2015 McLaren 650S Coupe First Look
The Rivalry Continues
The motorsports rivalry between McLaren and Ferrari spans decades and, thankfully for driving enthusiasts, it often spills over into the two automakers' road cars. The legendary McLaren F1, for example, had a 231-mph top speed that made Ferrari's fastest car, the F40, look like it was walking. The more-recent McLaren 12C was the British automaker's answer to the Ferrari 458 Italia, and McLaren didn't take too kindly to critics favoring the 458 over its 12C. With Ferrari releasing the even-better 458 Speciale, Woking went to work, and the 641-hp 2015 McLaren 650S is the result.
Don't let the name fool you: the McLaren 650S is little more than a high(er)-performance version of the automaker's 12C Supercar. Though its name might be about as sexy as an Airbus, the 650S does hint at the serious performance this McLaren is packing. The "650" stands for the 650 metric horsepower (641 'Murican horsepower) the McLaren's mid-mounted 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 is making, while the "S" stands simply for "Sport." While that's just a 24-hp bump over the 12C, the 650S' dramatic-looking and aerodynamically-efficient bodywork promises to make the most of the 12C's mill.
With the 650S' new McLaren P1-inspired nose, McLaren says the car's downforce and turn-in are improved over the 12C, while still retaining the 12C's slick 0.36 coefficient of drag. Turn-in and agility are said to be improved by the new front splitter, which effectively wraps all the way around the 650S' front-end, with trailing edges built into the McLaren signature butterfly doors.
Though the 2015 650S' side and rear bodywork look almost unchanged from the 12C's, McLaren has made a few subtle revisions. The 650S sports larger side air intakes, which help to better cool the small-displacement turbo V-8, and the rear end gets a 12C GT3 race car-inspired bumper. Also updated is the McLaren's "Airbrake" rear spoiler. The Airbrake, which previously only deployed under braking, now pops up and down at speed whenever the 650S' many computers tell it that the car needs more downforce. McLaren says the new nose and revised Airbrake are good for 24 percent more downforce at 150 mph.
The 2015 McLaren 650S features an interior that's practically identical to the 12C's, with plenty of leather and suede-finished surfaces, as well as available navigation and controls for an updated version of McLaren's ProActive Chassis Control suspension system. For those that plan on tracking their 650S, McLaren will offer fixed-back carbon racing seats based on those found in the P1.
McLaren is currently playing coy on performance figures, but we're prepared to be impressed. The last MP4-12C we tested, a 2012 model with "just" 592 hp on tap (as opposed to the 617-hp 2013 12C), accelerated from 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds, thanks to launch control. The quarter mile was obliterated in 10.8 seconds at over 130 mph, and the McLaren posted a 1:34.5 lap around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca -- one of the fastest we've ever recorded. The 2015 McLaren 650S almost certainly improves on that. We'll get our first look at the new 2015 McLaren 650S in both coupe and convertible forms next month at the Geneva Motor Show. As for how the 650S stacks up against the 458 Speciale, we'll have to wait for a future comparo to find out how the rivalry plays out for ourselves. Stay tuned.