There's something irresistibly charming about an automaker that caters only to those with an incessant appetite for the ultimate lap time; an automaker who's sole ambition is to beat Ferrari and Lamborghini at everything they do. That's McLaren. The British manufacturer, famous for its exploits in Formula One, continues to expand its offerings, debuting the new 650S supercar ahead of its Geneva reveal.
The 650S lands below the sold-out P1 and above the brand's prominent 12C. On the surface it appears to be a 12C featuring the same twin-turbo V-8, only boosted to 641 hp, and the P1's more evocative front fascia — previewing McLaren's new "family design language."
Beyond the massaged motor, the car produces 24 percent more downforce at 150 mph, thanks to plenty of minor aerodynamic changes like an integrated front splitter and a three-piece rear bumper. The active aero system that arrives on both the 12C and P1 has been tweaked, only deploying the Airbrake when the system deems necessary, not simply when you hit the brake as it does on the 12C.
Despite the extra downforce, the drag co-efficiency remains the same as the 12C, and with a reworking of its ProActive Chassis Control suspension system, McLaren promise the same multifaceted attributes — meaning it will work as well on the street as it does on the track. The Pirelli P-Zero Corsas help ensure that, and with a top speed of 207 mph and a claimed 0-60 time of around 3 seconds, the 650S will be more than capable.
And yet despite all the upgrades, there's no denying the 650S, which arrives this Spring as either a Coupe or Spider, is merely an uprated version of the 12C. It features the same carbon tub, the same engine and many of the same mechanical components; it looks almost identical from the rearand the interior is indistinguishable. But then again, so is the mighty P1, arriving with that same carbon-fiber tub and engine (albeit in the case of the powerplant, heavily tuned and with an accompanying electric motor). The upcoming P13, McLaren's planned Porsche 911 fighter, will undoubtedly be the same.
It makes sense too. The company can't afford to reinvent every component with every new car; it's cost effective to share bits around models, keep overhead low and increase profits. And profits equate to the development of new technology — like replacing windscreen wipers with a force-field — and further blowing our minds with new-found levels of performance, like with the P1.
That's something we can all appreciate, but it's hard to fall in love with the 650S with so little to distinguish itself from the 12C — at least in pictures and on paper. We'll know more when we see the car in the carbon at the upcoming Geneva auto show. But in terms of outright lap times, we're willing to bet Italy has its work cut out hanging with Macca.