The Tatler Test Drive: McLaren 650S Spider
I spent over an hour driving around KL, treating the McLaren like an actual car, not a RM2.7 million crown jewel and it didn’t disappoint.
Supercars have always been wonderful, yet silly. They are sleekly designed, incredibly engineered, and they drive very very fast. All of that is wonderful of course, but they cost an arm, a leg and a few fingers; they usually only seat 2 with minimal storage space; and apart from the racetrack, there aren’t many places for you to drive them very very fast.
So they’re wonderful, but impractical which is why many supercar owners keep them under lock and key and let them loose every other weekend.
But I am not a fan of weekend cars; I do not like treating cars like art for a museum, because they were not made to be. And unless you own a Formula One car, your car deserves more than a day at the track.
So when I was invited to test drive the McLaren 650S Spider, and given the option of two long highways, with minimal traffic, I made a third choice and said: “Let’s drive into the city.”
Curves are beautiful
The McLaren turns heads without trying. Being as green as The Incredible Hulk certainly helps, but even in a low key white, this beast is a beauty. The car shows off her curves every which way, in contrast to its Italian competitors who have opted for strong straight lines and sharp ends; but when you have the shape, why not flaunt it?
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “Spider”, it refers to a convertible roadster, which the 650S Spider is. The hard-top drops and raises pretty quickly, in about 15 seconds or so. The butterfly doors don’t take much effort to open but require a less than delicate touch to shut, and that’s due to one of my favourite aspects of the car:
The 650S Spider is a no nonsense car. Geared towards maximum performance, the car does away with any gimmicks that could make it heavier. The interior is incredibly minimal – there are no buttons on the steering wheel and few buttons on the centre console. The touch screen on said console is also placed vertically to take up less space. Dials to control the three air-cond vents are on the doors, giving driver and passenger control over their respective sides.
The parking brake and gearbox are controlled by a set of buttons so nothing sticks out anywhere. And if you want to take control over gear shifting, the paddles behind the steering wheel do a solid job.
The interior comes in Alcantara but can be changed to leather with no extra cost, and the stock sound system, which is pretty good by itself, can be upgraded to a 17-speaker surround sound system.
On the road
It’s worth mentioning that I did get to push the pedal to the floor. The car is very quick off the mark and the speedometer climbs with ease. It also steers incredibly well, responding to the slightest adjustments as I weaved through traffic. The brakes are also very responsive and the air brake can bring you comfortably to a halt from very high speeds. The cabin is well insulated but you can hear just enough of the engine to remind you that you’re not in an ordinary car.
But to be extraordinary, you have to conquer the ordinary and the McLaren managed that too. The car handled comfortably on our notoriously uneven and potholed city streets. That’s not to say you’re driving on a cloud, but when you consider how much closer you are to the ground, the suspension competently compensates for our bumpy roads.
One of the most impressive parts of the car is how wide your field of view is from the driver’s seat. There’s little need to turn your head to be able to see all around the car, something very useful when stuck in traffic. Sensors around the car kept me informed of encroaching vehicles, but the 650S Spider easily manoeuvred and muscled through lunch hour traffic.
Wants to be driven
I spent over an hour driving around KL, treating the McLaren like an actual car, not a RM2.7 million crown jewel and it didn’t disappoint. The 650S Spider feels like a car that wants to be driven. It creeps even when you’re not accelerating and when you do step on the pedal, it rushes with child-like excitement. It’s also not a complicated car; shifting between driving modes isn’t a must because the car genuinely delivers a good drive, whatever the mode. Even paddle shifting isn’t a must unless you want to.
Perhaps the best part of all: this isn’t a museum piece, nor weekend car. This is a car you could drive every day, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are with super cars; and that, in my opinion, is what makes a car super to begin with.
Scroll through the gallery below for full exterior and interior photos:
The 650S Spider is surely fantastic, but McLaren isn't resting on its laurels; evidenced by the unveiling of the 570GT at this year's Geneva Motor Show.