Refresh Page | McLaren 650S

BY Azfar Hashim

The 650S is probably known as a 12C with a new face, but we realized the difference between the two are beyond skin deep; really deep…

Photos by Azfar Hashim

For the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing photos of a McLaren P1 owned by a royalty from across the Causeway on our roads. That thing looks brilliant, brilliant and brilliant especially from the back.

Now bear with me - a mere mortal like me can never own one even if I flash a bag of real cash to McLaren, as all 375 limited units that were produced were already spoken for. Maybe, just maybe, with the help of a certain Mr Lim, I could get unit number 376. But then again, maybe not; as it's a left hand drive, it would be too troublesome to fly to and from Europe when you feel like just having a blast. Or maybe if I’d be ‘bros’ with the said royalty, he would let me park mine in his garage. And I would only drive 200 kilometers in it a year as I want to keep it in the most immaculate condition. My preciousssss…

Please accept my sincere thanks for bearing with that little fantasy. Now back to reality - so for a McLaren fan this side of the world that made it big and want a British supercar, what else can you buy besides the P1?

Tadaa… Meet the 650S. Well it has the face of a P1 anyway, so that should suffice right?

Well it should. On top of that you’ve managed to save quite a lot of money — a P1 would set you back about $1,687,905, excluding COE and other taxes, if it ever made it here. In comparison, the ‘base price’ of a 650S is only some $1,222,289 with COE. That cool half a million dollars difference between the two could buy you some other stuff; maybe a deposit for a private jet…

Anyway all that aside, how does the 650S drive as a car? Taking center stage here is the 3.8-litre V8 turbocharged engine that’s mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, enabling the car to whip out a rather vulgar 641 bhp and 681 Nm of torque; that’s 50 bhp and 78 Nm more than the 12C by the way. All that power also ensures the car needs only 3 seconds (0.3 second faster than the 12C) flat to reach 100 km/h from standstill — heck, even a yawn takes longer than that.

To cope with the additional power, McLaren has also fitted better pistons and cylinder heads, along with an enhanced exhaust system. It doesn’t end there though — a software update to the car’s electronic also ensure a much better overall performance here than in the 12C.

Well the 650S is indeed mad fast. It gets madder in Track mode — you catapult from one traffic light to the other, but then, you don’t have time to feel intimidated by the velocity. Because you’re accompanied by the shriek of that sport exhaust system and impressed by how surefooted and drama-less (read: safe) it moves along; yes, it defines the word ‘stiff’ as well but you wouldn’t mind it at all as it does make you feel in control and as one with the car. Throw it hard into a corner, fling it along a series of tight bends (the sort you find along Lim Chu Kang) and the 650S will eat it up one by one. One. By. One. Then as you downshift, you hear the glorious blipping sound and then the engine growling in high revs — you really feel like a driving God. And it would gladly repeat the same action till you run out of premium unleaded petrol.

It’s just so bloody hard to not drive this car aggressively; your brain might tell you to “take it easy, bruh” but the heart tells you otherwise. The last thing you’d want to do here is drive it like an S-Class, because by doing so, you’re just not doing it justice — you could hear McLaren’s engineers crying their hearts out.

Admittedly, it does feel tighter than the 12C — McLaren improved most of the mounting points this time around, on top of a modified suspension system that has (a) been made more durable and to also (b) zero any creaking sound that, apparently, bugged the first batch of MP4-12C.

That said, the 650S turns into a gentle beast when you swap it to auto. The suspension feels slightly softer and the gearshifts are less aggressive; expressway cruises are simply a breeze. Good thing also are those super responsive brakes that effectively sheds speed every single time you see a speed camera, a white Volvo, man in suit on bikes, or whatever else that reads law enforcement. Gotta be wary of those sneaky pricks these days you see…

The interior is generally focused around the driver, exactly like in the 12C. But in terms of build quality, there’s the noticeable better quality — a nice touch is the dashboard that is now covered in Alcantara. Instrument binnacle still looks similar, paddle-shifters are definitely similar, seats are supportive… Business as usual.

So as you can see, the difference between the 12C and this new 650S is more than meets the eye; it’s not merely a new face, as most of it are skin deep. You need to really drive it to notice.

That’s not the only difference though. While the 12C gets an OMV of anywhere between $250k to $280k, the 650S’s averages around $300k. Hence buying the new super McLaren gives you a better and handsomer 12C with better residual value.