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2015 McLaren 650S Spider REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/4/2017

Con: Pricey options list; subpar technology interface.

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Interior: Interior surfaces are mostly lined with simulated suede or leather, but somehow the 650S still feels a bit basic. The tablet-style touchscreen on the center console is a bit small and lacks some modern touches such as in-car apps. Combine this with the weak standard four-speaker sound system and the 650S is perhaps better suited for weekend jaunts than grand touring.

Getting in and out of the 650S (whether it's the coupe or convertible) requires the use of McLaren's butterfly doors that are hinged at the A-pillars and swing out like a pair of opening wings. It's a fun piece of flair, and luckily it doesn't make getting in and out of the McLaren all that difficult by supercar standards, but the doors open up wide and parking in any tight space is difficult.

On the 650S Spider, the convertible hardtop folds flat in about 17 seconds, and can be closed at speeds up to 18 mph.

Body: The 2015 McLaren 650S is available in one well-equipped trim level for either the coupe or the folding hardtop convertible (called the Spider). Standard features include 19-inch front wheels and 20-inch rear wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, LED headlights, power-folding and heated mirrors, an active air brake, an adaptive suspension with three driving modes (and corresponding engine sound levels), cruise control, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, leather and simulated suede upholstery and trim, a 7-inch touchscreen display and a four-speaker Meridian sound system with navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite radio and a USB port with iPod integration.

As with most cars in this price range, the 650S comes with a nearly endless list of options that include lightweight wheels, special color brake calipers, a sport exhaust, a height-adjustable suspension for easier clearance over speed bumps and driveways, carbon-fiber aero and body panels, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, memory power heated seats, one-piece racing seats, upgraded upholstery, a fire extinguisher and an upgraded seven-speaker Meridian sound system. Iron brakes are available as a no-cost option.

There are also several fully customized interior treatments and exterior pieces available from McLaren Special Operations (MSO) with various bespoke fabrics and colors.

Driving: The biggest party piece in the 2015 McLaren 650S is its twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Acceleration is explosive and relentless, and we're sure any expletive that happens to tumble out of your mouth when you mash the throttle will be fully justified. Around town, the 641-hp power plant performs just as well and becomes surprisingly docile. Purists may bemoan the lack of a manual transmission, but the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission generates smooth shifts at all speeds -- it's truly one of the best we've experienced.

Three driving modes are available in the 650S: Normal, Sport and Track. Normal optimizes fuel economy and reduces interior noise, while Sport mode quickens throttle responses and firms up the suspension for better handling. Track mode makes for quicker gearchanges, provides unrestricted engine noises and allows you to turn off stability control entirely for that full racecar experience.

Handling is just as excellent as you would expect it to be in a performance-oriented machine like the 650S, with extremely high limits on cornering speeds and an immediate steering feel. Even though the McLaren 650S comes standard with carbon-ceramic brakes, the brake pedal doesn't feel too sensitive or firm.

What’s New: The 2015 McLaren 650S is an all-new model.

The 2015 McLaren 650S is powered by a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine that produces 641 hp and 500 pound-feet of torque. The V8 in the 650S is paired with a dual-clutch seven-speed automated manual transmission. McLaren estimates that the 650S will sprint from zero to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, and EPA-estimated fuel economy (for both the coupe and the Spider) is 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway).

Safety: Standard safety equipment on the 2015 McLaren 650S includes carbon-ceramic antilock brakes, front side curtain and knee airbags and traction and stability control. The 650S also comes standard with a rear air brake that provides some extra stopping power under heavy braking. Optional safety equipment includes iron brakes (a no-cost option), front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.

McLaren states that the 650S will come to a stop from 60 mph in an astonishingly short 94 feet.

Pro: Thrilling speed and precision handling; responsive steering; connected driving feel.

Edmunds Say: One of the supercar elite, the 2015 McLaren 650S is built on the same platform as the MP4-12C, but it has more power, updated looks and stunning performance. It may not be as flashy or ostentatious as some other luxury sports cars, but the 650S certainly earns its place as one of the best-performing cars on the road today.

Introduction: If you're interested in purchasing a 2015 McLaren 650S, chances are you've already experienced a few of the world's elite sports cars and you're ready to step up to another level of performance. Either that, or you've won the lottery and you want to make your neighbors extremely jealous. Luckily, the 650S will accomplish both goals by being fantastic to look at and exceptional to drive.

As the 2015 McLaren 650S has been developed on the same platform as the MP4-12C, you could argue that it's little more than an updated MP4-12C with a new name. You'd probably win that argument, too. But that's not going to diminish what McLaren has done here to improve upon what was already one of the best driving cars you can buy.

The basic carbon-fiber and aluminum body structure is still the same, as is the engine: a turbocharged and mid-mounted 3.8-liter V8. But power has been upped from 616 horsepower to 641 hp this time around. The 650S certainly has the style to back up that power, as the whole car looks more menacing and aggressive than the MP4-12C. Mostly, though, the 650S is about refinement. McLaren has updated the transmission software to make the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission friendlier for both city use and manual shifting along twisty back roads. The brakes have been improved, too, to provide a more linear brake pedal feel. Remaining fully intact is the awesome driving experience. Few cars can match the 650S for providing a connected feel to the road.

If McLaren's approach to supercars doesn't quite fit your taste for whatever reason, there are a few impressive rivals to choose from. The all-new 2015 Lamborghini Huracan and the Ferrari 458 Italia offer vastly similar performance but with a bit more extravagance and style. The 2015 Audi R8 V10, 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and 2015 Porsche 911 Turbo S should definitely be counted among these pre-eminent sports cars as well. Obviously, you're not going to go wrong here with any of these cars, but we're confident saying that the new 650S proudly takes a prime seat at the exotic car table. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're off to go buy some lottery tickets.

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