McLaren 650S: The Weaponised 12C
Son of P1, father of 12C

And then there were three. Today sees the public reveal of the new addition to the McLaren Automotive family, the 650S, and Speedhunters were right there at the launch to get exclusive photographic access to the car as it was unveiled to the press ahead of next month’s Geneva Motor Show. That’s right, we were there as the car was unmasked, so now we can bring you these world exclusive shots.


The new 650S sits above the MP4-12C, but takes very clear styling cues from its hypercar big brother, the P1. It’s not the baby McLaren that everyone’s been talking about – the more ‘entry level’ model that mere mortals might theoretically aspire to – but the 650S should still set petrolhead pulses racing. The DNA is clear: the organic elegance of the P1 draped over the bones of a 12C chassis is the obvious thing from a first take, but the 650S is more than just a fusion of those two cars.


Rather, the 650S is the result of lessons learned from those two cars: a fusion of the fast and the furiously fast that goes right to the core of the 650S.


The 650S is about more power – and yet more subtlety as well… The new McLaren supercar is designed to be faster when you want it to be, but calmer when you don’t.


The 650? That’s the new horsepower figure. 678Nm of torque is next in line. S is for… sport.


So yes, the name is typically McLaren – but then by my maths, that at least makes it 192 better than the Ferrari 458 Italia. Okay, in model name at least. But in all seriousness, it’s difficult to deny that the 458 is everyone’s target in this market – the car that can apparently do no wrong and is undeniably one of the sexiest cars on the road at the moment.


The 650S should give McLaren a pretty good shot at Maranello, as so much of the criticism of the 12C seemed to be around the relatively tame styling rather than the specific ride or performance issues.


McLaren’s enigmatic head of design, Frank Stephenson, made no secret of wanting to facelift the 12C when we spoke to him last year. But as I’ve already mentioned, the 650S isn’t just an aesthetic exercise.


The launch itself was held in a secret photo studio location in London; the select press were held at bay until the appointed hour by a surprisingly friendly security guard.


The McLaren Automotive design and engineering team introduced the new car, which entailed a good half hour of more maths and physics than I’ve ingested since my school days.


More my level was the introduction of four new colours.


But in a nutshell, there are three distinct modes that you can drive the 650S in: Comfy Slippers, Ferrari-Eater and Genghis Khan. I might not have taken down the official names but these seem appropriate.

Comfy Slippers, Ferrari-Eater and Genghis Khan

The three modes utilise enhanced active aerodynamics, stiffer springs, revised damper calibration and ProActive Chassis Control to deliver different driving experiences on demand, from soft and controlled, to on-the-edge performance.


When you’re pressing on and attacking the throttle, another new feature comes in: Inertia Push. This technology harnesses engine torque levels, raising engine speeds at a faster rate for each successive gear. It means you just get a continuous push of strong acceleration and probably start gleefully screaming like a teenage girl.


The focus on performance and numbers doesn’t mean that there isn’t a healthy dollop of emotion injected into the 650S, as shown by the predominantly aural-only benefit of a brief cylinder cut when you upshift. It makes the exhaust sound even more throaty and aggressive. That’s a good enough reason for me. Expect 650S owners to head for the nearest underpass or tunnel for testing that out.


Also, how about this for unexpected: one slide showed, specifically, the drift capability with the ESP mode turned off. McLaren want you to drift this car. Think about that.


So although I’m sure you need to experience the car to truly understand the impact of the changes and improvements, even the headline figures go a long way to showing what the 650S will be capable of.


Up front, the new nose treatment isn’t just to keep Frank’s magic pencils happy.


The detailing adds 40% more downforce up front at 150mph over the 12C, and 24% overall.


In the middle, the M838T 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 has been further tweaked and now takes the 650S to 62mph in three seconds, and to 125mph in 8.4 seconds. It will do a standing quarter mile in 10.5 seconds out of the box. That’s mighty quick.


Braking heavily will test your body before it tests the car: in 30 metres you can be at a stop if you press the pedal at 62mph, or 123 metres if you stop from 125mph. Then you possibly have to reorientate your brain from where it’s ended up after sloshing around at the front of your skull.


New five-spoke lightweight forged alloys enclose carbon ceramic brakes and are clothed in bespoke, asymmetrical Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber developed specifically for the 650S.


Out back, the McLaren Airbrake (which is actually capitalised in the press release!) is now even more sensitive, operating whenever the car senses extra downforce is necessary, like braking hard or cresting a rise.


The faster you go though, the more it flattens out – also achievable under full acceleration in Aero Mode. I wish my car had that button…


The 650S does share the same carbon fibre MonoCell technology as the 12C, but the fact that the 650S sits as a separate machine is reinforced by the continuing production of the 12C. The 650S will actually be made alongside its older sister, assembled on the same production lines as the 12C at the McLaren Production Centre in Woking.


