As far as life changing drives go, ripping down the sandy freeways of Dubai in a supercar at 180km/h pretty much tops the list of things you can’t do back home. And D’Marge was recently handed the opportunity to do exactly that in a new McLaren 650S in the mecca of ultra exotic automobiles.
Dubai has built a reputation as a city of extraordinary tastes, so it’s no surprise it’s become the largest seller of McLaren vehicles in the world. Buyers here are extremely loyal to the brand and snatch up every model as it comes out, so our test car was undoubtedly a gem amongst the sand.
The car hand-over procedure went a little something like this: McLaren Sales Director Hanadi Tobeileh treated me to coffee that could rival Melbourne’s, gave me a rundown of the car and then jetted off on more important business.
So there I was, caffeinated and holding the keys to a 650S with absolutely no adult supervision. I had from sunup to sundown to wreak havoc and experience all this car had to offer.
Circumstances weren’t ideal for havoc-wreaking, unfortunately. The navigation in the car wasn’t working which meant I spent the first 2 hours driving around in circles. Think “National Lampoon’s Vacation: Dubai Edition.” The roads in Dubai are also somewhat hellish, which meant I was never able to bring the car to its full singing potential.
I could really only drive from the Burj Khalifa to my digs at the Waldorf Astoria Palm. I guess we’ll just have to go for a round two at another location to get the full story on the performance of the 650S – hint hint.
What’s In The Box
Slide into the 650S and it’s clear you’re entering a place of business. The car only seats two, with hardly any extra room for a fart. The driver’s view consists of a beautifully simple and flowing dashboard, adorned with carbon fibre inserts and soft Alcantara with contrast orange stitching.
Front and centre is a massive tachometer that showcases its 8,500rpm redline and nothing much else except for the most pertinent information when driving this thing on the limit.
Everything is pretty much black, save for the aforementioned retina-burning orange stitching, and the few race-inspired switches which highlight the car’s F1 pedigree. Hints of the car’s British origins are also present in small details like the display, which asks you in an Alfred kind of way to “Please switch off ignition.”
Curves That Could Kill
McLaren’s new design language is as stunning as it is functional. All body panels on the car are carbon fibre with gaping intakes on the rear quarters to keep the big 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8 breathing happy and cool. That’s not to say the car suffers aerodynamically either with these massive intakes – the car is designed in a way so that it still retains a low coefficient of drag (a slippery .36 for you geniuses playing at home).
With the unmistakable fluid lines of the 650S that flow from the front facia right through to the pumped rear end, any colour will pretty much look badass. Our one in brilliant Aurora Blue offset against the massive orange calipers gave the perfect distinctive pop in colour contrast against the white Dubai sand.
Behind The Wheel Of A 641hp Beast
Three drive modes are provided in the 650S: Normal, Sport, and Track (though we opted not to try Track given our insurance policy and the car’s hefty price tag). These modes are adjustable for both the car’s aerodynamics and transmission. In Normal mode, the steering on the 650S is still tight as a drum with lightning quick responsiveness as you’d expect from a supercar that weighs 1,370kg.
Modern electronic power steering was a shaky concept at first, but today it’s a vital aid that squeezes every ounce of performance out of these machines. In the 650S, these electronic aids have drastically enhanced the car’s feedback and response in any given condition – yes, there’s even a ‘Winter’ mode button.
I’d go as far to say that the entire package is so refined you could actually drive the 650S on a daily basis. When push comes to shove though, rest assured it will blast the doors off almost any other car on the road with its handy launch control feature and 478kW of power.
Overall there are a few blind spots, but it still has visibility that was unthinkable for a supercar just a few years ago. Speaking of visibility, countless people stopped to take photos and stare at the car. We didn’t mind.
What Lies Beneath
The 650S shares a good deal of its DNA with the outgoing MP4-12C, so it’s already been real-world tested and proven. The trusted McLaren engineered plant is bumped up to 478kW for the new model, which can propel the car up to 333km/h when called upon (never).
The 0-100km/h sprint is now demolished in 3.0 seconds flat – absolutely mind-blowing for a rear-wheel drive car, but not surprising given its Earth-moving 680Nm of torque on tap.
Want practicality? Move around up front, and the boot is the largest available among any of its supercar competitors with enough space for two people’s weekend luggage. Have your petrol-and-tyre-smoke cake, and eat it too.
Why We’d Sell Our Kidney For One
The launch control in this car is absolutely bonkers. With these types of G-forces at play when you mash the pedal, you’d almost expect Kenny Loggins to start playing automatically every time you took off. And while we’re on the subject of obnoxious, noisy, and awesome, our 650S had its exhaust set to the loudest setting.
Blasting through tunnels making as much racket as possible, and kicking the car a bit sideways on Dubai’s sandy roads, was dangerously addictive. But even while being good, this car turned a lot of heads. So yes, we’d happily sacrifice a body part or two for one.
McLaren has stamped their name firmly on the supercar market with the 650S and their exclusive P1 hypercar. Some say McLaren are too technology focused for the driver to be truly involved, but I disagree.
Gone are the days when tech was implemented to dampen the driving experience, with modern supercars like the 650S leveraging technology to enhance the driving experience.
It’s truly an attack on the senses as you ride on the edge of your carbon fibre bucket seat, guiding the the car towards the pointy end of a corner before launching it out at break-neck speeds without breaking traction. If this is what technology can create, then I’m sold.