By Keith Buglewicz
McLaren may not have the name recognition of Ferrari, but make no mistake: It makes some of the most sought-after exotic sports cars in the world. The 2016 McLaren 650S is a good example why. Striking to look at, stunning behind the wheel, and surprisingly comfortable around town, the McLaren 650S -- whether you choose Coupe or Spider models -- delivers everything you could want in a high-end exotic. This year, the 650S is joined by the 675LT, a track-ready version that weighs 200 fewer pounds, adds 25 horsepower, and is amazing on a closed course. With influence from McLaren's previous models -- the track-monster P1 and comfortable 12C -- the 650S and 675LT take the fight for the supercar crown to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and beyond.
The 2016 McLaren 650S and 675LT are fast, look amazing, and are available a lot more readily than the fast and amazing equivalents from Ferrari or Lamborghini. Plus, their everyday livability is striking in this class.
Let's be honest: Even if the McLaren 650S and 675 were the fastest exotics on the market -- which they're not -- it's going to be some time before McLaren has the same mystique as Ferrari.
The 675LT Coupe and Spider join the lineup as track-ready specials for the truly hard-core enthusiast. Lighter and more powerful, the "LT" stands for "long tail," a throwback to a racing version of McLaren's first production supercar, the McLaren F1 from the mid-1990s.
McLaren’s 650S feels incredibly dialed-in, giving drivers a confidence boost that borders on too much. That is to say, drivers with more money than experience could quickly get in over...
... their heads and discover that their seemingly benign 641-horsepower super exotic is in reality quite a handful. To keep the 650S on the ground, McLaren uses a low front splitter and equips it with the company’s PCC (Proactive Chassis Control), which, when switched to Track mode, enables the 650S seemingly to stick to the pavement like chewing gum in July. The twin-turbocharged V8 mates to a brilliant 7-speed transmission, and along with the excellent steering and brakes makes driving the car feel almost symbiotic. The 675LT only has 25 more horsepower, but it weighs less and has less sound deadening, making it even more immediate, louder and quicker around a racetrack.
PADDLE-SHIFTING 7-SPEED AUTOMATIC
Purists may cry foul that there's no manual transmission in the McLaren 650S or 675LT, but the paddle-shifting 7-speed automatic responds so quickly to inputs that we think they'll soon forgive. Besides, McLaren's fame comes from Formula One racing, where this type of shifting has been the norm for years.
Usually the roar of the engine and squeal of the tires are enough of a sound system in an exotic, but the McLaren 650S is civilized enough that listening to actual music is possible. A 7-speaker Meridian surround-sound system lets your soundtrack shine in all its brilliance.
The McLaren 650S and 675LT have exotic-style doors that flip up and forward. They're a little tricky to navigate, but once you're inside the McLaren blends an exciting combination of metals, carbon fiber and luxurious materials for a sleek, modern interior that feels neither barren nor overly ornate. The 675LT ditches the more plush surroundings for lighter-weight Alcantara fabrics all around. For the 650, you can cover the sport seats and headliner in either semi-aniline or Nappa leather, while carbon-fiber trim can adorn the door inserts and rear-cap. Alternatively, you can get lightweight carbon-fiber, fixed-back racing seats.
The "LT" in the 675LT is supposed to stand for "long tail," but in reality the tail is about the same as that on the McLaren 650S, and most of the car's additional 1.5 inches of length come from the more aggressive front splitter. Otherwise the two McLaren models are very similar, with Formula One-inspired aerodynamics that aid both form and function. The massive wheels (19 inches up front, 20 inches in back) are mounted with special Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires. The Spider convertible's heated rear window stays in place when the top is down to help direct airflow.
The McLaren 650S and 675LT both come with a twin-turbocharged V8 engine and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with manual capability, although the engine in the 675LT puts out a bit more horsepower. Both cars get 19- and 20-inch wheels, Proactive Chassis Control, semi-aniline coverings for the sport seats and headliner, carbon-ceramic front and rear brake rotors, a 7-inch navigation touch-screen monitor, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, and a Meridian 4-speaker sound system with AM/FM/USB/hard drive and iPod integration. The 675LT comes with a few lighter-weight components, such as a standard Alcantara-trimmed interior that includes the steering wheel and shift knob.
Options for the two McLarens mainly consist of customization features, such as the color you want, the kind of interior trim and color you'd prefer, and so forth. Stand-alone options include things like an upgraded Surround Sound Meridian audio system, colored semi-aniline or full Nappa leather interior trim, power seats, front and rear parking sensors, and carbon-fiber trim for the rear bumper, door blades and splitter. Also available is a power-adjustable steering column, rearview monitor and a number of interior and exterior trim pieces for the ultimate in owner customization.
The 2016 McLaren 650S comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 good for 641 horsepower, while the 675LT comes with a version that puts out 25 horsepower more, for a devilish 666 horses. In both cars the power is routed to the rear wheels through a twin-clutch 7-speed transmission that can either shift for itself, or respond immediately to the inputs of the Formula One-style paddles mounted on the steering column. Expect to get from a standstill to 60 mph in about 2.9 seconds, and if you're brave, you'll finally stop accelerating at a top speed of 207 mph.
3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8
641 horsepower @ 7,250 rpm
500 lb-ft of torque @ 6,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg
3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8
666 horsepower @ 7,100 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 5,500-6,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg
Factor in the $4,100 destination charge and the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2016 McLaren 650S Coupe starts at a hair above $273,000, with the 650S Spider convertible starting at $288,000 and change. For those of you who are looking to hit the track, the 675LT coupe runs in the $353,000 neighborhood, with the Spider about $372,000. Sure, it's all expensive, but these are exotic sports cars we're talking about, something that gets cross-shopped against private helicopters and ski condos in far-flung parts of the world. For comparison, a Ferrari F12berlinetta is around $325,000, and a Lamborghini Aventador is more than $400,000. Note that nearly as much performance is available in the Audi R8 V10 for around $155,000, and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is a massive bargain at about $85,000. Expect the McLaren 650S to be a good investment, holding its value well for the next few years.