Like the 12C, the 650S will be made as both a Coupé and Spider – and like the 12C, it’s expected that it will be the Spider that sells the most. It’s a healthy dollop of great British pounds more expensive than the 12C, just to help differentiate. As an aside, reading the forums, the surprising thing that seems to have upset existing 12C owners the most about the new 650S is that it has a reversing camera. After all, you still have to park a supercar…


It’s interesting the 650S is very much aimed at road users, compared to a lot of other supercar manufacturers who have been developing stripped down, track-orientated cars – or at least, cars that could go on track if their owners dared take them…


With the 650S, it’s perfectly possible to opt for a full leather interior, stick the car in Comfy Slippers mode and happily – and comfortably – drive around town. And good luck to the owners who do that, I say: at least they’ll be out driving.


Other people might opt for the full carbon fibre styling package and Alcantara interior, press the Genghis Khan button and head to Spa. Okay, I admit that I and the majority of people reading this would take this option, but still. The 650S is designed to be more than one car to more than one person. Oh to be one of those people…

Jonathan Moore



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weird, I actually saw a picture of it yesterday on facebook. I don't actually think it looks better then a 12C, but I do love that interior and the fact that it has more power!!!


That interior.. damn


Beautiful! Engineered art.

Seeking Perfection

I bet you can get aftermarket wheels of similar (or even identical) design from your local tire shop at a surprisingly low price. Hilarious. #designersmakingpoordecisions


Wouldn't the airbrake activating when cresting a hill be a bad thing as the steering would become even lighter?

Seeking Perfection

How do you know this a Ferrari-eater? Are you making an indirect and speculative comparison with the 458 Speciale? Come on J...


can anyone tell me why the new presentation mode isn't working for me! out of the 4 computers i have access to it works on two of them and not on the other two.


That ride height though...


That's one ugly ass car with cheap looking wheels.


I won't deny it's a good looking car, insane performance I'm sure, and, well, it's a McLaren, but for God's sake they were REALLY lazy with the design, I mean, the MP12C, cool car, good looking, awesome engineering, P1, sweet Jesus, and then, this... Is not a freaking race, McLaren, take your time.


My friend once broke up with a girl telling her "You know how sometimes you wanted Broccoli, but then you wanted carrots . . ." Well I bring that funny high school story up because The MP4 was the broccoli, it was cool, unique, etc. But then came the P1. . . pretty much the car version of a wet dream. This new car, the 650S, no matter how cool it is with its hybrid infusion of both models, it still does not make me forget about the P1. It is still broccoli—perhaps with cheese on top, but broccoli none the less, and I want carrots. I want the P1.


Sweet baby jesus, this car is sexy. I find the P1 to be slightly over the top aesthetically so this 650S ticks all the right boxes in my book. 

Now if I could just win the lottery :p


Gareth36  Any obvious differences between the ones it works on and not? Browser? Operating system?


2xthefun  It was embargoed until later this week, but some naughty person and their cameraphone who was invited, decided to show the world before McLaren wanted them too. Hence the social media explosion. It's disappointing that a trusted person couldn't respect a manufacturers wish, I know it happens all the time but meh, I'm a sensitive soul sometimes. 

Forget that though... Yup, more power and an amazing interior!


I thought that the MP12 was ugly but this one is worst, great job McLaren LOL


"But in a nutshell, there are three distinct modes that you can drive the 650S in: Comfy Slippers, Ferrari-Eater and Genghis Khan". I don't know why I started to laugh a lot...


oneslyfox  I think you were looking for this site ...


The Clarkson's of the world will still call it boring to look at... And I kinda agree.


The 12C looks better.


Does anyone outside McLaren actually understand what "Inertia Push" actually does?  

"harnesses engine torque levels, raising engine speeds at a faster rate for each successive gear."  This doesn't make sense to me, at a given RPM and full throttle, the engine should only be able to produce a specific amount of torque with which to increase it's RPM and the car's speed.  Where are you pulling extra torque from?


Not my taste, and looks way to much like the 12c, bit of a fail really


LukeEVOLUTIONVIII  I'm sorry Luke, each to his own, but this is hardly a 'bit of a fail'. Unless you're a prospective customer of course :)


Steve Hayward  Interesting question, we should ask them sometime!


EvolveWRC  In your opinion ;)


Speedhunters_Bryn A quick Google search turned up nothing conclusive from reports so far. I'd love to know exactly what is going on.


