McLaren 650S Spider - Blast off

By JAY WONG | 17 February 2016

It's not everyday a supercar gets to land in our laps at CarSifu and only a lucky few (myself included) actually get a chance to man-handle something like the McLaren 650S Spider.

But first lets get the nitty-gritty out of the way. First and foremost, many familiar to the British brand known for its Formula 1 endeavours would already know that the 650S uses a resurrected 90-degree (M838T) flat-plane V8 race engine that was based on Nissan’s VRH-range of engines.

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The 8,500rpm red-lining engine was originally developed to go racing in the US-based Indy Racing League IndyCar championship, but never did see the light of day.

However, McLaren bought the rights to the engine, replaced almost all of its innards, slapped on two turbo chargers, made it produce 592hp and 600Nm of torque and dumped it into the bowels, mid-mounted of course, of the venerable MP4-12C.

Fast forward to today and the engine has undergone a few tweaks and now its been “weaponized” to provide 650PS (hence the nomenclature) at 7,250rpm and 678Nm of torque at 6,000rpm with 95% of it being available from 3,000 to 7,000rpm.

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In terms of performance, it’ll go from 0-100kph in 3.0 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 329kph around the 9.0-second mark.

Thanks to McLaren Malaysia, we were invited to have a go in the 650S Spider that’s practically an MP4-12C underneath with only a quarter of it being absolutely brand new.

Regardless, as with all supercars, it’s going to be a head turner, especially when it’s been draped in bright Mantis Green and comes with an absolutely evocative, throaty, exhaust note to boot.

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The front-end shares similar styling cues inherited from the McLaren’s alpha and omega P1 hybrid just to denote the 650S’ lineage that can be seen particularly around the headlights depicting the brand’s logo while the rear-half pays homage to the MP4-12C.

Being wedge-shaped and low-slung, a certain finesse is required when getting in and out, but once inside – and the top down, the dark and heavily Alcantara-clad cabin with carbon-fibre accents bring a certain air of seriousness to it.

Games aside, the interior is minimal yet simplistically refined with only one intention – to go super-fast, and that leads to the next question – can it be managed without having to tame it?

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After strapping in to the body-hugging, stiff and lacking in bolster seat, firing up the engine melts away all such concerns for comfort and automatically begins to prime the mind to get knee, if not, neck-deep into the 650S’ performance.

The suspension was somewhat harsh, picking up every little note and nuance the road has to offer while rolling on 19-inch wheels with 235/35 series tyres at the front and fat 305/30 series tyres for the 20-inch wheels at the rear.

Out and about within stop-go traffic, the 1,370kg (kerb) Spider was and would be practically putty in anyone’s hands, which will be a relief to many who’d like to own a supercar.
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Pedal to the metal, the Spider will create an impression, not just in the minds of many, but in their respective seats too, as the rear axle receives the full brunt of what the engine has to offer for the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres to put down on to the road.

Furthermore, the engine’s hiss starts to get louder as both turbochargers spool faster while the revs climb blindingly quick towards the 8,500rpm red-line and requiring a quick tug at the paddle shifter to cycle up the through the seven-speed seamless shift dual clutch gearbox - or SSG in McLaren-speak.

The steering wheel has a racecar-like heft to it and will make your comfort-oriented ride’s steering feel rather overly boosted in comparison.

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Getting the Spider up to speed may be an experience all by itself, and everything seems dandy for the moment till its time to bleed some speed.

It was unexpected to find the brake pedal requiring a stiff foot to push down on just to get the six-piston front and four-piston rear callipers to really bite down on the cross-drilled carbon ceramic brakes – or perhaps we didn’t really have the opportunity to really “warm” them up just yet?

With the top down, its surprising that a conversation could still be had and if the hair-do is a concern, the rear windscreen can be wound-down just to allow the senses to be submerged in the engine’s intoxicating notes.

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After having driven the Spider for a few short hours, it may dawn upon some that this particular drop-top supercar commands plenty of street-cred and truly belongs in the upper echelons of performance cars of today.

And although it’s been awhile after having driven the Spider, which comes priced from RM2.6mil, the hiss and roar from the engine seems to have left a deeply rooted impression with calls to revisit such an experience sometimes heard echoing in the back the mind.




CarSifu's Rating: 8.0