The McLaren 650S is taking aim at the Ferrari 488 and the Lamborghini Huracan

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

McLaren is one of the most respected names in automotive world.

The Woking, England-based supercar specialists has been responsible for some of the fastest and most memorable cars ever built.

With the 650S, McLaren has a world class high performance offering to rival the latest and greatest from Ferrari and Lamborghini.

Introduced in the middle of 2014, the 650S is built upon technology derived from the McLaren’s MP4-12C supercar and P1 hypercar.

“McLaren is a fast moving company, continually striving for improvements and technical advantages,” McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt said in a statement at the time of the car’s release. “Everything we’ve learnt from the 12C and the McLaren P1 has gone into the design and development of the McLaren 650S.”

Business Insider recently spent some time behind the wheel of a Tarocco Orange McLaren 650S Spider.

Here’s how it went.


We picked up the 650S Spider tester from Classic Car Club Manhattan. No shock here: it immediately caught the eye of just about everyone it passed. I mean, just look at those doors! They’re a signature McLaren feature.

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By the time we made it to Business Insider’s offices on Fifth Avenue, we had gotten used to seeing a lot of camera phones aimed at the McLaren. Although I don’t usually pose for pictures with the test cars, I couldn’t resist the temptation this time.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Don’t let the bright orange paint and the futuristic appearance fool you into thinking this is some kind of toy car for grownups. The 650S has serious cred, even if it looks as though it should be on a mission to Jupiter.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

McLaren Automotive maybe only 5 years old, but the automaker is an offshoot of the McLaren Technology Group — a company born out of the racing team founded by legendary racer and innovator Bruce McLaren in the 1960s.


In Formula One racing, McLaren as racked up eight World Championships and 182 race victories. Only Ferrari has won more.


McLaren’s first road car was the $1 million F1 hypercar. Only 106 F1s were ever built. The top speed is 240 mph. F1s can easily fetch more than $10 million at auction.

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Wikimedia, CC

In 2003, McLaren and Mercedes-AMG teamed up to create the SLR super GT car. Note the doors.


In 2010, McLaren decided to commit to producing road cars and set up McLaren Automotive. The new company’s first product was the MP4-12C.

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McLaren

Although the MP4 had all the power and performance customers expected from McLaren, some people complained that the car lacked the soul and edginess of its Italian rivals.

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McLaren

So McLaren took the 12C and updated the car with the styling and high-performance goodies of the P1 hypercar to create …

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McLaren

… the 650S!

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Although our test car was equipped with a very cool retractable roof, the 650S can also be purchased …

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

… as a hardtop coupe.

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McLaren

With a base price of $280,000, the 650S occupies a fairly unique middle round. It’s a “tweener.”

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The 650S is a step above entry-level supercars, such as Ferrari’s new 488GTB and …

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REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

…. Lamborghini’s Huracan.


But the 650S is also a step below the half-million-dollar flagship supercars, like the Lamborghini Aventador. As-tested, our 650S test car tipped the price scales at more than $315,000.

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Lamborghini

Driving the McLaren, the immediate impression I got is that the engineers who designed and built this car fussed over every detail. Literally. Every. Detail.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Every slot, curve, and angle on the car serves a purpose. Nothing is there for show, despite the car’s outrageous looks. Everything is intended to make the 650S go fast, propelled my masterful engineering efficiency.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Inside, the 650S is a study in minimalism. Each button and switch is strategically placed for ease of use. Nothing distracts from driving the car.

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McLaren

A big tachometer displayed sits prominently in the middle if the 650S’s instrument cluster, just as it should in a high-performance car like this. You don’t need to see the speed — you can feel it. It’s more important to know what the engine is doing.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Due to the construction of the McLaren’s carbon-fiber passenger tub, the 650S was designed with a narrow center console.

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McLaren

As a result, the car’s air conditioning controls are mounted on the doors. Yes, the doors. That leaves space for the center console’s main occupants to be …

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McLaren Automotive

… the car’s all-important drive setting controls and …

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McLaren

… McLaren’s IRIS infotainment system. I found it to be responsive, although it did take some time to get used to the interface.

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McLaren

But it does things other infotainment systems don’t. For example, IRIS’s visual depiction of the Holland Tunnel was quite cool.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

On the road, the 650S is everything you would expect from the people that brought the world the F1 and P1 hypercars.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The 641-horsepower, 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 is mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission and mounted behind the driver’s head. McLaren designed and built this compact yet mighty powerplant itself. The engine delivered smooth, effortless horsepower across the rev band.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

McLaren claims the drop-top 650S is good for a top speed of 204 mph. The coupe can reach 207 mph.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

McLaren also claims the car is good for a 3-second 0-60 mph run. Road and Track’s testing returned a 0-60 time of 2.7 seconds.

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Road and Track


Flying down the highway, you could be tricked into believing you were a fighter pilot.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The McLaren was truly in its element on the twisty roads of rural New Jersey. Into a corner, the 650’s handling was surgical. Coming out of a the corner, the engine pulled like a healthy ox on Red Bull.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

With the 650S, McLaren set out to create a car that’s thrilling to drive, but that also has the soul of a continental supercar — everything that was supposedly lacking in its predecessor.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

So was McLaren successful? Yes. The 650S was a blast to drive both at highway speed and on windy roads at 35 mph. Over the several hundred miles I spent behind the wheel of the car, I was impressed by McLaren’s attention to detail and the superb tuning of the 650’s performance traits.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. Although it may not have quite the crazy allure of an Italian thoroughbred, it does carry the soul of the man whose name is emblazoned on the car. And Bruce McLaren didn’t lack for soul.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Or courage. McLaren, who was killed in a crash while testing one of his race cars in 1970, was once famously quoted: “To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. Indeed, life is not measured in years alone, but in achievement.”


He would have approved of this car.

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McLaren

Check out the 2015 McLaren 650S on video: