McLaren's 650S takes our ¼-mile crown

Special Features

By: Jesse Adams

Gerotek Proving Ground, Pretoria - The king is dead, long live the king. Last week McLaren’s new 650S Spider launched itself from one end of our test track to the other and officially became the fastest car we’ve yet tested. Are we surprised? Not in the least.

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It all comes down to simple mathematics. You see, the previous record holder, or Quarter Mile King as we like to call it around here, was the 650S’s elder, the MP4-12C – a car that your majesty here is very much based upon. Only in its new guise it’s more powerful and therefore, faster. Obviously.

Each car is powered by twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 engine, but where the 12C was blessed with 441kW and 600Nm (our test car was an early one, later models had 460), the 650S gets 478 and 678 respectively. That’s a substantial power hike, courtesy of new heads, pistons and electronics among other things, and with it the 650S dismissed the industry-standardised 402.3 metres in, wait for it... 10.94 seconds.

That’s right folks. What we have here is a road-legal supercar that’ll dip into the fabled 10-second bracket right out of the box. No modifications needed, no questions asked. Quite scary.

What’s even scarier is that we could have gone quicker.

McLaren makes 10.6 second claims in ideal conditions, and if our Spider hadn’t been quite so full of fuel, and the track’s surface hadn’t been a little damp, we might have just gotten there.

The procedure is simple. Press a “Launch” button on the dash, hold both pedals to the floor and once boost pressure has reached its optimum (indicated via a message in the cluster), relieve the brake and prepare for spinal disc devastation.

Gearbox duty happens by way of a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that’s so satisfying to kick down on corner entries and up on exits via the steering paddles, but for full effectiveness in launch-control mode it’s best to resist temptation and let it do its own thing as an automatic.

You’ll know it’s changing gears by tiny little backside jolts accompanied by slight changes in engine tone, but for the most part it’s pure, uninterrupted thrust at its finest.


Like the 12C, the 650S is rear-wheel driven only, so traction is an issue even when the tarmac’s hot and tacky. But when it’s cold and slick, like it was for us, those 20” Pirelli P Zeros struggle for purchase and occasionally suffer from the phenomenon known as wheel hop, sending violent vibrations through the carbon-tub chassis and necessitating aborted runs.

Thankfully we were able to sniff out a lane grippy enough to get all the McLaren’s gusto down, and when we did the 650S Spider made off with a 3.15 second 0-100km/h time (also a new record at this publication) and then onto that scintillating sub-11 second quarter-mile sprint.

But here’s the kicker.

The car we tested last week was the 40kg heavier 650S Spider, or convertible model, and simple mathematics tell us the lighter Coupé could in turn dethrone the king we’ve just crowned.

McLaren says performance differences are finite, but at this end of the scale every tenth, hundredth and even thousandth of a second counts.

Either way it seems we’ve entered into a new dynasty. The McLaren dynasty. For many years Porsche and its 911 Turbo models reigned supreme in this court, but it will take something very special, and very powerful to topple this regime.

Yes Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari ... that is an official invitation. - Star Motoring

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