboard and other interior trims were also lavished in a combination of Alcantara and real carbon fiber to great effect.
Being a thoroughbred supercar usually means a car that hates traffic crawls. I could sense the power emanating from within the rear-mounted engine just waiting to be unleashed on the open highway, grumbling away while we made our way out of the infamous crawl in Mutiara Damansara. Having said that, the engineers at McLaren ought to be praised for producing a very drivable car within city limits. Part of the reason comes from the way power is delivered. The engine was designed to be as linear as possible, which was no mean feat considering its forced induction underpinnings. Typical modern-day turbocharged cars deliver flat torque right from the get go, but with such a light chassis and with 678 Newtons just waiting to pounce, the rear-wheel driven 650S would’ve been a very tail-happy disaster waiting to happen. Instead, power comes a bit later above 3,000 turns, so you can pretty much piddle around town under 3,000rpm with little drama. It is only when the road opens up and you give it a good stab that the engine suddenly comes to life, pulling hard all the way to redline without hesitation or remorse.
Driven sensibly on the safe side of 160km/h the car behaves more like a sports tourer, but you can still feel the agility and stiffness of the chassis without a doubt. A sense of urgency was always at the back of my mind, and everyone else on the road felt like a road hog. McLaren uses twin-chamber hydraulic dampers at each individual corner, modulating damping force on the fly. Said hydraulic dampers are all linked hydraulically to each other to counter the G forces acting upon the car in corners to deliver a stellar performance even over undulating terrain. Stopping power via the cross-drilled ceramic rotors and 4-pot calipers is more than adequate to bring the car to a complete stop without much fuss.
In the normal drive mode, the 650S can pretty much take on more than 90% of the other cars plying the roads, while giving the last 10% a good run for the money. The agility of the chassis, coupled with a pliant ride makes for some of the best driving I’ve ever done thus far. Turning on beast mode, or Sport Mode, raises the shift points and tightens up the ride while at the same time sharpening up throttle response. In this mode, the car felt even more agile and eager to pounce, much like a cheetah that’s been given a shot of amphetamines.
Truth be told, I’ve never gone past 230km/h on a public road, so bringing the McLaren 650S past 265km/h on a less than perfect public highway raised some alarm bells within me. Nonetheless, this supercar soaked up road imperfections like a champ, and never once did it lose contact with the tarmac. In a straight line, the 650S in Sport Mode causes one to heighten one’s senses and inspires confidence above and beyond one’s innate capabilities, while corners can be attacked at much higher speeds without so much as a squeak from the excellent Trofeo Rs. In spite of its lightweight chassis and rear-engined, rear wheel driven configuration, never once did the 650S exhibit any signs of oversteer, making it one of the most forgiving, crazy fast supercars that you can buy off the shelf.
At around the RM 2.4 million mark, the McLaren 650S is by no means a value for money proposition. However, considering that it uses space age materials and is not as hard core as other supercars of its class (interior accoutrement wise), I’d say that this supercar is worth a look if you’re in the market for a chick magnet such as this. Other supercars may look good on the outside alone, but this supercar reminds you every day why you’re doing what you’re doing, every time you get behind the wheel and press on that push start button.
The balance of technology, exotic materials and finesse truly sets the McLaren 650S apart from its more established rivals. Not forgetting, you are buying into a legacy of race bred machines from the very same factory that has won many accolades in the pinnacle of motorsports (Formula 1), a marque whose mantra revolves around pure performance and bleeding edge technology ever derived by man.
By: Greg Yang