FunctionFirst  You 'kinda' agree with a hypothetical opinion? Come on, it's not that bad is it?  :)


Sorry, the bit of a fail bit was of the way it looks like a 12c with some modified p1 parts added on, didn't mean to offend you


LukeEVOLUTIONVIII  Haha, no offence taken! Not everybody has to like it, but I think companies like McLaren also need a 'company face', so it's in keeping with other models. Not so long ago we didn't have a contemporary McLaren to choose from, now we have three. More of them in the world can only be a good thing!


I do agree! I reckon that one of these days, McLaren will come back with a car that will be a world record beater and show the world truly what they can really do


It's not bad, but it's not at a Countach-poster level of daring, sexy style and aggression. If it's to be compared to any current Ferrari model in the looks department it will always fall short. It's just not a lusty, salivation-inducing exterior.


SuzyWallace Gareth36    I figured it out! The only difference was the two computers i use every day were not working but the other two which may have never seen SH before were so i went to settings (in chrome)---show advanced settings-----privacy, clear browsing data. and now it works...

Thanks for the was driving me crazy


Steve Hayward Speedhunters_Bryn  my simplistic guess might be on the lines of an over boost maybe? short periods of extra boost pressure to give that little extra kick??


PSC Steve HaywardSpeedhunters_Bryn more or less the opposite, the engine is just not running at full power/torque in the lower gears, mostly to keep the car more driver friendly. No need for all 650Nm during a start from the dig.

btw this isn't new technology, my old turbodiesel Yaris did the same in 1st and 2nd


Kiwi shaped headlights, more power than a 12c, more drama than a 12c, more available than a P1, what's not to love about this?
I get some peoples complaints that it's just a 12c in drag but come on, they're a relatively small car company working with just the one chassis/engine combo (basically) 
I think they've done wonders with such a small pool of resources and going up against supercar superpowers such as Ferrari/Fiat, Porsche, Lamborghini/VAG and Bugatti/VAG.


I get why people would be a little "down" on the design.

First of all, I do think it is absolutely gorgeous. But, for mye part, this kinda looks like a "normal" Mclaren. I don't know why, but I think it looks a little to little, if you understand what I'm saying. When I heard it would slot in between the MP4 and the  P1 (by the way, daaaaaaamn) I guessed it would look a little more hardcore.

One thing I'm sure of though, is that I will think this car looks much better in the flesh or on the move. Kinda the same way the R8 almost made me fall asleep back when it was released.

Either way, I love it to death. Can't wait for videos of it!


I'm no expert on McLarens, but does this have 2 rear calipers? Looks small, but hard to tell. Not sure if the 12c had that as well.


Gareth36 Cool - glad you got it sorted!


utah_dragon  It's for the handbrake. The 12C had it as well. :)


Acc PSC Steve Hayward Speedhunters_Bryn  That makes sense.  I was wondering about this too, because description is obviously advertising fluff.  However, it does sound better than, "We've nerf'd 1st and 2nd gear so you don't hate life while driving it in sub-20mph gridlock."


Acc PSC Steve Hayward Speedhunters_Bryn  That makes sense.  I was wondering about this too, because the description is obviously advertising fluff.  However, it does sound better than, "We've nerf'd 1st and 2nd gear so you don't hate life while driving it in sub-20mph gridlock."


@Seeking Perfection  Check back here in a year to see pictures of a 650S shod with TE37s and AD048s on a track in Japan.


They basically "fixed" the 12C's styling and made the car unmistakably McLaren. I did think the 12C's front was a bit generic, but I've always loved that absolutely space age rear end. It's awesome that they did this, it's like what the MP4 should've been in terms of style all along!




FredrikDavidsen  It reminds me of when I first saw a lamborghini, I couldn't tell the difference between a murcielago and a gallardo. They were too similar in my eyes. I couldn't say one The MP4 looks better then the 650s and vice versa. Very different cars power wise, but exterior wise they look too similar for me to feel wowed by it. Great cars though, if I could I would gladly own anything from the McLaren lineup.


the best of the best 
i love it


What's with the ugly wheels on every sortscar and supercar lately?


Im glad you blacked out during the tech bit like me! Still confused about the gearbox and 'overclamping'


front looks awesome. great step up from 12c still below the p1. the rear however definitely is the cars worst design flaw. way too similar to the 12c. they should have transmuted the 650S front to rear not retain the devolved 12c model's.


Steve Hayward  
"This approach delivers the next gear before the engine speed has dropped, resulting in continual strong acceleration, with no drop in the rate of acceleration as the driver upshifts."
What this means is that when upshifting, the engine doesn't follow the usual sequence of dropping to a lower RPM, engaging clutch, then accelerating; instead it maintains the higher RPM, and slips the clutch. This allows the energy built up in the spinning flywheel and rotating (and reciprocating) engine components to be scavenged at the expense of clutch wear.


rotundapig thanks for digging that up.