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2015 McLaren 650S debuts in Geneva

By Bob Nagy on February 18, 2014 8:31 AM
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One of the hottest new faces at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show, the 2015 McLaren 650S, is the third vehicle to be launched by McLaren Automotive. Available in both Coupe and Spider form, it embodies design and engineering technology introduced on the current McLaren 12C and the ultra-exotic - and already sold out -- McLaren P1 "hypercar." The automaker describes its new mid-engine 2-seater as the "fastest, most engaging, best equipped and most beautiful series-production supercar yet" it has created. Developed to be at home on a race track as it is on the street, McLaren also claims the 650S will literally redefine the segment. A quick look at its build sheet indicates that may be no idle boast.

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Like its siblings, the McLaren 650S is based on the firm's lightweight but rigid carbon fiber MonoCell core structure wrapped in composite body panels. Drawing a good deal of visual inspiration from the more aggressively rendered P1 model, the 650S has the same aero efficiency as the 12C but develops 24 percent greater downforce at 150 mph. Bolder front/rear fascia treatments highlighted by full LED lighting and prominent side sculpting endow the car with its own signature look while the wheelwells are properly filled with 650S-exclusive 5-spoke lightweight forged alloys wrapped in equally exclusive Pirelli P Zero Corsa "MC1" high-performance tires. 

The new 650S also benefits from the latest iteration of McLaren's Active Aerodynamics package, highlighted by the computer-controlled McLaren Airbrake that adds extra stability at speed as well as while stopping. Operation of this highly efficient articulated rear spoiler has been revised, and it now automatically deploys anytime the system senses additional rear downforce is needed -- and not just under braking or in manual mode as on the current 12C. 

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Motivation for the McLaren 650S comes from a more potent version of automaker's 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged M838T V8 engine. As the car's name implies, this slightly tweaked version cranks out 650 metric horsepower - that's 641 SAE-style ponies here in America -- which is 25 more than it does in the 12C. Peak torque also jumps from 443 to 500 lb ft. All that power is delivered to the rear wheels via an even quicker-shifting version of the 12C's 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. No official word on performance, but expect the 650S to blast from 0-60 mph in less than 3.0 seconds and reach 207 mph on the top end. 

Underpinning the new 650S is an even more performance-oriented version of the 12C suspension that brings significantly stiffer spring rates - up 22 percent -- and incorporates the latest version of McLaren's driver-selectable ProActive Chassis Control (PCC) suspension system with  Normal/Sport/Track modes. Capable of independently setting the drivetrain and damper programs, the recalibrated PCC reportedly adds a new level of "engagement" to the mix, particularly in the Sport mode. McLaren also revamped the stability control programming to allow a bit more latitude when the 650S is in Track mode and fitted standard carbon-ceramic brakes to ensure race-spec stopping power. 

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Raising the dihedral-style doors on the McLaren 650S allows easy access to a driver-focused but engagingly civilized cabin. Deeply contoured sport buckets are wrapped in grippy Alcantara which also covers much of the rest of the interior. Standard features on the 650S include a satellite navigation system, premium audio package with SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, full smartphone integration and more. Buyers can also add fixed-back carbon fiber racing-style seats, power adjustable steering column, rear-view camera and various carbon fiber accents. 

Both the 2015 McLaren 650S Coupe and Spider, the latter equipped with a power-retractable hardtop, arrive here this spring. Pricing will be announced closer to their on-sale date, but each is expected to command about $25,000-$30,000 more than the current McLaren 12C Coupe and Spider. If true, that should see this new 650S duo open somewhere around $275,000 and $300,000, respectively.

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